Entertainment

Julian Barnes wins Man Booker Prize

British author Julian Barnes has won the Man Booker Prize, one of the world's most prestigious prizes for English literature, for his book The Sense of an Ending.
British author Julian Barnes smiles after winning the 2011 Man Booker Prize for his book The Sense of an Ending at a ceremony Tuesday at the Guildhall in London. (Luke MacGregor/Reuters )

British author Julian Barnes has won the Man Booker Prize, one of the world's most prestigious prizes for English literature, for his book The Sense of an Ending.

Barnes was named winner of the £50,000 ($80,035 Cdn) prize in London on Tuesday night.

It was his fourth attempt at the Booker.

Barnes has been shortlisted three times before without winning, for:

  • Arthur & George in 2005.
  • England, England in 1998.
  • Flaubert's Parrot in 1984.

He said he was "as much relieved as I am delighted" to finally take the prize.

He triumphed in a field that included two Canadian authors — Esi Edugyan of Victoria, nominated for her second novel, Half Blood Blues, and Patrick deWitt, a Vancouver Island native, for The Sisters Brothers.

Barnes's first novel in six years, The Sense of an Ending, is about a seemingly ordinary man who, when revisiting his past in later life, discovers that the memories he holds are less than perfect. The slim volume — only 150 pages — is narrated by a middle-aged man, Tony Webster, who reflects on the lives of old friends and a suicide from 40 years ago after the past catches up with him via a bequeathed diary.

"Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending has the markings of a classic of English literature. It is exquisitely written, subtly plotted and reveals new depths with each reading," jury chair and former MI5 boss Stella Rimington said of the book.

"It is a beautifully written book," she added. "We thought it was a book that spoke to humankind in the 21st century."

Barnes, 65, is the author of 10 previous novels, three books of short stories and three collections of journalism. His book is already a bestseller and the prize is expected to increase his following around the world.

Two first novels, Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman and Snowdrops by A.D. Miller, were among the finalists, along with Carol Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie. Each of the shortlisted authors wins £2,500 ($3,977).

The race for the Man Booker Prize is always controversial and this year the judges were criticized for rejecting literary merit in favour of commercial viability and readability.

Rimington said the judges found that discussion amusing.

"We were talking about readability and quality. We were certainly always looking for quality as well," she told the BBC. "The fact it's been in the headlines is very gratifying."

With files from The Associated Press