Barnes wins Booker Prize he once named "posh bingo"

Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:29pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - English author and bookmakers' favorite Julian Barnes finally won the Man Booker Prize for fiction on Tuesday, despite once dismissing the coveted award as "posh bingo."

The 65-year-old triumphed with "The Sense of an Ending," which at 150 pages was described by one review as a "novella."

It was his fourth time on the Booker shortlist -- Barnes was previously nominated for "Flaubert's Parrot" in 1984, "England, England" in 1998 and "Arthur and George" in 2005.

Stella Rimington, a former British spy chief who chaired the panel of judges this year, told reporters, "We thought that it was a book which, though short, was incredibly concentrated, and crammed into this very short space a great deal of information you don't get out of a first reading.

"It's one of these books, a very readable book, if I may use that word, but readable not only once but twice and even three times."

Ion Trewin, administrator of the prize, said it was not the shortest work to win the Booker. That honor goes to Penelope Fitzgerald's "Offshore" which came in at 132 pages in 1979.

Barnes, who has been critical of the prize in the past, said he was relieved to have won at the fourth attempt.

In his acceptance speech at a glitzy awards ceremony in London's medieval Guildhall, he likened himself to Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges, considered one of the greatest authors never to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature.   Continued...