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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Claudia Cockerell

Booker winner Paul Lynch: 'There is no Paul privilege'

It was good to be a Paul at the Booker Prize ceremony last night. Three of the six authors shortlisted for the prize share the name, and it was lost on no one that there were more Pauls than women on the list. But their common name, The Londoner was assured “every Paul is very different” by judge Mary Jean Chan. “Paul schmaul,” said fellow judge Adjoa Andoh, adding that the shortlist was “varied” and “refreshing”. 

But shortlistee Jonathan Escoffery was all too aware that he was against Paul odds. “I’m the token Jonathan,” he joked, before confessing that his dad is called Paul, and “had I only been a Paul Junior, this could have been a full house!” 

In the end, it was Paul Lynch who won for his novel Prophet Song. Before the ceremony he told us he had “no expectation of winning”, and insisted “there is no Paul privilege”. And what of his book? “I don’t even remember it now. It’s kind of sliding into the fog where the other four novels are resting,” he said.

Lynch is from Dublin, and said that the riots which happened over the weekend have echoes in his novel, which is set in an Ireland which has descended into authoritarianism. “If you were to imagine a parallel reality, my book starts at eight steps forward.” 

Last year’s Booker winner Shehan Karunatilaka made a speech at the dinner, and reckoned he had an advantage because the 2022 shortlist featured “many weird and strange books”. The main impact on him of winning the prize? “My agent now returns my calls.”

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