LONDON – American writer George Saunders won on Tuesday the prestigious Man Booker Award for his novel “Lincoln In The Bardo,” a story that evokes the night when former US President Abraham Lincoln buried his 11-year-old son.
Saunders won the award against five other finalists: Paul Auster, who competed with “4321”; Emily Fridlund (“History of Wolves”); Mohsin Hamid (“Exit West”); Fiona Mozley (“Elmet”); and Ali Smith (“Autumn”).
The 58-year-old writer is the second American author to receive the award, which rewards the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom, a competition that since 2014 has started to accept writers from outside the Great Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Saunders succeeds fellow countryman Paul Beatty, who won the £50,000 ($66,000) prize last year with his satirical novel “The Sellout.”
The jury deliberated for five hours and held a “fierce debate” before opting for “Lincoln In The Bardo,” according to author and actress Lola Young, chair of the judges, during a ceremony in London.
“The form and style of this utterly original novel reveals a witty, intelligent, and deeply moving narrative,” Young described the work as “an extraordinary piece of work. It was unique.”
The book is the first long novel to be published by acclaimed short story writer Saunders, a Texas-born resident of New York.
“Lincoln In The Bardo” details the events on the night of Feb. 22, 1862, when Lincoln visits the crypt where his recently deceased son lies.
The text explores topics such as death, grief and the possibilities of life, as well as the contrast between Lincoln’s personal life and his role in public.