PAUL LYNCH claims his Booker Prize-winning fifth novel Prophet Song was an attempt to better understand the modern chaos we find around us.
Set in an imagined dystopian Ireland, Prophet Song reveals an alternate Dublin, where the government is becoming a police state and rebellion will not be tolerated.
The Limerick-born writer’s book focuses on protagonist Eilish Stack.
With the country in the grip of a government turning towards tyranny, when her husband disappears she finds herself caught within the nightmare logic of a society that is quickly unravelling.
“I was trying to see into the modern chaos,” Lynch says of the inspiration for the book.
“The unrest in Western democracies. The problem of Syria – the implosion of an entire nation, the scale of its refugee crisis and the West’s indifference,” he explains.
“Prophet Song is partly an attempt at radical empathy.
“To understand better, we must first experience the problem for ourselves.
“So, I sought to deepen the dystopian by bringing to it a high degree of realism. 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.”
Critics have described Lynch’s book as “a crucial book for our current times” and last night it was crowned the winner of the Booker Prize 2023.
The author receives £50,000 as his prize, and was presented with his trophy by Shehan Karunatilaka, last year’s winner, at a ceremony held at Old Billingsgate in London.
Esi Edugyan, head judge on this year’s judging panel, said of their selection: “From that first knock at the door, Prophet Song forces us out of our complacency as we follow the terrifying plight of a woman seeking to protect her family in an Ireland descending into totalitarianism. “We felt unsettled from the start, submerged in – and haunted by – the sustained claustrophobia of Lynch’s powerfully constructed world.”
She added: “He flinches from nothing, depicting the reality of state violence and displacement and offering no easy consolations.
“Here the sentence is stretched to its limits – Lynch pulls off feats of language that are stunning to witness.
“He 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. With great vividness, Prophet Song captures the social and political anxieties of our current moment. Readers will find it soul-shattering and true and will not soon forget its warnings.”
Lynch is the sixth Irish writer to win the Booker Prize.
Iris Murdoch, John Banville, Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright have all previously won the award, while the Northern Irish writer Anna Burns won it in 2018 for her novel Milkman.
Four Irish authors made the Booker Prize longlist for 2023, where Lynch went up against Paul Murray for The Bee Sting, Sebastian Barry for Old God’s Time and Elaine Feeney for How to Build a Boat.
Speaking following his win, Lynch said it was “with immense pleasure that I bring the Booker home to Ireland”.
The former film critic added: “I had a moment on holiday in Sicily many years ago where I had this flash of recognition, I knew that I needed to write, and that was the direction my life had to take.
"I made that decision that day to just swerve, and I swerved. And I’m bloody glad I did.”
He added: “None of this would be possible without the support of the Irish state.
“I received two Arts Council bursaries during the four years it took to write this book.”