Irish author Paul Lynch wins 2023 Booker Prize for dystopian novel Prophet Song


Irish author Paul Lynch has won the 2023 Booker Prize for his dystopian novel Prophet Song

The £50,000 ($84,882 Cdn) prize annually recognizes the best original novel written in the English language and published in the U.K.

“Well, there goes my hard won anonymity,” said Lynch in his acceptance speech. “This was not an easy book to write. 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.”

“My writing has saved me. I believe that literary style should be a way of knowing how the world has met and its unfolding. Sentences should press into the unknown moment, into the most obscure hidden aspects of life, that which is barely known but asking to be revealed.”

WATCH | The 2023 Booker Prize ceremony:

Prophet Song is a terrifying imagining of an Ireland that is falling apart. When mother and scientist Eilish Stack receives a house call from two secret police officers arriving to interrogate her trade unionist husband, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her loved ones. 

Lynch is an award-winning author of novels Red Sky in Morning, The Black Snow, Grace and Beyond the Sea. He lives in Dublin with his wife and two children. 

This year’s Booker Prize jury was chaired by two-time Booker-shortlisted Canadian author Esi Edugyan, who announced the winner at the Nov. 26 awards ceremony. She was joined on the judging panel by actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh; poet, lecturer, editor and critic Mary Jean Chan; author and professor James Shapiro; and actor and writer Robert Webb.

“Paul Lynch’s harrowing and dystopian Prophet Song vividly renders a mother’s determination to protect her family as Ireland’s liberal democracy slides inexorably and terrifyingly into totalitarianism,” they said in a statement. “Readers will find it timely and unforgettable. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for a novelist to capture the social and political anxieties of our moment so compellingly.”

From left, Irish author Paul Lynch, British author Chetna Maroo, American author Jonathan Escoffery, Canadian author Sarah Bernstein, Irish author Paul Murray and American author Paul Harding pose with their books during a photocall for the Booker Prize 2023, in London, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023 ahead of the award ceremony on Nov. 26 in London. (AP/Kin Cheung)

The other shortlisted authors include Canadian Sarah Bernstein for Study for Obedience, which won the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Jonathan Escoffery for If I Survive You, Paul Harding for This Other Eden,  Chetna Maroo for Western Lane and Paul Murray for The Bee Sting. All six authors made the Booker shortlist for the first time and will receive £2,500 ($4,296 Cdn) and a bound edition of their book.

Since 2013, authors from any nationality have been eligible for the prize. No Canadians were recognized for the 2022 prize, but Canadian authors Mary Lawson and Rachel Cusk made the Booker Prize longlist in 2021.

Margaret Atwood shared the 2019 prize with British novelist Bernardine Evaristo. Atwood was recognized for her novel The Testaments, and Evaristo for her novel Girl, Woman, OtherThey split the prize money evenly.

Two other Canadians have won the prize since its inception in 1969: Michael Ondaatje in 1992 for The English Patient and Yann Martel in 2002 for Life of Pi

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