British author Howard Jacobson in surprise Booker Prize win
British author Howard Jacobson was Tuesday picked as the surprise winner of this year's prestigious Booker Prize for literature for his comic novel "The Finkler Question".
Jacobson beat favourite Tom McCarthy to pick up the award and 50,000 pounds (77,000 dollars, 60,000 euros) prize money for his tale of old school friends and their teacher with its themes of love, sex and Jewishness.
His triumph comes after previous disappointments -- he had twice before been longlisted for the prize, but had never before made it to the shortlist.
Accepting the prize at a ceremony in London, the 68-year-old joked about his long wait to receive an award and the string of unused acceptance speeches he had written.
"I note that my language in these speeches grows less gracious with the years," he said.
"You start to want to blame the judges who are giving you the prize for all the prizes they didn't give you. But they aren't, of course, the same judges.
"Tonight I forgive everyone, they were only doing their job."
And he added: "As for the judges of the 2010 Man Booker Prize, they surpass all praise. I thank them."
But the decision by the five judges to award him the prize was a close call, with the final verdict three to two in his favour.
Chair of the judges, English poet Andrew Motion, described the hour-long meeting to pick the winner as "intense."
Motion described the book as "very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle.
"It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize."
Jacobson described his work as about loss, saying: "I wanted to make the reader laugh and weep at the same moment."
He has been longlisted twice before for the prize, in 2006 for "Kalooki Nights" and in 2002 for "Who's Sorry Now", but had never before been shortlisted.
One of the highest-profile awards in English language literature, the annual Booker Prize is awarded for the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or Zimbabwe.
Contenders must have been published in the past year and write in English. The prize all but guarantees an upsurge in book sales.
Jacobson was 6/1 to scoop the award, according to odds earlier Tuesday from William Hill bookmakers.
McCarthy's "C", an experimental novel about a young radio addict in the 20th century, was the 8/15 favourtie to win, according to the bookmaker.
Other works to make this year's shortlist included Peter Carey's "Parrot And Olivier in America", Damon Galgut's "In A Strange Room" and Emma Donoghue's "Room".
© 2010 AFP