Paul Lynch Scoops The Booker Prize 2023 For His Novel, Prophet Song

By Olivia Emily

6 months ago

Will you read the 2023 Booker Dozen?

The winner of the 2023 Booker Prize has officially been revealed: Paul Lynch, for his novel Prophet Song. Lynch is the fifth Irish writer to receive the award, which comes with a £50,000 prize and a large dollop of prestige. While Prophet Song is Lynch’s fifth novel, it is his first to be recognised by the Booker, and he joined nine more authors on the longlist commended by the body for the first time, creating a cohort described as ‘fresh’, with the books ‘cast[ing] new light on what it means to exist in our time’.

Esi Edugyan, Chair of the 2023 judges, said of Lynch’s win: ‘From that first knock at the door, Prophet Song forces us out of our complacency as we follow the terrifying plight of a woman seeking to protect her family in an Ireland descending into totalitarianism. We felt unsettled from the start, submerged in – and haunted by – the sustained claustrophobia of Lynch’s powerfully constructed world. He flinches from nothing, depicting the reality of state violence and displacement and offering no easy consolations. Here the sentence is stretched to its limits – Lynch pulls off feats of language that are stunning to witness. He has the heart of a poet, using repetition and recurring motifs to create a visceral reading experience. This is a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave. With great vividness, Prophet Song captures the social and political anxieties of our current moment. Readers will find it soul-shattering and true, and will not soon forget its warnings.’

Here we look back at the 2023 Booker Dozen

Inside The Booker Prize 2023

Book Prize 2023 judging panel

The judging panel. Left to right: James Shapiro, Mary Jean Chan, Esi Edugyan, Adjoa Andoh and Robert Webb.

What Is The Booker Prize?

Previously known as the ‘Man Booker Prize’, the Booker Prize is a prestigious annual literary award given each year for the best novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Previous winners include the late Hilary Mantel, Eleanor Catton, Douglas Stewart, Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel and Bernardine Evaristo.

This year, 13 books – the ‘Booker Dozen’ – were selected by a panel of judges from 163 books published between 1 October 2022 and 30 September 2023 and submitted to the prize by publishers.

A five-person panel is appointed by the Booker Prize Foundation each year. The 2023 panel consists of:

  • Esi Edugyan, twice-shortlisted author and chair of the 2023 panel
  • Adjoa Andoh, an actor, writer and director (who you’ll certainly recognise from a plethora of stage and screen productions, including Briderton)
  • Mary Jean Chan, a poet, editor and critic, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University, and a supervisor on the MSt in Creative Writing course at the University of Oxford
  • James Shapiro, author and Professor of English at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1985
  • Robert Webb, award-winning British actor and writer, best known for his work with David Mitchell forming Mitchell and Webb.

The 2023 Shortlist

Six authors who have never been shortlisted by the Booker Prize before. Two debut authors. Two Irish authors, two American, one Canadian and one British author. The 2023 Booker Prize Shortlist is:

  • Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein (Canadian)
  • If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery (American)  
  • This Other Eden by Paul Harding (American) 
  • Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Irish)  
  • Western Lane by Chetna Maroo (British)
  • The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Irish)

The shortlist was announced on 21 September at a ceremony at the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery in London. It’s perhaps an unhappy accident that there are more men named Paul on the shortlist than there are women. Each of the shortlisted authors will receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book.


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‘The best novels invoke a sense of timelessness even while saying something about how we live now,’ says chair of judges, Edugyan. ‘Our six finalists are marvels of form. Some look unflinchingly at the ways in which trauma can be absorbed and passed down through the generations, as much an inheritance as a well-worn object or an unwanted talent. Some turn a gleeful, dissecting eye on everyday encounters. Some paint visceral portraits of societies pushed to the edge of tolerance. All are fuelled by a kind of relentless truth-telling, even when that honesty forces us to confront dark acts. And yet however long we may pause in the shadows, humour, decency, and grace are never far from hand.

‘Together these works showcase the breadth of what world literature can do, while gesturing at the unease of our moment,’ says Edugyan. ‘From Bernstein and Harding’s outsiders attempting to establish lives in societies that reject them, to the often-funny struggles of Escoffery and Murray’s adolescents as they carve out identities for themselves beyond their parents’ mistakes, to Maroo and Lynch’s elegant evocations of family grief – each speaks distinctly about our shared journeys while refusing to be defined as any one thing. These are supple stories with many strands, many moods, in whose complications we come to recognise ourselves. They are vibrant, nervy, electric. In these novelists’ hands, form is pushed hard to see what it yields, and it is always something astonishing. Language – indeed, life itself – is thrust to its outer limits.’

The 2023 Longlist

This year’s Booker Dozen commends four debut novelists, with a total of 10 writers longlisted by the Booker for the first time. The nominees span seven countries across four continents, with Irish writers making up a third of the list. Edugyan commented: ‘The list is defined by its freshness – by the irreverence of new voices, by the iconoclasm of established ones.’

The 13 longlisted books are:

  • A Spell of Good Things by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ (Nigerian)  
  • Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry (Irish)  
  • Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein (Canadian)  
  • If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery (American)  
  • How to Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney (Irish) 
  • This Other Eden by Paul Harding (American) 
  • Pearl by Siân Hughes (British) 
  • All the Little Bird-Hearts by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow (British)  
  • Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Irish)  
  • In Ascension by Martin MacInnes (British)  
  • Western Lane by Chetna Maroo (British)
  • The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Irish)
  • The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysian)


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Notable nominees include the four debut novelists – Jonathan Escoffery, Siân Hughes, Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow and Chetna Maroo – as well as Sebastian Barry, who joins a group of 10 writers with at least five Booker Prize nominations. With this longlist, Tan Twan Eng has been nominated for each of his three novels to date, with The Gift of Rain longlisted in 2007, and The Garden of Evening Mists shortlisted in 2012.

‘We read 163 novels across seven months, and in that time whole worlds opened to us,’ says Edugyan. ‘We were transported to early 20th century Maine and Penang, to the vibrant streets of Lagos and the squash courts of Luton, to the blackest depths of the Atlantic, and into a dystopic Ireland where the terrifying loss of rights comes as a hard warning.

‘All 13 novels cast new light on what it means to exist in our time, and they do so in original and thrilling ways,’ Edugyan continues. ‘Their range is vast, both in subject and form: they shocked us, made us laugh, filled us with anguish, but above all they stayed with us. This is a list to excite, challenge, delight, a list to bring wonder. The novels are small revolutions, each seeking to energise and awaken the language. Together – whether historical or contemporary – they offer startling portraits of the current.’


The winner will then be announced on 26 November at a ceremony at Old Billingsgate; the winner will receive a £50,000 prize, plus a trophy designed by the late Jan Pieńkowski. Discover more at