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Julian Barnes, First-Time Novelists Make Booker Prize Shortlist

Julian Barnes and two first-time novelists were among six finalists in the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the U.K.’s most prestigious literary award.

Sponsored by hedge-fund manager Man Group Plc, the contest brings the winner a prize of 50,000 pounds ($80,380) and the promise of an almost certain increase in book sales.

Barnes was nominated for “The Sense of an Ending” (Cape), in which a middle-aged man’s memory and sense of identity are thrown into question when he is bequeathed an old school friend’s diary. This is Barnes’s fourth turn as a finalist.

First-time novelist Stephen Kelman made the final round with “Pigeon English” (Bloomsbury), the story of an 11-year-old Ghanaian immigrant to London, whose amateur sleuthing following a knifing leads him toward danger.

Fellow first-timer A.D. Miller was tapped for “Snowdrops” (Atlantic), a psychological drama whose protagonist, an Englishman in Moscow, finds himself sucked into new Russia’s corrupt underbelly.

A notable omission in a selection dominated by independent publishers was “The Stranger’s Child” by Alan Hollinghurst (Picador), who won the prize in 2004.

“Inevitably it was hard to whittle down the long list to six titles,” Stella Rimington, chairman of the judging panel and former head of MI5, said in an e-mailed statement. “We were sorry to lose some great books. But, when push came to shove, we quickly agreed that these six very different titles were the best.”

The other finalists are: Carol Birch for “Jamrach’s Menagerie” (Canongate); Patrick deWitt for “The Sisters Brothers” (Granta); and Esi Edugyan for “Half Blood Blues” (Serpent’s Tail).

The contest is designed to celebrate the best novel written by a citizen of the British Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland and published this year. The 2011 winner is scheduled to be announced at a dinner in London’s Guildhall on Oct. 18.

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