David Cohen Prize 2011

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The winner

The David Cohen Prize for Literature 2011 has been awarded to the English novelist, essayist and short story writer Julian Barnes for his lifetime’s achievement in literature.

Julian Barnes is one of England’s foremost fiction writers. Shortlisted on three occasions for the Man Booker Prize (for Flaubert’s Parrot, England, England, and Arthur and George), he is as lauded overseas as in his homeland. The French Ministry of Culture named him Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2004 and he has also been awarded the Austrian State Prize for Literature.

On winning the Prize Julian Barnes said:

 The measure of a literary award's value lies in its list of previous winners. Over the last 18 years the David Cohen Prize has established itself as the greatest honour a British or Irish writer can receive within these islands. It is also conducted with proper secrecy and dignity. So it is a matter of sober delight to be added to the list of prize-winners.

Mark Lawson, chair of judges, said of this year’s winner:

 The David Cohen Prize is in effect a UK version of the Nobel Prize for Literature, open to writers of fiction and non-fiction, comedy and tragedy. Within those divisions, there are writers who are most efficient at prose or dialogue, structure or style, narrative or character, plot or ideas, novels or short stories. What is remarkable about Julian Barnes is that he has excelled in all these areas: from the combination of literary criticism and fiction in Flaubert's Parrot, through the structural daring of the multiple narratives in A History of the World in 10½ Chapters to the historical faction of Arthur and George and the essayistic reflection on faith and mortality in Nothing To Be Frightened Of. The already extraordinary list of David Cohen Prize-winning authors has been fittingly extended.


The Clarissa Luard Award

The winner of the David Cohen Prize for Literature also chooses the recipient of the Clarissa Luard Award, which is worth £12,500. The award, funded by Arts Council England, is given to a literature organisation that supports young writers and readers or an individual writer under the age of 35. Julian Barnes presented the 2011 award to The Reading Agency to support their reading initiatives for young offenders.


Julian Barnes on the Clarissa Luard Award:

It seems to me that the practice of reading is currently more under threat than the practice of writing. There will always be young writers; will there always be young readers? Our literacy levels are falling, and - disgracefully - public libraries are threatened with closure. So the Clarissa Luard Award is to go to The Reading Agency, which since 2002 has had remarkable success in promoting reading skills and confidence among the young. They work through libraries and other institutions. I have asked them to apply the Award to their work in young offenders' institutions, where an estimated 25% of inmates have the reading age of a seven-year-old. They are going to run a special programme for the two years of the prize, targeting ten Young Offenders Institutions across the country.


Julian Barnes was born in Leicester, England on January 19, 1946. He was educated at the City of London School from 1957 to 1964 and at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which he graduated in modern languages (with honors) in 1968. After graduation, he worked as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary supplement for three years. In 1977, Barnes began working as a reviewer and literary editor for the New Statesmen and the New Review. From 1979 to 1986 he worked as a television critic, first for the New Statesmen and then for the Observer.


Barnes has received several awards and honors for his writing including the Somerset Maugham Award (Metroland 1981), two Booker Prize nominations (Flaubert's Parrot 1984, England, England 1998); Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (FP 1985); Prix Médicis (FP 1986); E M Forster Award (American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1986); Gutenberg Prize (1987); Grinzane Cavour Prize (Italy, 1988); and the Prix Femina (Talking It Over 1992). Barnes was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1988, Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1995 and Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2004. In 1993 he was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the FVS Foundation and in 2004 won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. In 2011 he was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature. Awarded biennially, the prize honours a lifetime's achievement in literature for a writer in the English language who is a citizen of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland.


Julian Barnes has written numerous novels, short stories, and essays. He has also translated a book by French author Alphonse Daudet and a collection of German cartoons by Volker Kriegel. His writing has earned him considerable respect as an author who deals with the themes of history, reality, truth and love. He won the Man Booker Prize in 2011 for his novel The Sense of an Ending.

Barnes lives in London.

Books by Julian Barnes

  • The Lemon Table

    by Julian Barnes
  • Pulse

    by Julian Barnes
    Jonathan Cape


Writer and broadcaster Mark Lawson was the 2011 Chair of Judges, and will oversee the next five instalments of the prize. He replaced former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion who was chair for ten years until 2009.

The winner of the David Cohen Prize is nominated and selected by a panel of judges comprising authors, literary critics and academics.


Mark Lawson, Chair of Judges, commented:

 Because the David Cohen Prize rewards sustained excellence over a long period, the candidates include the greatest living names in British and Irish literature: authors I studied at school and university, have read with pleasure over decades and regularly reviewed and interviewed as a cultural journalist. So, although it will be difficult for the judges to choose only one of them, it is also an honour to have the chance to do so. The David Cohen Prize feels to me like the closest we have in this country to a Nobel Prize for Literature.

About the David Cohen Prize 2011

Celebrating a lifetime’s achievement in literature

Established in 1993, the David Cohen Prize for Literature is one of the UK’s most distinguished literary prizes. It recognises writers who use the English language and are citizens of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, encompassing dramatists, as well as novelists, poets and essayists. Former winners include V S Naipaul, Harold Pinter, William Trevor, Doris Lessing, Seamus Heaney and, most recently in 2013, Hilary Mantel.
The biennial prize, of £40,000, is for a lifetime’s achievement and is donated by the John S Cohen Foundation. Established in 1965 by David Cohen and his family, the trust supports education, the arts, conservation and the environment. Arts Council England provides a further £12,500 (The Clarissa Luard Award) to enable the winner to encourage new work, with the dual aim of promoting young writers and readers.


Previous winners of the David Cohen Prize for Literature and recipients of the Clarissa Luard Award (in italics)


1993 V S Naipaul An award for a young biographer or cultural historian, administered by the Society of Authors, won by Rosemary Hill
1995 Harold Pinter The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, for the development of young playwrights
1997 Muriel Spark The library of James Gillespie's High School, Edinburgh (the inspiration behind The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)
1999 William Trevor An award for a young writer from Omagh in Co. Tyrone, administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland
2001 Doris Lessing The Art of Regeneration, in association with the Royal National Theatre
2003 Beryl Bainbridge and Thom Gunn (joint winners) The Arvon Foundation and the Kings Lynn Literature Festival
2005 Michael Holroyd Royal Society of Literature/ Jerwood Foundation Award for Non-Fiction, awarded to Alice Albinia
2007 Derek Mahon Gallery Press, Ireland
2009 Seamus Heaney Poetry Aloud!

2011 Julian Barnes The Reading Agency

2013 Hilary Mantel Katie Ward

Writers are considered for the Award through nomination by the judging panel; no submissions will be accepted.


For further information on the Award, please contact:


Lois Hopkins or 0208 516 2960

Press enquiries:

Email Harriet Jackson or call 020 8516 2976.