American author George Saunders has won the esteemed Man Booker Prize for fiction with “Lincoln in the Bardo,” a polyphonic symphony of a novel about troubled souls drifting in the life after death.
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.
It is narrated by a chorus of characters who are all dead, but unwilling or unable to let go of life.
It is the second year in a row an American has won the $84,000 prize, which was opened to US authors in 2014.
“Lincoln in the Bardo” juxtaposes the real events of the US Civil War — through passages from historians both real and fictional — with a choir of unearthly characters’, male and female, young and old.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the Bardo is the transition state between death and rebirth.
Saunders said he resisted telling the story of Lincoln for 20 years, but the novel, which took four years to write, turned out to be emphatically appropriate at a divided time for the United States.
He said Lincoln had "a quiet, confident generosity of spirit."
Baroness Lola Young, who chaired the Booker judging panel, said the novel "stood out because of its innovation, it’s very different styling, the way in which it paradoxically brought to life these almost-dead souls."
Saunders was awarded the prize by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a ceremony at London`s medieval Guildhall.
Bangla Insider/ MA