| Updated at: 1738 PST, Wednesday, October 13, 2010|
LONDON: British author Howard Jacobson was Tuesday named the surprise winner of this year's prestigious Booker Prize for literature for his comic novel about love, loss and Jewishness.
Jacobson's work "The Finkler Question" defied the odds to pick up the award and 50,000 pounds prize money for his tale of two old school friends and their teacher.
The London columnist and author beat favourite Tom McCarthy and double winner Peter Carey to the prize.
Jacobson -- who has twice before been longlisted for the Booker -- joked about the string of unused acceptance speeches he had written as he picked up the award.
"I note that my language in these speeches grows less gracious with the years," the 68-year-old told the London ceremony.
"You start to want to blame the judges who are giving you the prize for all the prizes they didn't give you... Tonight I forgive everyone, they were only doing their job."
He added: "It is beyond belief for me because I was so accustomed to being somebody that was, to begin with, not liked by the Booker Prize."
The decision by the five judges to award him the prize was not unanimous, with the final verdict three to two in his favour.
Chair of the judges, English poet Andrew Motion, said the work was "a completely worthy winner of this great prize."
"The Finkler Question is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle."
In the story, former BBC radio producer Julian Treslove, who is not Jewish, becomes fascinated with the meaning of Jewishness. The work focuses on his relationship with an old school friend and his former teacher.
Jacobson has been longlisted twice before for the prize, in 2006 for "Kalooki Nights" and in 2002 for "Who's Sorry Now", but had never before been shortlisted.
One of the highest-profile awards in English language literature, the annual Booker Prize is awarded for the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or Zimbabwe.
Contenders must have been published in the past year and write in English. The prize all but guarantees an upsurge in book sales.
McCarthy's "C", an experimental novel about a young radio addict in the 20th century, had been the 8/15 favourtie to win, according to the bookmaker William Hill.
Other works to make this year's shortlist included Peter Carey's "Parrot And Olivier in America", Damon Galgut's "In A Strange Room" and Emma Donoghue's "Room".