LONDON (Reuters) – American author George Saunders has won the 2017 Man Booker Prize, a high-profile literary award, for his first novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo,” – a fictional account of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln burying his young son.
In his acceptance speech, Saunders, 58, noted that “we live in a strange time,” adding he saw the key question of the era being whether society responded to events with “exclusion and negative projection and violence,” or “with love.”
Saunders was the second consecutive American writer to win the prize, after the rules were changed in 2014 to allow authors of any book written in English and published in the U.K. to compete.
His novel, set in 1862, a year into the American Civil war, is a blend of historical accounts and imaginative fiction, which sees Lincoln’s son Willie, who died in the White House at age 11, in “Bardo” – a Tibetan form of purgatory.
The judging panel, led by author and member of Britain’s House of Lords Lola Young, praised the “deeply moving” book, saying it was “utterly original”.
Saunders was presented with his award by the Duchess of Cornwall.
Last year, American Paul Beatty became the first American to win the award, for his novel “The Sellout,” a biting satire on race relations in the United States.
Other previous winners have included this year’s Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, Iris Murdoch and Canadian writer Margaret Atwood.
The award was previously open only to writers from Britain, Ireland, Zimbabwe or countries in the British Commonwealth. The winner receives a 50,000 pound ($65,000) cash prize.
(This story has been corrected to make clear Duchess of Cornwall presented award)
Reporting by Mark Hanrahan in London; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney