The prize had its first female winner when Bernice Rubens triumphed with The Elected Member, a tale of a man suffering amphetamine psychosis who sees silverfish everywhere.
Rubens, the daughter of two Eastern European emigrants, was born in Cardiff and made her way to fiction after spells as a grammar-school teacher and documentary maker. Her win showed that from the start the Booker Prize was not afraid of being challenging: the travails of her unhinged central character, Norman Zweck, do not make for easy reading.
Rubens was, however, clear-sighted, not least about her own writing, which she judged: ‘Better than most, not as good as some.’
Winner The Booker Prize 1970
By A.L. Barker
By Iris Murdoch