The Booker Prize Podcast episode 24 hero

The Booker Prize Podcast, Episode 24: Behind the scenes at the Booker Prize 2023 ceremony

In this episode of The Booker Prize Podcast, Jo and James attend this year’s winner ceremony where they speak to the 2023 authors and judges, live from the red carpet 

Publication date and time: Published

Step behind the velvet rope and let Jo and James take you on a VIP tour of the Booker Prize 2023 award ceremony. Listen in as they speak to some of this year’s shortlisted authors, and judges, as well as other guests at the ceremony and hear, first-hand, how the shortlisted authors felt in the run up to the announcement, how the judges enjoyed being part of the jury and what it feels like to be a guest at one of the most exciting events in the book lover’s calendar.

Booker Prize 2023 winner Paul Lynch with the Booker trophy, Iris

In this episode Jo and James speak to:

Booker Prize 2023 awards dinner

Episode transcript

Transcripts of The Booker Prize Podcast are generated using both speech recognition software and human transcribers, and as a result, may contain errors.


[00:00:00] Esi Edugyan: ’The winner of the Booker Prize 2023 is Prophet Song by Paul Lynch.’

[00:00:10] Jo: Hello and welcome to the Booker Prize podcast with me, Jo Hamya.

[00:00:13] James: And me, James Walton.

[00:00:14] Jo: And this is a special bonus mini episode. We’re backstage at the Booker Prize ceremony. James, how are you feeling?

[00:00:21] James: Great. It’s been a cracking evening. The winner has been announced. We’re going to bring you the sort of… 10 minute highlights today and then later in the week a longer episode in which we reflect our thoughts and we bring you the sort of atmos backstage throughout the whole time.

[00:00:36] Jo: So right. We’re not going to spoil it for you. You can listen on and hear it.

[00:00:40] James: Enjoy.

[00:00:41] Esi Edugyan: And now I am delighted to announce that the winner of the Booker Prize 2023 is Prophet Song by Paul Lynch.

[00:00:57] Paul Lynch: Well, there goes my hard won anonymity.[00:01:00]

[00:01:03] Paul Lynch: This was not an easy book to write. The rational part of me believed I was dooming my career by writing this novel, though I had to write the book anyway. We do not have a choice in such matters. To quote the apocryphal gospels, ‘If you use what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not use what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.’

[00:01:31] Paul Lynch: My writing has saved me. I believe that literary style should be a way of knowing how the world is met and its unfolding. Sentences should press into the unknown moment, into the most obscure, hidden aspects of life, that which is barely known, but asking to be revealed. To my agent, Simon Trewin, thank you for being my consigliere.

[00:01:56] Paul Lynch: To my publisher, Juliet Mabey, and all at Oneworld… [00:02:00] Three times, Juliet, you’ve done this. Extraordinary.

[00:02:07] Paul Lynch: Thank you for having faith in my writing. I want to thank the Booker jury for the extraordinary effort of reading so many books in such a short time. I want to thank my publicists, Margot Weale and Conrad Kinsella, Louise Dobbin at Repforce, Elisabeth Schmitz at Grove, and all the team in the US. Francis Jeffard, Isabella Ferretti, Belinda McKeon, Oona Frawley and all at Maynooth University and the writing programme there.

[00:02:31] Paul Lynch: Thank you to the Arts Council of Ireland, and to Sarah Bannan in particular, whose support and generous funding made this book and so many other worthy Irish novels possible. Thank you, Amelie and Elliot, my beautiful children, and all the children of this world who need our protection, yet have lived and continue to live through the terrors depicted in this book.

[00:02:56] Paul Lynch: Thank you for opening our eyes to innocence, so that [00:03:00] we may know the world again as though for the first time. Camus used to tell himself quietly to live to the point of tears. Well, let me tell you, winning the Booker Prize does just that. Thank you so very much. It is with immense pleasure that I bring the Booker home to Ireland.

[00:03:24] James: The winner was Paul Lynch with Prophet Song. One of the two Irish Pauls on the list. But I think the Paul Lynch book will be a winner that’s read, I think. It’s set, as probably most people listening to this podcast know by now, in a sort of, a version of Ireland that’s gone more or less fascist. And focuses on a single family Well, first of all, struggling with that and then seeking to escape… possibly too late. So it is quite thrilling but it’s still a good read. And I think it will be a popular winner. And now we’re going to go up to the press conference with the winner, Paul Lynch.

[00:03:56] James: James Walton, Booker Prize Podcast.

[00:03:59] James: Congratulations, Paul.[00:04:00] We can see this happening already tonight, but you are setting or the book or the victory or something is setting you up now as some sort of political spokesman. Yeah. And I just wondered if that’s sort of what you meant.

[00:04:15] Paul Lynch: Yeah, I’m distinctly not a political novelist. I’m more interested in, choosing an old fashioned term, metaphysics.

[00:04:21] Paul Lynch: I’m more interested in life and death and power and powerlessness. And how we don’t know the world and how we are forced to

make choices without knowing what the answers are going to be and how we reap the bitter crop of that. And these are questions that the Greeks addressed and I feel like I’m an old fashioned writer in that regard.

[00:04:35] Paul Lynch: I realize the book has political energy to it but I wasn’t writing a political book, and I was aware of that when I was writing it, that I wanted to avoid the sort of pitfalls of political fiction, which often leans towards grievance. I think the true emphasis of this book is about grief.

[00:04:52] Paul Lynch: Hello. Jo Hamya, Booker Prize Podcast. Congratulations to the both of you actually at what is the end of a really grueling, intense process.[00:05:00] A question for both of you: Esi, in your speech you said that you and the other judges were looking for a novel with a message that would outlast the time in which it was published in.

[00:05:09] Paul Lynch: So, to the both of you, what is the message of Prophet Song that you think will outlast today and indeed the next few years?

[00:05:17] Esi Edugyan: From the judging perspective, I mean, we were just so taken with this utterly visceral reading experience. You know, I think that somebody mentioned this afternoon that, you know, they were sort of wondering or positing that this novel was maybe, you know, selected because it spoke to what’s going on today in the world. And I think part of the timelessness is that, obviously, you didn’t just write this novel.

[00:05:46] Paul Lynch: I finished it a year and a half ago.

[00:05:47] Esi Edugyan: Exactly.

[00:05:49] Paul Lynch: Ukraine hadn’t happened actually even when I’d finished the bulk of the work.

[00:05:52] Esi Edugyan: Exactly. So these are patterns that we’re constantly seeing. These moments of crises that, this is just [00:06:00] something that seems to be intrinsic to human existence. And in that sense, I mean, this novel is so, so impactful and it really forces us, especially those of us who live in societies in which, you know, we’re free of conflict and we really don’t have to think about these things on a daily basis.

[00:06:17] Esi Edugyan: I mean, to be able to enter Eilish’s world and perspective, you know, so closely and so intensely, we just thought that this is, you know, this was masterful. A masterful achievement.

[00:06:29] Paul Lynch: I just add to that… The meaning of the title for Eilish, later on in the book, where she realizes that, you know, the end of the world, according to the prophets, isn’t, it’s not some sudden event, like this sort of cataclysmic global end. It’s actually just the end for you and your town; it’s the end for you and your city. It comes to your town or your city and knocks on your door.

[00:06:48] Paul Lynch: And that, what the prophets are singing about is actually what’s reoccurring always, timelessly. And that’s what the book is truly about. And so just to echo that.

[00:06:59] Jo: And there we have [00:07:00] it. Congratulations to Paul Lynch, looking slightly beleaguered at the press conference, but having a great time at an after party now, I’m sure.

[00:07:06] Jo: If you want an in depth look at what it’s like to be at a Booker Prize ceremony we’ve got a special episode coming up for you on Thursday.

[00:07:14] James: Until then, goodbye!

[00:07:16] Jo: Bye!

[00:07:27] Jo: And the executive producer is Jon Davenport. It’s a Daddy’s Super Yacht production for the Booker Prizes.