Lincoln in the Bardo

This debut full-length novel by American author George Saunders imagines the night Abraham Lincoln visited the burial site of his son.

George Saunders

On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son's body. Set over the course of that one night and populated by ghosts of the recently passed and the long dead, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief, the powers of good and evil, a novel — in its form and voice — completely unlike anything you have read before. It is also, in the end, an exploration of the deeper meaning and possibilities of life, written as only George Saunders can: with humour, pathos and grace. (From Random House)

Lincoln in the Bardo is on the 2017 Man Booker Prize longlist.

Excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen. Now, I know what you are thinking: older man (not thin, somewhat bald, lame in one leg, teeth of wood) exercises the marital prerogative, thereby mortifyng the poor young —

But that is false.

This is exactly what I refused to do, you see.

On our wedding night I clumped up the stairs, face red with drink and dance, found her arrayed in some thinnish thing an aunt had forced her into, silk collar fluttering slightly with her quaking — and could not do it.


From Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders ©2017. Published by Random House.

Author interviews

Eleanor sits down with American writer George Saunders onstage at the Toronto Reference Library. The master of the short story talks about writing his first novel, "Lincoln in the Bardo", which unfolds in a graveyard over a single night in 1862. 53:28
The New York Times bestselling author talks about his latest novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, and how he creates art with empathy in mind. 17:42