Booker Prize winner Paul Lynch reflects on fame and writing

Paul Lynch, the acclaimed author who won the 2023 Booker Prize for his novel Prophet Song, opened up about the challenges of newfound fame at the Hay Festival in Wales last weekend, per The Irish writer expressed a yearning for the solitude he once cherished, describing himself as an introvert who has had to adapt to the demands of public life.

“In many ways I didn’t sign up for this. I’m an introvert who’s learned how to be social, a social introvert,” Lynch told the audience. “I signed up to sit in a room on my own for three or four years and write a book.”

Lynch’s novel, Prophet Song, imagines an Ireland descending into tyranny, a narrative praised for its reflection of contemporary social and political anxieties. Despite the accolades, Lynch finds the intense media attention overwhelming. “Something enormous comes your way, and you have to go with it,” he said, noting that he has conducted 200 interviews since his win. “It’s hard to process that, and I do worry, who will I be after this? When I come back to reality, when my feet touch the ground, what kind of writer am I going to be?”

The day after winning the Booker Prize, Lynch completed 23 interviews with only two brief breaks. “I’m a meditator, and I said, ‘I need to meditate,’ so let me go into a room, and I meditate for 10 minutes and they literally grabbed me by the collar and yanked me back out,” he recalled. On that day alone, he appeared in 3,000 media pieces worldwide.

Despite the media whirlwind, Lynch remains confident in his identity as a writer. He believes his “authentic self” will prevail once the frenzy subsides. “When I seize upon an idea, all I’m interested in is getting to the end line of truth, and I hope that’s where I go next,” he said.

Reflecting on the themes of his work, Lynch emphasised that while Prophet Song can be read politically, his primary pursuit is human truth. He cautioned against assuming the permanence of liberal democracy, noting its fragility.

Lynch is currently revisiting Herzog by Saul Bellow, a writer he admires despite Bellow’s controversial status. “The problem with banished writers, the great dead white males, is that great writing still sits there, and it calls you back,” he concluded.

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up-to-date