After being named to the shortlist three times before, Julian Barnes has finally won this year’s prize for his book The Sense of an Ending.
The Man Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award, has suffered this year from lots of fuss and discussions in the British press about whether the books named to its shortlist were elected for their “readability” or their literary merit. Mr. Barnes was the favorite to win among both gamblers and literary critics (perhaps because he has been nominated so many times in the past). Stella Rimington, who chaired the panel of judges, said that “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.”The critical discussions culminated in a factional uprising of British literati who have banded together to establish a Man Booker antithesis called The Literature Prize. The new prize purports to actually uphold standards of good taste, a feat supposedly neglected by the Man Booker. We couldn’t say: we haven’t read any of the books.
Some nice things have happened as a result of the Man Booker, however. The prize is not open to American writers, but Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues, the only book without a U.S. publisher prior to its inclusion on the list, will now be published in the U.S. by Picador, likely as a result of her having been shortlisted. The release date for Mr. Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending was fast-tracked by its publisher, Knopf (vindicated by the decision, Knopf publicity director Paul Bogaards transmitted a simple “Booyah!” after the announcement). And, of course, everybody’s books will sell better. Interviews with the shortlisted authors can be found here. A Paris Review interview with Mr. Barnes can be found here.