Prophet Song by Irish Author Paul Lynch Wins 2023 Booker Prize

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By Adedapo Adesanya

Irish author Paul Lynch won the 2023 Booker Prize for fiction for his novel Prophet Song, a dystopian work about an Ireland that descends into tyranny.

The 46-year-old beat five other shortlisted novelists to the prestigious award at a ceremony in London.

He becomes the fifth Irish writer to win the high-profile literary prize, which has propelled to fame countless household names, including past winners Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel.

“This was not an easy book to write,” Mr Lynch said after collecting his award, which comes with £50,000 (around $63,000) and a huge boost to his profile.

“The rational part of me believed I was dooming my career by writing this novel. Though I had to write the book anyway. We do not have a choice in such matters,” he added.

Mr Lynch’s book is set in Dublin in a near future version of Ireland. It follows the struggles of a mother of four as she tries to save her family from totalitarianism. There are no paragraph breaks in the novel.

Canadian novelist, Ms Esi Edugyan, who chaired the five-person judging panel, called the story “a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave”.

“With great vividness, Prophet Song captures the social and political anxieties of our current moment,” she said.

“Readers will find it soul-shattering and true, and will not soon forget its warnings.”

The Booker is open to works of fiction by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023.

None of this year’s six finalists — which included two Americans, a Canadian, a Kenyan and another Irish author — had been shortlisted before and only one had previously been longlisted.

The shortlisted novels, announced in September, were chosen from a 13-strong longlist that had been whittled down from an initial 158 works.

Among them was Irish author Paul Murray’s “The Bee Sting”, a tragicomic saga which looks at the role of fate in the travails of one family. Mr Murray was previously longlisted in 2010.

Kenyan writer Chetna Maroo’s moving debut novel “Western Lane” about grief and sisterhood follows the story of a teenage girl for whom squash is life.

The judges also selected “If I Survive You” by US writer Jonathan Escoffery, which follows a Jamaican family and their chaotic new life in Miami.

He was joined by fellow American author, Paul Harding, whose “This Other Eden” — inspired by historical events — tells the story of Apple Island, an enclave off the US coast where society’s misfits flock and build a new home.

Canada was represented on the shortlist in the shape of “Study for Obedience” by Sarah Bernstein. The unsettling novel explores the themes of prejudice and guilt through a suspicious narrator.

The Booker was first awarded in 1969. Last year’s winner was Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka for “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida”.

This is the second year in a row that a novel about political conflict has won the prize. In 2022, Mr Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida was set during the Sri Lankan civil war.

The previous Irish winners are Iris Murdoch, John Banville, Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright.

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