George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo - becoming the second US author to take home the £50,000 fiction award.
The book recounts the story of Abraham Lincoln's grief after the death of his young son and his visits to his tomb. This is the first full-length novel by Saunders, who is known for his short stories. The novel is set in a graveyard, over a single night.
Released in February of this year to widespread acclaim, Lincoln in the Bardo is built around a single quasi-historical image: A year into the Civil War, the president’s son, Willie Lincoln, died of typhoid fever, giving rise to rumors that Abraham Lincoln would sneak into his crypt to cradle the dead body in his arms. Lincoln in the Bardo tells the story of those visits, from the point of view of the ghosts who haunt the graveyard in which Willie is buried.
Judges for the prestigious English-language literary award praised Saunders’ novel, the book that chronicles the death of Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son Willie using the accounts of hundreds of narrators, as “utterly original”.
Talking about the novel, Baroness Lola Young, chair of this year’s Booker Prize judging panel said,“This really stood out because of its innovation — its very different styling and the way in which it paradoxically brought to life these not-quite-dead souls in this other world. There was this juxtaposition of the very personal tragedy of Abraham Lincoln with his public life, as the person who’d really instigated the American Civil War.”
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The judges took five hours to come to what Young called a “collegial”, yet unanimous choice. She denied any concerns about Saunders’ nationality, saying: “We don’t look at the nationality of the writer. Honestly, it’s not an issue for us. We’re solely concerned with the book, what that book is telling us.”
An ecstatic Saunders described the award as a “great honour, which I hope to live up to with the rest of my work, for the rest of my life.”
George Saunders is the second American writer to receive this prestigious award after Paul Beatty, who became the first American to win the award for his novel The Sellout, last year.
The books losing out on the prize were 4321 by Paul Auster (US), Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK), Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (UK-Pakistan), History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) and Autumn by Ali Smith (UK).
Information source: inshorts
Cover image source: voanews