Michael Caine presenting Paul Scott’s daughter Carol with the 1977 prize
The chair of judges, Philip Larkin, threatened to jump out of a window if Paul Scott’s Staying On didn’t win. Luckily for literary history, Scott’s book triumphed and Larkin lived on.
Scott’s wartime experience in the army in India, and especially of British attitudes towards the locals, underlay Staying On, a companion novel to his Raj Quartet. The book is a moving and nuanced portrait of an English ex-pat marriage in a rapidly modernising India.
Scott’s win was nevertheless shot through with melancholy: he was unable to attend the prize ceremony because he was already suffering from the cancer that was to kill him six months later. He was just 57 when he died.