Irish author Paul Lynch has won the prestigious Booker Prize for his novel "Prophet Song", which paints a picture of a dystopian Ireland that is turning toward totalitarianism. 

Paul Lynch has become the sixth Irish author to win the prestigious award and said that the book was inspired by the instability he has witnessed around the world in recent years.

"Prophet Song" is the fifth novel of Lynch's career portrays a fictional Ireland that is ruled by a right-wing nationalist government, bringing autocratic rule and violence into the country. 

Voting for the award took place two days after violent anti-immigrant riots erupted on the streets of Dublin, although judges have insisted that Lynch's novel won because of its literary merit rather than its topicality. 

Chair of the judges, Esi Edugyan, said the decision to award Lynch the Booker Prize "wasn't unanimous", with judges requiring multiple rounds of voting to come to the decision. 

Edugyan, who has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, described "Prophet Song" as "astonishing" and "soul-shattering", adding that readers will "not soon forget its warnings". 

"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," Edugyan said. 

The book takes place in an alternative Dublin and details how the Irish Government is sliding toward totalitarianism. A secret police established by the Government arrives at the door of microbiologist Eilish to inquire about her husband, a senior official in the Teachers Union of Ireland. He later disappears along with hundreds of citizens and Eilish is left to look after her four children and her elderly father. 

Speaking after winning the award, Lynch said he was inspired to write the book after receiving a "flash of inspiration" while on holiday in Sicily a number of years ago. 

"It is with immense pleasure that I bring the Booker home to Ireland," Lynch said after accepting the award on Sunday. 

"I had a moment on holiday in Sicily many years ago where I had this flash of recognition, I knew that I needed to write, and that was the direction my life had to take. I made that decision that day to just swerve, and I swerved. And I’m bloody glad I did." 

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He also spoke about the violent riots that erupted in Dublin on Thursday after three children and a childcare worker were stabbed outside Gaelscoil Coláiste Mhuire in Dublin city center. 

Lynch said he was "astonished" by the anti-immigrant riots but added that he "recognized the truth that this kind of energy is always there under the surface". 

"I didn’t write this book to specifically say ‘here’s a warning’, I wrote the book to articulate the message that the things that are happening in this book are occurring timelessly throughout the ages, and maybe we need to deepen our own responses to that kind of idea," Lynch said. 

Lynch beat five other candidates to win the Booker Prize, including "The Bee Sting" by fellow Irish author Paul Murray, which recently won the Eason Novel of the Year Award. 

Paul Lynch answers readers' questions about his #BookerPrize2023-shortlisted novel, Prophet Song.

Watch to hear all about Lynch's inspirations behind the book, the power of fiction to change lives and why Ireland produces the best novelists.

— The Booker Prizes (@TheBookerPrizes) November 16, 2023