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Lincoln in the Bardo: WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017 Paperback – 2017
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About the Author
George Saunders is the author of nine books, including Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the inaugural Folio Prize (for the best work of fiction in English) and the Story Prize (best short-story collection). He has received MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships and the PEN/Malamud Prize for excellence in the short story and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.
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The story discusses about the relation of father-son, the mental state of Abraham Lincoln, the ill decisions made by the spirits in Bardo during their life, the concept of afterlife, spirits of men and women who were slaves and the story shifts its focus onto the Civil War. The story force you to feel the pain of a man who has lost a son and must guide his country through many more deaths, of a slave girl who is raped over and over again, of a gay man who slits his wrists because he cannot be with the one he loves, and many other things.
The languauge of the book is both simple and complex. Complex at the first instance and simple when we get a hold of it. The unusual format, like oddly punctuated and inverted lines of a play, took some time of adjustment, and then it was easy to read. The book provides different perspectives of different characters- Living and dead, real and imagined, president and slave — they all sit at the same table, sharing a wide range of human experiences.
I don't know, what exactly was compelling about the book- the unual writing style, the different story or my love for historical fictions. But this is one of the best books, I've read so far. Strongly recommended.
A very deserving winner of the Booker Prize!!
I am indeed pleased to share my review on one of my superlative reads. The plot, set during the American Civil War, revolves on a historical circumstance, the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie Lincoln. And Saunders picks a pinch of history that affirms that the grieve-stricken Lincoln has had a few visits to his son’s tomb to be in the presence of his son. EUREKA! a scintillating new novel is born.
The story is been narrated by a group of spirits or apparitions, who are stuck in a Bardo , a place where people reach who are disfigured by desires they failed to act upon while alive. They are unaware that they have died, referring to the space as their "hospital-yard" and to their coffins as "sick-boxes". Bardo! Yes, our writer brings into light the transitional zone, Tibetans believe it to be a period between the moment one dies and whatever happens after that, a sleep or a trance-state.
W.Y. Evans Wentz in his book “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” elaborates the concept of Bardo, a little further. He talks of three Bardos:
1. CHIKHAI BARDO- Transitional State of the moment of Death.
2. CHONYID BARDO- Transitional state of experiencing or glimpsing of reality.
3. SIDPA BARDO- Transitional state of Rebirth.
So to be back with our novel, Saunders picks these three types and connects a web of artistic narratives in ghosts. Willie dies and reaches Bardo - meets his fellow narrators, almost hundred other characters, and tells them that his dad will come to see and pick him up. A few main ghost narrators, Hans Vollman, Roger Bevins III and the Reverend Everly Thomas feel pity for the young lad and they endure to take on a strange pursuit to persuade Abraham Lincoln to visit his son. They get to the world and get into the body of Lincoln. Astonished, they are able to read the mind of Lincoln. They are able to see their real self. Yet they aren’t able to persuade Lincoln to visit his son. But by some thought Lincoln too aspires to see his son. He gets into the tomb of Willie to see him and hold him one last time. Most of the ghosts co-habitat the body of Lincoln and they begin to have a strange conversation within themselves. Lincoln is been persuaded by the apparitions to stay- but he leaves the tomb. They get awakened to the reality and they move to the next level of Heaven/Hell phenomenon.
The novel entertains with its contradicting dialogues now and then, a broad variety of opinion-factual and fictional. Amazingly new novel style-more of a dramatic monologues kind, bit of real history and created history tossed in here and there. Saunders himself observes that the pages have ‘a lot of white space’ in it. Enjoyable narration, I presume it will take a second reading to really comprehend the intense clearly. A compelling and undoubtedly unique novel, that talks and promotes the beauty of life. It articulates loads of hope to the readers to live their live pleasingly well to one’s own conscience.
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