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Paul Lynch Wins the 2023 Booker Prize for Prophet Song

Tertulia staff •
Nov 26th, 2023

Every once in a while, a book comes along that leaves you breathless. Prophet Song by Paul Lynch is one of those books. Fresh off winning this year's Booker Prize, Prophet Song will now be released stateside December 5. Set in the near future, the book follows the life of an Irish mother and scientist who fights to keep her family together as Ireland slips into totalitarianism after the rise of the rightwing National Alliance party.

As the chair of the Booker Prize judging panel said, “This is a book that really takes you into dire times and really forces you to feel the things that the characters feel. 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.”

As part of our First Dibs Editors Salon in October, we provided Tertulia readers with an advance preview of Prophet Song in an exclusive event featuring Grove Atlantic VP and editorial director Elisabeth Schmitz who is to thank for bringing the book to the U.S. for distribution. Here is the personal note that she shared with us.

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

Releases December 12

"I have been reading and adoring Paul’s books ever since Red Sky in Morning.  I had come so close to offering time and time again on his novels and something always, frustratingly, seemed to get in the way of our going forth, blast it.  I think Paul and his agent, Simon Trewin, had just about given up on me because—here’s your “inside baseball” story—Simon didn’t submit Prophet Song to me initially.  It came first via Paul’s long-term French publisher, Francis Geffard at Albin Michel.  Francis is an editor I’ve known for decades, whose extraordinary list of international authors I’ve long admired, and who knows my taste in books well.  He wrote to me last spring and said, “Elisabeth, you really need to read this.  I think it’s Paul’s masterpiece.”  Of course I did immediately, fell hard in love, and went to bat.  My offer was on the table when he was longlisted for the Booker, and bless Paul and Simon, they did not “shop it” but accepted with enthusiasm.  I’d WhatsApped Paul at 6:00 a.m. (US time) from a shabby motel room in Rockland, Maine last July, we spoke for a long time, and then we were off.

 I have been fascinated by what some traditionally grounded, realist focused writers turned to during lockdown.  Paul isn’t the only writer who traveled into the near future to see what might so quickly lie ahead.  But he is the one who wrote a novel so immediate, so very likely to be happening as soon as tomorrow, who wrote so convincingly from a mother’s perspective with such prescience, intuition, and intimacy.  I loved it from the first page and grew only more desperate to publish it as I finished.  He is an extraordinarily vital storyteller.  I can’t imagine Prophet Song won’t appeal to every person with a beating heart."

—Elisabeth Schmitz is VP, Editorial Director of Grove Atlantic.

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