The start of a noble tradition of Booker Prize rumpuses when one judge, Malcolm Muggeridge, denounced ‘most of the entries’ as ‘mere pornography’ and withdrew his services.

Had he stayed, however ‘nauseated and appalled’, he would have found a second controversy. At least two of the judges – Saul Bellow and John Fowles – questioned whether V.S. Naipaul’s In a Free State was a proper novel at all, being a collection of stories and novellas linked by a common theme.

Much highbrow head-scratching later, the panel decided it was and awarded Naipaul the prize. Bellow meanwhile inadvertently announced that the prize had gone to: ‘the best writer, but not the best book’.

V. S. Naipaul
Published by
André Deutsch
Through five connected tales, V.S. Naipaul explores alienation, disruption and racial tension in a perilously unpredictable world.

The Shortlist

In A Free State
Prize winner
The Big Chapel
St Urbain's Horseman
Goshawk Squadron

The 1971 judges