Wednesday 21 March 2018

Barnes's numbers come up in Booker 'bingo' win

Arifa Akbar in London

When Julian Barnes reached the Man Booker prize podium and snuck a sheet of paper out of his pocket, there was a vague sense that his winner's speech was a variation on words penned in hope decades ago, but which had since become curdled by the long wait.

He was first shortlisted in 1984 ('Flaubert's Parrot') then in 1998 ('England, England') and again in 2005 ('Arthur & George'). So when the speech finally got an airing, it was laced with the stewing frustration that had preceded his victory. He was, he said, "as much relieved as delighted to be receiving the prize".

The vindication bordered on self-righteousness, despite the surface humour. He offered an anecdote about the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges's near-misses with the Nobel Prize, which led him to imagine a conspiracy against him. "I started to think that perhaps there was a similar system in operation here."

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