On Sunday, Irish author Paul Lynch received the 2023 Booker Prize for fiction for his novel “Prophet Song,” a dystopian tale about a tyrannical Ireland.
At a ceremony in London, the 46-year-old novelist beat out five other shortlisted novelists to win the prestigious honor.
He is the fifth Irish writer to win the prestigious literary prize, which has catapulted several popular names to recognition, including previous winners Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, and Hilary Mantel.
“This was not an easy book to write,” Lynch said after collecting his award, which comes with £50,000 (around $63,000) and a huge boost to his profile.
“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,” he added.
Lynch’s novel is set in Dublin in a near-future Ireland. It follows a mother of four as she attempts to save her family from dictatorship.
The novel, Lynch’s fifth, contains no paragraph breaks.
The story was described as “a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave” by Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan, who chaired the five-person judging panel.
“With great vividness, Prophet Song captures the social and political anxieties of our current moment,” she said.
“Readers will find it soul-shattering and true, and will not soon forget its warnings.”
The Booker Prize is open to works of fiction written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023, by writers of any country.
None of this year’s six contenders, who comprised two Americans, a Canadian, a Kenyan, and another Irish novelist, had previously been shortlisted or longlisted.
The shortlisted novels were chosen from a 13-strong longlist that had been narrowed down from an original 158 works.
Among them was “The Bee Sting” by Irish novelist Paul Murray, a tragicomic saga about the role of fate in the trials of one family.
Murray was previously longlisted in 2010.
Chetna Maroo’s touching debut novel “Western Lane” about bereavement and sisterhood tells the journey of a teenage girl who lives for squash.
The jury also chose “If I Survive You” by Jonathan Escoffery, a film about a Jamaican family and their turbulent new existence in Miami.
He was joined by fellow American novelist Paul Harding, whose “This Other Eden” — based by real events — tells the story of Apple Island, an enclave off the US coast where society’s outcasts flock and construct a new home.
Sarah Bernstein’s “Study for Obedience” was the only Canadian entry on the shortlist. Through a skeptical narrator, the unnerving story tackles themes of discrimination and guilt.
The Booker Prize was first presented in 1969. Last year’s winner for “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” was Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka.
Iris Murdoch, John Banville, Roddy Doyle, and Anne Enright are previous Irish winners.