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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 23:44 GMT 00:44 UK
Banville's Sea takes 2005 Booker
John Banville
John Banville won a closely-contested prize
John Banville has won the UK's most prestigious literary award, the Man Booker Prize, for his novel The Sea.

A panel of judges chose Banville's book from a shortlist of six, with the author picking up the 50,000 prize at London's Guildhall.

He beat favourite Julian Barnes, shortlisted for Arthur & George, and fellow nominees Zadie Smith, Ali Smith, Sebastian Barry and Kazuo Ishiguro.

Banville told the audience his success came as a "great surprise" to him.

Chair of the judges John Sutherland said he had to cast the deciding vote after the panel were torn between Banville's book and Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go.

BOOKER SHORTLIST
Kazuo Ishiguro
Julian Barnes - Arthur and George
Kazuo Ishiguro (above) - Never Let Me Go
Zadie Smith - On Beauty
Sebastian Barry - A Long Long Way
John Banville - The Sea
Ali Smith - The Accidental

He said: "It was a very difficult decision. These are six extremely different novels, all of them good in a very different way.

"The discussions honestly could have gone on for three days. Whether it would have come out in a different decision I don't know, I hope it wouldn't."

'Work of art'

He called The Sea, about a man who confronts his past in a town where he spent a childhood holiday, "a masterly study of grief, memory and love recollected".

Banville said: "Even if I'd lost I'd still think it was a good year for the Booker. It's been a good year for fiction.

"It's nice to see a work of art winning the Booker Prize - whether it's a good work of art or a bad one, it's what I intended it to be.

"I'm very encouraged that people have responded to a book that's very carefully crafted."

It is second time lucky for Banville, whose novel The Book Of Evidence was shortlisted for the Booker in 1989. Then, it was Ishiguro who came out on top with The Remains Of The Day.

Banville said he had been plied with champagne that day and joked: "On that occasion I was so drunk that if I'd won the prize I wouldn't have been able to stand up.

"This time I was much more careful, I went for a walk during the day and drank lots of water."

Bookmakers had rated Banville as 7/1 to win the prize, against Barnes' odds of 6/5 and Ishiguro's 4/1.

Asked what he would spend the money on, he replied: "Good work and strong drink."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the moment John Banville won the prize



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