Irish author Paul Lynch beat London-based Indian-origin Chetna Maroo to win this year’s Booker Prize for his novel, Prophet Song, a dystopian work about an Ireland that descends into tyranny.
Lynch’s fifth book, Propet Song presents a riveting, dynamic, and assertive depiction of a nation teetering on the edge of catastrophe, unfolding the dystopian story of an ordinary family caught in the tumultuous tide.
Sri Lanka’s Shehan Karunatilaka, author of the Booker Prize-winning novel Seven Moons of Maali Almeida from the previous year, bestowed the award upon Lynch. This marks the second consecutive year that a novel exploring political upheaval and conflict has claimed the prestigious Booker Prize.
Besides Propet Song, Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting, Chetna Maroo’s Western Lane, Paul Harding’s This Other Eden, Jonathan Escoffery’s If I Survive You, and Sarah Bernstein’s Study for Obedience were other books shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.
To qualify for the Booker Prize, a book must be both written in English and published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Joining the ranks of esteemed Irish Booker Prize winners such as Iris Murdoch, John Banville, Roddy Doyle, and Anne Enright, Lynch becomes the fifth Irish author to claim the prize. Previously, Northern Irish writer Anna Burns secured the prize in 2018.
Esi Edugyan, the chair of judges, characterized the winning novel as “soul-shattering and true,” emphasizing that its warnings will linger in the minds of readers for a long time.
The novel, set in Dublin, follows the plight of a woman, seeking to shield her family in an Ireland that is headed towards totalitarianism. The unsettling narrative and “sustained claustrophobia” of the world created by Lynch is powerful and haunting, said Edugyan.
“He (Lynch) has the heart of a poet, using repetition and recurring motifs to create a visceral reading experience. This is a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing, and brave,” noted Edugyan.
According to Lynch, he sought to delve into the complexities of modern chaos, unraveling the unrest in Western democracies. From the implosion of Syria to the vast scale of its refugee crisis, juxtaposed with the West’s apparent indifference.
“Prophet Song is partly an attempt at radical empathy. I wanted to deepen the reader’s immersion to such a degree that by the end of the book, they would not just know, but feel this problem for themselves,” said Lynch.
An internationally celebrated Irish novelist, Lynch has garnered numerous awards across his five published novels. Prior to Prophet Song, Lynch authored Beyond the Sea, Grace, The Black Snow, and Red Sky in Morning.
Notably, Grace, his third novel, clinched both the 2018 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year and the 2020 Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ Literary Award. Additionally, his second novel, The Black Snow, received France’s bookseller prize, the prestigious Prix Libr’à Nous for Best Foreign Novel.
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