Chapter One Summary
Chapter One of David Diop’s novel, At Night All Blood is Black, paints a clear picture of a catastrophic war environment and its attendant unmitigated consequences like bloodbath and deaths of loved ones. The battlefield is characterised by “bloodstained water” and “rats feed(ing) on human flesh.”
Alfa Ndiaye, the protagonist of the novel, is with his dying friend, Mademba Diop, whom he describes as his “more-than-brother,” “childhood friend.” Mademba Diop is dying as his stomach is already split open with his insides out. He begs his friend, Alfa Ndiaye, to slit his throat to save him an excruciating painful death. But Ndiaye refuses to oblige to the request on the account of not wanting to disobey “the laws of humanity.” His friend dies a very painful death after moments of groping to pack in his insides.
Mademba’s death opens Alfa Ndiaye’s eyes to the social construct around him. He is guilt-stricken and regrets not killing his friend when he asks that of him and allowing him to die in so much pain. He realizes that he can’t remedy what has happened and stuffs his friend’s insides back into his stomach with his “regulation trench coat and … shirt.” He carries the body across the battlefield while he asks for his forgiveness for not coming through for him when he needs him the most.
In summation, chapter one of this war novel opens up on two soldier friends in a war situation. One of the two friends, Mademba, is dying. He asks Ndiaye, his friend, to kill him but the latter refuses. Consequently, Mademba dies a painful and humiliating death that brings Ndiaye to his senses and leaves him guilt-stricken at not having saved his friend the pain and humiliation.
This opening chapter is significant in that the death of Mademba Diop opens Alfa Ndiaye to a new perspective about the world. It changes him and forces him “to think for himself.”
Chapter Two Summary