Julian Barnes on the Booker Prize and Book Collecting

A Day with Julian Barnes, the Last Time He Was Shortlisted

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 21 2011 11:06 AM

A Day with Julian Barnes, the Last Time He Was Shortlisted

Julian Barnes in 2004.

Photo by PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Julian Barnes won the Man Booker Prize. (He also inspired an interactive literary quiz.) It was his fourth time on the shortlist, and many people described the award—for his short novel The Sense of an Ending—as “overdue” (including his friend Salman Rushdie).

As it happens, the last time Barnes was shortlisted, for his Conan Doyle-inspired novel Arthur & George in 2006, he received a visit from Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, who, like Barnes, is an ambivalent book collector. Barnes was “nervously awaiting the verdict on the Booker Prize” when Weisberg visited, but nonetheless spoke with him eloquently about his collection.


He notes, for instance, how he used to begin collecting particular authors “in advance of anticipated enthusiasm” (sometimes resulting in disappointment). He also discusses the more obscure finds that provide “the pleasure of finding things you didn’t know existed.”

You can read Weisberg’s interview here. (And try that literary quiz here.)

David Haglund is the literary editor of NewYorker.com. 

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