David Diop was born in Paris and raised in Senegal. He lives in the south west of France and is the head of the Arts, Languages, and Literature Department at the University of Pau. His most recent book, Frère d'âme (2018), was nominated for all the literary awards in France and received the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. Many translations of the novel have already been published to great acclaim; Diop has won the Premio Strega Europeo 2019 and will, at this Crossing Border Festival, receive the European Literature Award 2020. As in France, Diop receives this award from a jury of students.
Frère d'âme (‘soul brother’ or ‘more than a brother’), described by Livres Hebdo as ‘powerful, hypnotic and dark’ fills in a forgotten chapter in the history of the First World War. Blending oral storytelling traditions with the gritty, day-to-day, journalistic horror of life in the trenches, Frère d'âme is a dazzling tale of a man’s descent into madness.
Alfa Ndiaye is a Senegalese man who, never before having left his village, finds himself fighting as a so-called ‘chocolat’ soldier with the French army during the First World War. When his friend Mademba Diop, in the same regiment, is seriously injured in battle, Diop begs Alfa to kill him and spare him the pain of a long and agonizing death in No Man’s Land. Unable to commit this mercy killing, madness creeps into Alfa’s mind as he comes to see this refusal as a cruel moment of cowardice. He sets out to take revenge. Plans are hatched by the regiment to get Alfa away from the front, but how does one reason with a demon, and how far will Alfa go to make amends to his dead friend?