At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop
This is the Man Booker International 2021 Winner. I started and finished it last night in one sitting. I didn't realize it is only 145 pages long. This is translated from French.
The story is about Alfa Ndiaye, who is a soldier, from Senegal, in the French military during WW1. This novel captures the madness of trench warfare. The longing for home. The camaraderie of going to war with a 'brother'. The novel jumps back and forth from his different memories, from the trench, to his memories of Senegal, and what he did.
It's amazing what the author has been able to do in such a short book. He could've fluffed this up a lot to hit a 200-300 page book to please his publisher, but he kept it succinct. This book feels like being in the mind of a soldier when he's on his deathbed and thinking about the most intense period of his life, the war. All his regrets, and actions are laid bare without explanation or justification.
“Yes, I understood, God’s truth, that on the battlefield they wanted only fleeting madness. Madmen of rage, madmen of pain, furious madmen, but temporary ones. No continuous madmen. As soon as the fighting ends, we’re to file away our rage, our pain, and our fury. Pain is tolerated, we can bring our pain home on the condition that we keep it to ourselves. But rage and fury cannot be brought back to the trench. Before returning home, we must denude ourselves of rage and fury, we must strip ourselves of it, and if we don’t we are no longer playing the game of war. Madness, after the captain blows the whistle to retreat, is taboo.”
This novel is so short and moves from one thing to the next so quickly I would highly recommend you read this in one sitting.
The Man Booker International Prize has been hit and miss for me lately, but this one seems like a great novel. I am not sure why it has sub-3 star ratings on GoodReads, but I really enjoyed the journey it took me on.