After rules changed, in 2014, to include anyone who writes, or has been translated into, English, British writers are getting increasingly upset with the Booker Prize. It has now been awarded, for the second time in a row, to… an American, from Texas.
A regular columnist for the New Yorker, George Saunders – author of many satirical shorts, among others – had been declared one of the most influential writers under 40 back in 1996. He’s admitted to being greatly surprised at receiving the prize, maybe because he didn’t think he could snatch up such a prestigious award with his first ever novel. And a peculiar novel it is. Those who push past page 30, Saunders says, are going to fall in love with it; everyone else is probably going to put it away.
As of late, award committees seem committed to making controversial choices in handing out literary prizes. Yet such an effect can only prove positive, for the Greek reading public at least. Wanting to express informed opinions on the social media, users find themselves reading (or half-reading) more books than before, and further researching authors and literature in itself. That’s certainly a collateral benefit.
The voices of ghosts
Saunders’ book hasn’t got a plot, as such. Bent over his eleven-year-old son’s grave, Abraham Lincoln is visited by 166 different creatures, from different eras. Their stories often unfurl without a clear beginning, middle, or end. Saunders uses this unorthodox narrative device to speak of love, loss, good, and evil from the setting of a cemetery, where souls are in a borderline
The Saunders dogma
Saunders thinks that to truly understand someone, to truly feel empathy with them, one must look inside their soul. Books are a ticket to such a world. He likens readers and writers to people who meet each other through time. Once they meet, he says, the reader undergoes an intellectual, emotional, moral, and consciousness-based reset that allows him/her to see the world through new eyes. Only positive can such a meeting be.
George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo
(translated in Greek by George-Icarus Babasakis, published by IKAROS, under the tile Λήθη & Λινκολν)