Finally – a Booker Prize win for Julian Barnes
His fourth time nominated was the charm for British novelist Julian Barnes, winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize.
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This year’s contest has been particularly controversial. Barnes recently called the Man Booker Prize “posh bingo,” and criticized judges for being “inflated by their brief celebrity.”Skip to next paragraph
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And Britain’s literati have criticized this year’s shortlist, claiming the contest awards populism, readability, and sales over artistic achievement.
Leo Robson, critic for the New Statesman magazine, recently wrote: "If things continue as they are, it isn't hard to imagine a time when the (Man Booker) prize will be seen as a way not of celebrating novels, just of selling them."
Critics have even launched a rival award, The Literature Prize, to unseat the Booker as the benchmark of literary excellence.
The board for the new prize said it will honor novels that are "unsurpassed in their quality and ambition", adding that "for many years this brief was fulfilled by the Booker,” according to a statement issued last Wednesday. "But,” it continued, “as numerous statements by that prize's administrator and this year's judges illustrate, it now prioritizes a notion of 'readability' over artistic achievement.”
The Man Booker Prize was established in 1969 to award the best full-length novel written in English and published in the Commonwealth or the Republic or Ireland. Past notable winners have included Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, and VS Naipaul. Several Booker Prize winning novels have also been adapted into films, including Thomas Keneally’s “Schindler’s Ark,” (which became “Schindler’s List”) and Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient,” both of which became Academy Award winners.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.