US author George Saunders wins Man Booker prize for ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’

The book is based on a real visit Abraham Lincoln made in 1862 to the body of his 11-year-old son Willie in a Washington cemetery.

books Updated: Oct 18, 2017 10:29 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Man Booker Prize,Man Booker Prize for fiction,Man Booker 2017
George Saunders, author of 'Lincoln in the Bardo', poses for photographers after winning the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2017 in London on October 17.(REUTERS)

American author George Saunders’ won the 2017 Man Booker prize on Tuesday for his first novel Lincoln in the Bardo, a fictional account of former US President Abraham Lincoln’s grief after his son’s death.

The novel’s form was described by Lola Young, chair of the 2017 judging panel, as “utterly original” and “reveals a witty, intelligent and deeply moving narrative”.

Saunders, 58 and based in New York, received £50,000 prize money for winning what is regarded as one of literature’s most prestigious recognitions during a ceremony at The Guild hall. He will get £2,500 as well for being shortlisted.

Saunders’ first full-length novel is set in a single night in Bardo, a Tibetan form of a purgatory, telling the story of Lincoln’s grief after the death of his young son, and his visits to his tomb. The plot is based on a real visit President Abraham Lincoln made in 1862 to the body of his 11-year-old son Willie in a Washington cemetery. It is narrated by a chorus of characters who are all dead, but unwilling or unable to let go of life.

By turns witty, bawdy, poetic and unsettling, “Lincoln in the Bardo” juxtaposes the real events of the US Civil War — through passages from historians both real and fictional — with a chorus of otherworldly characters male and female, young and old. In Tibetan Buddhism, the bardo is the transition state between death and rebirth.

The long-list of 13 had included Indian writer Arundhati Roy’s ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’, but it did not make the shortlist.

Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, presents US author George Saunders with the award for the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, at the Guildhall in central London on October 17. (AFP Photo)

First Published: Oct 18, 2017 07:47 IST