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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices—living and dead, historical and invented—to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?
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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders REVIEW

How to Read George Saunders' “Lincoln in the Bardo”

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Lincoln in the Bardo is a experimental novel by American writer George Saunders. It is Saunders's first full-length novel and was the New York Times.
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We are always in transition, from dreams to wakefulness, from life to death. When someone dies, Tibetan Buddhists believe that they enter the bardo of the time of death, in which they will either ascend towards nirvana , and be able to escape the cycle of action and suffering that characterises human life on earth, or gradually fall back, through increasingly wild and scary hallucinations, until they are born again into a new body. The Bardo Thodol is intended to be read to them during this journey, an instruction manual to assist them on their way. George Saunders has long been accepted as one of the masters of the American short story. In this, his first novel, the Lincoln trapped in the bardo is Willie, the cherished year-old son of the great civil war president. As his parents host a lavish state reception, their boy is upstairs in the throes of typhoid fever. Saunders quotes contemporary observers on the magnificence of the feast, trailing the terrible family tragedy that is unfolding.

Not many debut novelists get this kind of adulation and attention. Not all debut novelists are George Saunders. Saunders has already made his reputation as a modern master of the short story—which explains his low profile, even among avid readers. Saunders is a delightful writer who combines a sharp intelligence and wit with science fiction tropes and a keen understanding of how people live and think to produce unexpected, unusual, and often thrilling stories that go in directions no one can possibly claim to have predicted. Before you rush off to buy a copy of Lincoln in the Bardo, however, a word of warning: Saunders is deep stuff.

Lincoln in the Bardo is a experimental novel by American writer George Saunders. The novel takes place during and after the death of Abraham Lincoln 's son William "Willie" Wallace Lincoln and deals with the president's grief at his loss. The bulk of the novel, which takes place over the course of a single evening, is set in the bardo —an intermediate space between life and rebirth. Lincoln in the Bardo received critical acclaim, and won the Man Booker Prize. The novel was inspired by a story Saunders's wife's cousin told him about how Lincoln visited his son Willie's crypt at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown on several occasions to hold the body, [9] a story that seems to be verified by contemporary newspaper accounts.

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