American author George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a polyphonous meditation on death, grief and American history.
Saunders, widely lauded for his short stories, was considered the favorite to win the award. His novel centers on the death of Abraham Lincoln's beloved son Willie, and the night that Lincoln reportedly spent in the graveyard, devastated by his grief and lingering by his son's body.
In the book, Saunders weaves fragments of historical documents (both authentic and imagined) with the voices of ghosts trapped in the graveyard with young Willie, watching in wonder at the strength of his father's love. The devastating toll of the Civil War is the backdrop for the scene of very particular loss.
Lola Young, the chair of the panel of judges that awarded the Booker Prize, called the novel "utterly original," praising the narrative as "witty, intelligent, and deeply moving."
In February, Saunders told NPR that he carried the idea for the novel around with him for 20 years — although he wasn't sure it would be a novel at all.