Booker Prize 2023: Ireland’s Paul Lynch wins with Prophet Song

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Prophet Song is Irish author Paul Lynch’s fifth novel
By Charlotte Gallagher
Culture correspondent

The 2023 Booker Prize has been awarded to Prophet Song, a dystopian vision of Ireland in the grips of totalitarianism.

It was written by Ireland’s Paul Lynch, 46, marking the first time he has won the prestigious fiction writing prize.

Set in Dublin, it tells the story of a family grappling with a terrifying new world in which the democratic norms they are used to begin to disappear.

Lynch said Prophet Song was inspired by the Syrian war and refugee crisis.

Reacting to his win on stage at the award ceremony in Old Billingsgate, London, Lynch said it was with “immense pleasure” that he was taking the Booker back to Ireland.

He added that the novel was “not an easy book to write”.

The book is Lynch’s fifth and he spent four years working on it. He started writing it just before his son was born and, by the time he finished, his boy was able to ride a bike.

Head judge Esi Edugyan said the panel “sought a winning novel that might speak to the immediate moment while also possessing the possibility of outlasting it”.

She added: “In these troubled times, we sought a novel with a guiding vision – a book to remind us that we are more than ourselves, to remind us of all that is worth saving.”

Before the winner was announced Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spoke about how much reading helped her while she was detained in Iran.

She said being able to read novels from the prison’s secret library “transformed” her life and the books took her “to another world”.

The other nominees were:

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
Western Lane by Chetna Maroo
This Other Eden by Paul Harding
If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery
Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein

The Booker Prize is one of the leading literary awards in the English speaking world.

The winner of the prize receives £50,000. The sum of £2,500 is also awarded to each of the six shortlisted authors.

Previous winning authors include Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Bernardine Evaristo and Salman Rushdie.

The event was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and was announced on the Booker Prize live stream on YouTube.

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