About The Author
Born in Leicester in 1946, Julian Barnes is one of Britain's most popular and critically acclaimed writers of literary fiction. He was the winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, having previously been shortlisted for the UK's most prestigious literary award on three occasions.
The same year, he was also awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature, the British equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded to a body of work. His many others awards include the Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the E M Forster Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the San Clemente Literary Prize.
A student of Modern Languages, Barnes began his career in literature as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary, before starting to write reviews for the New Statesman and the New Review. He was also a television critic for the former and for the Observer.
His semi-autobiographical first novel, Metroland, was published in 1980; its most vociferous critic was Barnes' mother, who complained about the sexual content.
In 1983, his second novel, Before She Met Me, saw him included in Granta magazine's inaugural decennial list of the 20 best young British novelists, alongside other promising authors such as Martin Amis, Pat Barker, William Boyd, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Graham Swift and Rose Tremain.
It was his third novel, Flaubert's Parrot, that established him at the forefront of the literary scene. Chronicling an elderly doctor's obsession with the great French writer, the book was rapturously received in both Britain and France. It won France's prestigious Prix Médicis and was Barnes' first book to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Shortly afterwards, he came up with his infamous dismissal of the Prize as 'posh bingo'.
Staring at the Sun in 1986 was followed by A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, whose quirky variety of styles won him a considerable new following. Between 1980 and 1987, he also published four crime novels under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh: Duffy, Fiddle City, Putting the Boot In and Going to the Dogs. (All four are currently out of print, but you should find second-hand copies available on Foyles Marketplace.)
After Talking It Over in 1991, which won France's Prix Femina, and The Porcupine in 1992, he published his first work of non-fiction in 1995, Letters from England (again, you should find second-hand copies on Foyles Marketplace), a collection of his pieces for the New Yorker. He then published his first collection of short stories, Cross Channel, which focused on Britain's, and his own, relationship with France. His 2002 collection of essays, Something to Declare (out of print, but see Foyles Marketplace), confirmed Barnes as a devoted Francophile.
His next novel came in 1998: England, England is perhaps his most comic book, imagining an England where almost all tourism is to the Isle of Wight, where all of Britain's most popular tourist sites had been transferred. It marked his second appearance on the Booker shortlist. It was followed by Love Etc, a sequel to Talking It Over.
After a collection of essays on cooking, The Pedant in the Kitchen, and second book of short stories, The Lemon Table, he published one of his most commercially successful novels, Arthur and George, in 2005. Based on the real lives of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a half-Indian solicitor, it saw him make the Man Booker Prize shortlist for the third time.
In 2008, he published a memoir, Nothing to be Frightened Of, most notable as a meditation on mortality and the fear of death. A few months after publication, Barnes suffered the loss of his wife and agent, Pat Kavanagh, to whom all his books have been dedicated. (She is, of course, also the source of his crime-writing pseudonym.)
In 2011, he published two books: first, Pulse, his third collection of short stories, and then The Sense of an Ending, which was to be declared the winner of the more contentious Booker Prize contests. Dame Stella Rimington, chair of the judging panel, said of the book that it "has the markings of a classic of English literature. It is exquisitely written, subtly plotted and reveals new depths with each reading".
Julian selects ten of the books which have most moved, inspired, entertained and surprised him, exclusively for Foyles