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Julian Barnes wins 2011 Man Booker Prize

October 18, 2011 |  2:06 pm


Julian Barnes won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for his novel "The Sense of an Ending," it was announced Tuesday at a black-tie ceremony in London. The Man Booker is one of the world's most prestigious literary prizes and among the most lucrative for a single book. This year, the award is about $80,000.

Barnes, who has three times before been shortlisted for the award, had been favored to win this year. His book was selected from a six-book shortlist announced in September. Other contenders included "Jamrach's Menagerie" by Carol Birch, "Half Blood Blues" by Esi Edugyan, "Pigeon English" by Stephen Kelman and A.D. Miller's "Snowdrops." Patrick deWitt, a former Los Angeles bartender, made the shortlist with his bawdy cowboy noir, "The Sisters Brothers."

At 65, Barnes is a long-established, well-respected writer in England. His first book was 1980's "Metroland" and he's such a known literary figure that he appeared in the film "Bridget Jones' Diary." The U.S. publication of his Booker Prizewinning novel, "The Sense of an Ending," was moved up from January 2012 to October after the award's shortlist was announced.

This year complaints were leveled at the Man Booker Prize for being "dumbed down" after comments made by head judge Stella Rimington while announcing the shortlist. "We were looking for enjoyable books. I think they are readable books," she said. "We wanted people to buy these books and read them. Not buy them and admire them." Last week, a rival award  was announced; it is supported by some of Britain's most prominent writers, including former Booker prize winner John Banville. The Literature Prize, intended to "establish a clear and uncompromising standard of excellence," is looking for funding.

Yet funds have been flowing for this year's Booker Prize finalists; sales of the six books were more than double those on the shortlist last year. The big seller was A.D. Miller's "Snowdrops," a contemporary thriller set in Russia.

Writers from Ireland, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, India, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are eligible for the award.


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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Julian Barnes. Credit: Ellen Warner / Knopf