[The JRB Daily] Paul Lynch wins the 2023 Booker Prize for his ‘soul-shattering and true’ novel Prophet Song

Paul Lynch has won the 2023 Booker Prize for his novel Prophet Song.

He receives £50,000 and was presented with his trophy by 2022 winner Shehan Karunatilaka at a ceremony in London, United Kingdom.

Prophet Song, which was the bookmakers’ favourite to win the prize, captures the social and political anxieties of our age, from the rise of political extremism to the global plight of refugees.

Chair of Judges Esi Edugyan described the novel as ‘a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave … soul-shattering and true’, adding that readers ‘will not soon forget its warnings’.

The judges, Edugyan; 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, said:

‘Prophet Song follows one woman’s attempts to save her family in a dystopic Ireland sliding further and further into authoritarian rule. It is a shocking at times tender novel that is not soon forgotten. 

‘It is propulsive and unsparing, and it flinches away from nothing. This is an utterly brave performance by an author at the peak of his powers, and it is terribly moving. 

‘Prophet Song has one of the most haunting endings you will ever read. The book lives long in the mind after you’ve set it down.’

Lynch becomes the fifth Irish author to win the prize, after Iris Murdoch, John Banville, Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright. The Northern Irish writer Anna Burns won in 2018. Lynch was one of four Irish writers to make this year’s longlist.

Prophet Song is Lynch’s fifth book, and he has called it ‘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,’ he said.   

The novel was published in the UK by Oneworld, an independent publisher that won the prize for two years running in 2015 and 2016, with Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.

Somewhat bizarrely, this year’s shortlist featured three writers named Paul: Lynch, Harding and Murray. Lynch becomes the third Paul to win the Booker, after Beatty (2016) and Scott (1977). 

Last year’s winner of the Booker Prize was Shehan Karunatilaka, for his novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

Watch Lynch’s acceptance speech here:

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