Lavinia Greenlaw, chairwoman of the judges, said: "George Saunders' stories are both artful and profound. Darkly playful, they take us to the edge of some of the most difficult questions of our time and force us to consider what lies behind and beyond them. His subject is the human self under ordinary and extraordinary pressure. His worlds are heightened versions of our own, full of inexorable confrontations from which we are not easily released. Unflinching, delightful, adventurous, compassionate, he is a true original whose work is absolutely of the moment. We have no doubt that these stories will prove only more essential in years to come."
The Folio Prize was founded to annually recognize a work of fiction published in English in the U.K. from any country of origin. Its first shortlist included authors from the U.S. and U.K.: Anne Carson, Amity Gaige, Jane Gardam, Kent Haruf, Rachel Kushner, Eimear McBride, Sergio De La Pava and Saunders.
"It was a strikingly diverse list of contenders, which made predictions difficult," wrote Ron Charles at the Washington Post. "In England, where bookies actually put odds on literary contests, Carson's verse novel was favored to win 3 to 1. De La Pava's 'Naked Singularity' was originally self-published. McBride's novel will not be published in the U.S. until September."
Saunders prevailed. The author, who is known for writing short stories rather than novels, is on a roll. Last week he was awarded the Story Prize, the American award for a collection of short fiction, which comes with a silver bowl and a check for $20,000.