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Posh Bingo

Barnes avoids a Beryl by winning the Booker Prize

After his fourth time on the shortlist, British author Julian Barnes has won the Man Booker Prizer – and dissed Finnegan’s Wake in his acceptance speech.

JULIAN BARNES HAS won the Man Booker Prize, an award he had previously likened to “posh bingo”.

The British writer finally took home the £50,000 prize on the fourth time of being shortlisted.

After being shortlisted on three previous occasions, he won the literary award for his 150-page novel The Sense of an Ending.

The judging panel said the novel “spoke to humankind in the 21st century”.

It is the story of a seemingly ordinary man who, when revisiting his past in later life, discovers that the memories he holds are less than perfect.

Accepting the honour, Barnes said he was as much relieved as delighted to receive the prize. He thanked his publishers for their wisdom and the sponsors for their cheque.

Afterwards, the London-based writer also said he was happy to avoid getting a Beryl after he died. According to the Guardian, he was referring to Beryl Bainbridge, who had been shortlisted five times during his lifetime but only received a posthumous prize.

In his humourous acceptance speech, Barnes said he believed that the winning book is the best he has written in the past five years. It is the first he has published in that time.

Asked about whether he would like to win on the Today programme before the prize was announced, the author said, “Well, put it this way, I’ve had reasonably long experience of not winning – and I think I’ve exhausted all the ins-and-outs of that, so I wouldn’t object to a change.”

Judging a book by its cover

In his acceptance speech, Barnes also took a moment to stick up for the “physical book” in its fight against the “ebook”.

He said:

Those of you have seen my book, whatever you think of its contents, will probably agree it is a beautiful object. And if the physical book, as we’ve come to call it, is to resist the challenge of the ebook, it has to look like something worthy buying, worth keeping.

It reminded me of Lindsay Bagshawe in Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, whose mantra was that books to furnish a room.”

The win for Barnes comes after a long-running debate about the “readability” of literary prize winners.

Calling the debate a “false herring”, the author said that most great books are readable.

“When you look at the great canon, there are very few that you would call unreadable until you get to Finnegan’s Wake,” he said.

Barnes was the runaway favourite to come away with this year’s prize with bookmaker William Hill stating that he attracted half of all bets laid. He beat five other finalists – Stephen Kelman for Pigeon English, A.D. Miller for Snowdrops, Carol Birch for Jamrach’s Menagerie, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt and Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan.

Founded in 1969, the Booker is open to writers from Britain, Ireland and the 54-nation Commonwealth of former British colonies.

-Additional reporting by AP