Author David Dip in France 120918 CREDIT ALAMY
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International Booker Prize: 'Frightening' WW1 Novel Wins Award

David Diop's 'At Night All Blood Is Black' tells the story of a young Senegalese soldier as he fights for France in the First World War.

Author David Dip in France 120918 CREDIT ALAMY

A novel about a young African soldier in World War One has won the International Booker Prize.

David Diop has become the first French author to win the award, with 'At Night All Blood Is Black'.

Alongside translator Anna Moschovakis, he was named as winner of the award in a virtual ceremony at Coventry Cathedral on Wednesday, with the pair sharing the £50,000 prize.

The novel tells the story of a young Senegalese soldier's inner battle as he fights for France on the Western Front during the First World War.

Mr Diop lived in Senegal when he was younger, and 'At Night All Blood Is Black' is his second novel. 

Lucy Hughes-Hallett, chair of the judges, said: "This story of warfare and love and madness has a terrifying power.

"The protagonist is accused of sorcery, and there is something uncanny about the way the narrative works on the reader.

"We judges agreed that its incantatory prose and dark, brilliant vision had jangled our emotions and blown our minds. That it had cast a spell on us."

Watch: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission recently launched a project to find tens of thousands of fallen black and Asian First World War troops who were not properly commemorated.

The book is "frightening", she said, adding: "Reading it, you feel as though you are being hypnotised."

Ms Hughes-Hallett said the book included interesting reflections on colonialism.

"I think that it's easy and rather simplistic to think of the colonialised peoples and non-European people who became colonised by European powers, to think of them just as unwilling victims," she said.

"But what Diop reminds us of, very interestingly, I think, and subtly, is that colonialism is not just about another country sweeping in and taking over the victim country, the subject country's resources and its economy.

"It's also about colonialising those people's minds so that very young men in Senegal might feel a huge amount of loyalty to France, a country they have never visited, whose language they didn't speak, and that's an interesting and thought-provoking phenomenon."

She added: "You have to read this book and you will come away from it changed."

The judges, who considered 125 books, were in "great agreement" with each other, Ms Hughes-Hallett said.

The International Booker Prize is awarded annually to the best single work of fiction translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.