British author Julian Barnes has won the Man Booker Prize, one of the highest-profile awards in English-language literature, at the fourth attempt for his novel “The Sense of an Ending”.
Barnes picked up the £50,000 award, which recognises the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland, at a ceremony in London.
He told the audience assembled at the Guildhall he was “as much relieved as I am delighted” after losing out in 1984, 1998 and 2005.
Barnes also referred to the build-up to this year’s prize, which was overshadowed by the launch of a rival award in protest at the apparent populist nature of the six-book shortlist.
He said: “I’d like to thank the judges, who I won’t hear a word against, for their wisdom and the sponsors for their cheque.”
The Leicester-born author joked that in moments of paranoia he suspected a “small cottage industry” was working to prevent him from winning the award after being passed over for his works “Flaubert’s Parrot”, “England, England” and “Arthur and George”.
Barnes, 65, was the bookmaker’s favourite ahead of Carol Birch, with “Jamrach’s Menagerie”, and A.D. Miller’s thriller “Snowdrops”.
“The Sense of an Ending” is the story of a seemingly ordinary man who revisits his past in later life and discovers that his memories are flawed.
The panel was chaired by the former head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5, Stella Rimington, who before presenting the award said she made no apologies for including “readable” novels in this year’s shortlist.
Last year’s prize was won by Howard Jacobson for “The Finkler Question”.