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US author George Saunders wins 2017 Man Booker Prize

George Saunders poses after winning the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2017 in London. (Reuters)
LONDON: US author George Saunders on Tuesday became only the second American writer to win Britain’s renowned Man Booker Prize, which was awarded for his first full-length novel “Lincoln in the Bardo.”
Judges for the world’s most prestigious English-language literary award praised as “utterly original” the book that chronicles the death of Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son Willie using the accounts of hundreds of narrators.
“The form and style of this utterly original novel reveals a witty, intelligent, and deeply moving narrative,” said Lola Young, chair of the judging panel, in announcing the prize at a ceremony in London.
Saunders, 58, described the award as a “great honor, which I hope to live up to with the rest of my work, for the rest of my life.”
In a brief, politically tinged acceptance speech, he made several thinly veiled references to the controversial policies of US President Donald Trump.
“We live in a strange time,” he told the audience. “In the US now we’re hearing a lot about the need to protect culture. Well, this tonight is culture.”
He later told reporters he was in disbelief and numb at the award.
“For an artist, I think validation is really helpful,” he added.
“My opinion of myself improves a little bit.”
The winner of the Man Booker receives £52,500 ($69,300), although the bigger prize is seen as a spike in sales which invariably follow the announcement of the winner.
This year’s shortlist stoked controversy over its big name omissions and eclectic line up, with one British columnist calling it “baffling” and a leading US critic decrying its “Americanization.”
It pitted three nominees from the US against two British writers and a British-Pakistani author.
The award, launched in 1969, was only open to novelists from Commonwealth states until it began permitting those from other English-speaking countries in 2014.
Last year Paul Beatty became the first American to win for his novel, “The Sellout.”
Saunders was the British bookmakers’ favorite ahead of the 2017 announcement on Tuesday.
He wrote “Lincoln in the Bardo” over a four-year period, after first conceptualising it 20 years ago, the author told a press conference following the ceremony.

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