Thursday, April 22, 2021

Review: At Night All Blood is Black

At Night All Blood is Black At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an incredibly violent book but I imagine it will be included in the Booker International shortlist (I was right,) because the language is vivid and tight, the story is not one I've read before (Senegalese soldiers fighting for France in World War I,) and it has this underlying rhythm with short chapters and repeated phrases that serve to whip it up to the frenzy of the end. But then it's like you as the reader are a part of what happens, and this is not a good feeling.
"Yes, I understood, God's truth, that on the battlefield they only wanted 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....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 his whistle to retreat, is taboo."
CW for war, murder, dismemberment, rape, racism. The trench is referred to repeatedly as female anatomy, and since the author uses repetition as a tool, if something is going to bother you once, it is likely to repeat. I mean, would it kill translators to select a book about an old lady planting a garden? Reading a lot of translated lit takes you into some dark places.

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