British author Julian Barnes wins Booker Prize

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British author Julian Barnes on Tuesday 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 ($80,000, 57,000 euros) 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."

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.

Revealing the winner, Rimington said the slim book stood up to re-reading several times and praised Barnes's style.

"We thought it was a beautifully written book, we thought it was a book that spoke to humankind in the 21st century," she told the audience.

Jon Howells from Waterstone's, one of Britain's biggest booksellers, said the judges had made the right decision.

"Julian Barnes is a worthy winner -- this is not, right writer, wrong book syndrome, 'The Sense of an Ending' is a brilliant novel, one that turns in the reader's head long after finishing," he said.

The other books on the shortlist were "The Sisters Brothers" by Canadian writer Patrick deWitt, "Half Blood Blues" by Esi Edugyan, also from Canada, and "Pigeon English" by British author Stephen Kelman.

Barnes was previously shortlisted for "Flaubert's Parrot" (1984), "England, England" (1998) and "Arthur and George" (2005).

A group calling itself "The Advisory Board of the Literature Prize" has vowed to knock the Booker off its perch as the benchmark of literary taste.

Its newly created "Literature Prize" will also include novels by American writers in the hunt for the "best novel written in the English language and published in the UK in a given year."

© 2011 AFP

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