Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, the betting favorite, was awarded the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction on 17 October 2017. Lincoln in the Bardo is the first full-length novel from the well-known American short story writer whose odds on winning improved from 6/4 from a week earlier to 5/4 just before the announcement. George Saunders’ win was announced by Lola Young at a dinner at London’s Guildhall. He was presented with a trophy from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and a £50,000 check by Luke Ellis, chief executive of Man Group. Saunders also received a designer bound edition of his book and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted.
The other shortlisted nominees were Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, Fiona Mozeley’s Elmet, Paul Auster’s 4321, Ali Smith’s Autumn, and Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves. The judges considered 144 submissions for this year’s prize.
At the event, broadcast live on the BBC News Channel, actors Maxine Peake, Rhashan Stone and Olivia Williams read extracts from the shortlisted books. All the shortlisted authors attended alongside a number of former winners. The Royal Mail again issued a congratulatory postmark featuring the winner’s name, applied to millions of stamped mail items nationwide on Wednesday, 18 October, and Friday, 20 October 2017. The postmark said, ‘Congratulations to George Saunders, winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize.’
Lincoln in the Bardo focuses on a single night in 1862 when the body of Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son was buried in a Washington cemetery. Saunders brings the graveyard alive with the spirits of its dead. The Guardian wrote, ‘The short story master’s first novel is a tale of great formal daring . . . [it] stands head and shoulders above most contemporary fiction, showing a writer who is expanding his universe outwards, and who clearly has many more pleasures to offer his readers.’
Ellis of the Man Group, the investment management firm that has sponsored the prize since 2002, comments, “We are pleased to congratulate George Saunders, along with each of the shortlisted authors, for his fantastic achievement this year. At Man Group, we are extremely proud to be sponsoring the world’s foremost literary prize and celebrating exceptional literary talent for a fifteenth year. We understand the importance of intellectual capital and creative thought – and indeed, the ability to view the world from different lenses matters more than ever today, in this age of rapid and inexorable change. We also believe that businesses like ours have an important duty to advance progress in education at every level: from prizes like this, which recognize global talent, to the local grassroots initiatives championed by the Booker Prize Foundation and the Man Charitable Trust, which we are honored to support.”
Lincoln in the Bardo is published by Bloomsbury, making it the third consecutive year the prize has been won by an independent publisher, following Oneworld Publications’ success in 2015 with Marlon James and 2016 with Paul Beatty. Bloomsbury has won the prize three times before, with Howard Jacobson (2010), Margaret Atwood (2000) and Michael Ondaatje (1992).