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George Saunders has won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction with his first novel, Lincoln In The Bardo.

Saunders becomes the second American writer in a row to win the British prize since it was extended to the US in 2014.

In 2016, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout picked up the £50,000 prize, which had previously been handed exclusively to UK authors.

Lincoln In The Bardo is based on a true story, when US President Abraham Lincoln visited the cemetery where his 11-year-old son Willie was buried.

The novel is narrated by a chorus of dead characters who are either unwilling or unable to let go of life.

“The form and style of this utterly original novel reveals a witty, intelligent and deeply moving narrative,” said chair of judges Baroness Young.

“This tale of the haunting and haunted souls in the afterlife of Abraham Lincoln’s young son paradoxically creates a vivid and lively evocation of the characters that populate this other world.

“Lincoln In The Bardo is both rooted in, and plays with, history, and explores the meaning and experience of empathy.”

The book was published by Bloomsbury, making it the third consecutive year the prize has been won by an independent publisher.

Bloomsbury has itself won the prize three times before, in 1992, 2000 and 2010.

Saunders, who before Lincoln wrote only short stories, was shortlisted for the prize alongside Britons Ali Smith and Fiona Mozley, and Americans Paul Auster and Emily Fridlund, as well as British-Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid.

First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is recognised as the leading award for high quality literary fiction written in English.

Its list of winners includes many of the giants of the last four decades, from Salman Rushdie to Margaret Atwood, Iris Murdoch to JM Coetzee.

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