A pipped shortlistee in three of the first five Booker Prizes, this was finally Iris Murdoch’s year. Surprise was lacking, however, when the winner’s name was leaked before the big reveal.

The Sea, The Sea was Murdoch’s 19th novel and even by Booker Prize standards she was a formidably intellectual figure. She had already written three plays, two works of philosophy and the first English-language biography of Jean-Paul Sartre.

Her winning novel concerns the romantic obsession of a selfish and self-deceiving thespian as he embarks on his memoirs – a very Murdochian book of contradictions. Coincidentally, the prize money in 1978 went from £5,000 to £10,000.

Iris Murdoch
Published by
Chatto & Windus
Iris Murdoch turns her microscopic gaze on vanity and obsession in her 19th novel, which won the Booker Prize in 1978.

The Shortlist

The Bookshop
God on the Rocks
A Five-Year Sentence
The Sea The Sea
Prize winner
Jake's Thing
Rumours of Rain

The 1978 judges