Julian Barnes has won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for his novella “The Sense of an Ending”
Born: 19 January 1946, in Leicester, to two French teachers. The family moved to London six weeks after Barnes was born.
Educated: At City of London School from 1957 to 1964, before taking up a place at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he read Modern Languages, graduating in 1968.
Journalism career: After working for several years as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary supplement, Barnes was later a reviewer and then literary editor for the New Statesman and the New Review. During his early writing career he continued to work as a television critic for the New Statesman and the Observer.
Metroland: Barnes had his first novel, Metroland, published in 1980. The semi-autobiographical tale explored growing up in the suburbs of London and life in Paris as a post-graduate student. Themes of idealism and infidelity didn’t sit well with Barnes’ mother – who complained of a "bombardment" of filth after reading the novel – but fared rather better with the critics, and the novel was awarded the Somerset Maugham Award in 1981. Metroland was made into a film in 1997, starring Christian Bale and Emily Watson.
Flaubert’s Parrot: Barnes garnered his first Booker Prize nomination for his third novel, Flaubert’s Parrot (1984). It details the life reflections of a fictional retired doctor and the Gustave Flaubert-obsessive Geoffrey Braithwaite, in three chronological sequences – through positive and negative mindsets, and finally via journal quotes from different stages of Braithwaite’s life. Flaubert’s Parrot lost out on the Booker Prize to Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac, but picked up the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize the following year.
Relationship with France: A keen interest in France, which often figures in his writing, has helped Barnes become the only writer to win prestigious French literary prizes the Prix Médicis (1986 – Flaubert’s Parrot) and the Prix Fémina (1992 – Talking It Over). His book Cross Channel, which examined Britain’s relationship with France in ten stories, was published in 1996, a year after he was made Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Barnes remains one of Britain’s best-loved authors across the channel, and was made Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2004.
Booker Prize bridesmaid: Fourteen years after his first nomination, Barnes was again shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1998, for satirical science fiction novel England, England. He was also nominated in 2005, for Arthur and George, a story loosely based on the Great Wyrley Outrages of 1903. He lost out on both occasions.
Other writing: Barnes has also had non-fiction work published, including a collection on cooking (The Pedant in the Kitchen, 2003), and in the early 1980s penned crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.
Man Booker Prize winner: Barnes finally secured the Man Booker Prize tonight – at the fourth time of asking – for The Sense of an Ending, a novella "about memory and friendship which has been ecstatically greeted by critics".