The 2023 Booker Prize has been awarded to Prophet Song, a dystopian vision of Ireland in the grips of totalitarianism.

It was written by Ireland’s Paul Lynch, 46, marking the first time he has won the prestigious fiction writing prize.

Set in Dublin, it tells the story of a family grappling with a terrifying new world in which the democratic norms they are used to begin to disappear.

Lynch said Prophet Song was inspired by the Syrian war and refugee crisis.

Reacting to his win on stage at the award ceremony in Old Billingsgate, London, Lynch said it was with “immense pleasure” that he was taking the Booker back to Ireland.

The author, who was born in Limerick and now lives in Dublin, added that the novel was “not an easy book to write”.

Asked about the recent rioting and violence in Dublin earlier this week, Lynch said he was “astonished” by what happened and said “we should see it as a warning”.

But he said he was not a “political novelist” and his book was finished 18 months ago.

He said he was going to spend some his £50,000 (KSh. 9.5M) prize money on his mortgage.

The book is Lynch’s fifth and he spent four years working on it. He started writing it just before his son was born and, by the time he finished, his boy was able to ride a bike.

Head judge Esi Edugyan said the panel “sought a winning novel that might speak to the immediate moment while also possessing the possibility of outlasting it”.

She added: “In these troubled times, we sought a novel with a guiding vision – a book to remind us that we are more than ourselves, to remind us of all that is worth saving.”

Before the winner was announced Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spoke about how much reading helped her while she was detained in Iran.

She said being able to read novels from the prison’s secret library “transformed” her life and the books took her “to another world”.

The Booker Prize is one of the leading literary awards in the English speaking world.

Four Africans have previously won the award including J M Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Ben Okri and Damon Galgut.

Sunday’s event was broadcast on the Booker Prize live stream on YouTube.

BBC News
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