George Saunders wins the 2017 Man Booker Prize for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo

by |October 18, 2017

Congratulations to George Saunders who has been awarded the 2017 Man Booker Prize for fiction for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo. Saunders is the second American author to win the prize ever, and was up against two British, one British-Pakistani and two American writers.

Lincoln in the Bardo is the first full-length novel from the internationally renowned short story writer. It is about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War. Focusing on a single night in the life of Abraham Lincoln, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices – living and dead, historical and fictional – Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?

Booktopia’s Ben Hunter reflects on Saunders’ win. Read his thoughts below, or read reviews of Lincoln in the Bardo by Andrew Cattanach and Ilse Scheepers.


Ben Hunter’s Reflection


The first time I read George Saunders was as a naive and frustrated young fool tearing through a borrowed and never returned copy of Civilwarland in Bad Decline. Its oddball stories grabbed me, not just with comic genius, but something more – a kind of raw and vulnerable truth that most writers, myself included, would use language and storytelling to hide from the world. Every time Saunders would come out with something new, this vulnerability seemed to be doubled down on, as if he was pushing prose fiction to the limits of it’s humanity. When Tenth of December came out I forced everyone around me to read it. I needed to see if I was crazy, I had to see if this guy could make other readers feel the way I felt reading his work. They did.

When Lincoln in the Bardo was announced, I didn’t know what to think. History, the supernatural, a novel – these weren’t the elements associated with the Saunders success story. This was something entirely different, a whole new kind of radical vulnerability. The prose form of the novel wasn’t even brought into play, this book opened out storytelling into a collective form with dozens of perspectives all expressing themselves at once.

To see the world embrace this book, with its critical acclaim, Saunders taking the stage at Sydney Writer’s Festival and now with the Man Booker Prize win, I feel a great sense of joy and release. The hope that others will experience the radical empathy this author employs is a victory to be celebrated.


The Man Booker Prize was established in 1969. The winner receives £50,000 plus the £2,500 that all shortlisted authors are awarded. Previous winners include Paul Beatty, Marlon James, Richard Flanagan, and Eleanor Catton. Watch the Man Booker Prize 2017 winner video below.

Lincoln in the Bardoby George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders

The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War

The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body.

From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both...

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About the Contributor

Tanaya has been a lover of books for as long as she can remember. Now, her book collection is a little out of control, mostly consisting of YA fiction and pretty hardcovers. When she’s not reading, she spends a lot of her time taking photos of books for her bookstagram account, @prettypagesblog. She also has a love of Disneyland, bullet journaling and cats.

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