‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ wins the 2017 Man Booker prize

The 2017 Man Booker Prize has been won by US author George Saunders for his debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo.

The novel recounts a historical incident involving US President Abraham Lincoln as the starting point for a story that explores themes of death, loss and grief.

When his young eleven year old son died in 1862, Lincoln was reportedly filled with grief. At night he left The White House and went to the cemetery where his sons body lay in a crypt.

In Saunder’s novel Lincoln is visited by a greek chorus of souls who are buried in the cemetery as he tries to process his loss.

Among the ghosts who interact with the grief stricken president is Hans Vollman, who died at 46, the night after consummating his marriage to a much younger woman and Roger Bevins III, who committed suicide in despair over a homosexual affair.

The ‘Bardo’ in the books title refers to an intermediate space between death and rebirth, and draws upon Tibetan beliefs, but the author says he also worked in elements of Christian and Egyptian beliefs too.

The award, which began in 1968, is one of the most anticipated in the literary world. It is only open to books published in English. Up until 2014 it was only open to books published in Commonwealth countries, but the parameters of the award have subsequently been widened.

While this is Saunders first novel, he has previously published short stories and novellas, as well as writing for many publications including GQ, McSweeney’s and The New Yorker. 

OIP Staff


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