- 27 Nov 23
A brilliant year for Irish writing was confirmed this evening with the announcement that Paul Lynch's powerful dystopian novel Prophet Song had been awarded The Booker Prize – a hugely prestigious literary award that has had a remarkable share of Irish winners.
Prophet Song was one of two Irish books in the final six, alongside Paul Murray’s more fancied The Bee Sting – which was named during the week as Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. However, the judges opted for Paul Lynch’s dystopian novel, which describes the breakdown in civil and democratic values in an Ireland of the future, in terms that are positively chilling. There is good reason to feel that the book gained fresh relevance following the eruption of far-right and hooligan-driven violence in Dublin on Thursday night.
That said, the appeal of the book is international, in that the threat of the collapse of democracy has become a global issue, made all the more freighted with the awareness that Russia – among other bad actors – is actively engaged in a widespread campaign of disinformation and disruptive interference, in the US, across Europe, and elsewhere.
The Arts Council has extended its heartfelt congratulations to Paul Lynch.
"Lynch’s submission, Prophet Song, stood out" – a press release says – "among an impressive array of literary achievements, showcasing exceptional talent and contributing significantly to the world of literature. He becomes the sixth Irish author to earn this prestigious accolade.”
The Booker Prize victory is a powerful reflection of the rude good health in which Irish literature finds itself, with new and established authors alike consistently producing works of international calibre.
Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Arts Council expressed enthusiasm for this year's winner. "Paul Lynch is one of the most exciting literary novelists working in the English language today,” she said. "The Arts Council has been proud to directly support his writing through multiple bursaries and through the Arts Council/Maynooth Writer in Residence position this year.
"Paul Lynch is a gifted, original writer, with an incredible commitment to his artistic practice. In Prophet Song he has created a novel that is timely and timeless, and it is immensely gratifying to see his unparalleled work reach such a wide audience. Paul is part of a diverse and talented community of writers and writing in Ireland, and the Arts Council is committed to continuing to nurture and sustain that community.”
The Booker Prize is one of the most esteemed literary awards globally, recognising outstanding contributions to fiction and celebrating the power of storytelling. Paul Lynch now joins the ranks of esteemed Irish authors who have been honoured with this prestigious accolade, including previous winners Iris Murdoch, Roddy Doyle, John Banville, Anne Enright and Anna Burns.
“This is a fantastic achievement by Paul Lynch,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “He is am enormously talented writer, who hit new heights with Prophet Song, so it is wonderful to see that being recognised by the Booker judges. As was the case with Anna Burns and Milkman, his success is confirmation, if it were needed, that we shouldn’t demand immediate success from our writers.
“What’s far more important is the steady accretion of the kind of literary craft that is displayed in abundance in Prophet Song. Louise Kennedy’s brilliant Trespasses, Joseph O’Connor’s My Father’s House, Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting, the returning Claire Kilroy’s Soldier Sailor, Sebastian Barry’s Old God’s Time and Anne Enright’s The Wren, The Wren are other examples of mature Irish writers who continue to produce work of real literary heft.
“Add to that the impact during the year of Colin Walsh’s powerful debut Kala, Kevin Curran’s finely wrought Youth, elaine Feeney’s How To Build A Boat and Megan Nolan’s Ordinary Human Failings and you can see that Irish fiction really is going through a period of great intensity, and achievement."
- Lifestyle & Sports
- 29 Feb 24