Bernice Rubens

Bernice Rubens (26 July 1923 – 13 October 2004)[1] was a Booker Prize-winning Welsh novelist.[2]

Bernice Rubens
Bernice Rubens
Born26 July 1923
Cardiff, Wales
Died13 October 2004 (aged 81)
EducationCardiff High School for Girls
Alma materCardiff University
Notable awardsBooker Prize
SpouseRudolph Nassauer

Personal history

Rubens was born in Cardiff, Wales in 1923. Her father, Eli Rubens, was a Lithuanian Jew who, at the age of 16, left mainland Europe in 1900 in the hope of starting a new life in New York City. Due to being swindled by a ticket tout, Rubens never reached America, his passage taking him no further than Cardiff.[2] He decided to stay in Wales, and there he met and married Dorothy Cohen, whose Polish family had also emigrated to Cardiff. Rubens was one of four children and came from a musical family, both her brothers, Harold and Cyril, becoming well-known classical musicians. Harold was forced to quit playing through illness, but Cyril became a violinist in the London Symphony Orchestra.[2] Rubens failed to follow in her family's musical tradition, though she would later learn the cello. She was educated at Cardiff High School for Girls and later read English at the University of Wales, Cardiff, where she was awarded her BA in 1947.[3]

She married Rudolph Nassauer, a wine merchant who also wrote poetry and fiction.[2] They had two daughters, Rebecca and Sharon. From 1950 to 1955, Rubens taught at a grammar school in Birmingham, before moving onto the film industry where she made documentaries. In the 1960s the poet Jon Silkin rented the attic storey of their London house and sublet rooms to David Mercer, later a prolific West End and TV playwright, and Malcolm Ross-Macdonald, later an equally prolific writer of historical novels.

Professional career as a writer

Rubens first novel, Set On Edge, was published in 1960. She became the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize in 1970, for The Elected Member.[4]


Her 1962 novel, Madame Sousatzka, was made into a film in 1988, with Shabana Azmi and Shirley MacLaine. This book was based on the experiences of her brother Harold Rubens, a child prodigy pianist, and his teacher Madame Maria Levinskaya, who inspired the character of Madame Sousatzka. Harold Rubens was born in Cardiff in 1918, and studied with Levinskaya from the age of seven.

Her 1975 novel, I Sent a Letter To My Love, was made into a film (Chère inconnue) in 1980 by Moshe Mizraki, starring Simone Signoret and Jean Rochefort.

Her 1985 novel, Mr Wakefield's Crusade, was adapted for television by the BBC in 1992, starring Peter Capaldi and Michael Maloney.


  • Set on Edge (1960)
  • Madame Sousatzka (1962)
  • Mate in Three (1966)
  • Chosen People (1969)
  • The Elected Member (1969) (Booker Prize for Fiction 1970)
  • Sunday Best (1971)
  • Go Tell the Lemming (1973)
  • I Sent a Letter To My Love (1975)
  • The Ponsonby Post (1977)
  • A Five-Year Sentence (1978)
  • Spring Sonata (1979)
  • Birds of Passage (1981)
  • Brothers (1983)
  • Mr Wakefield's Crusade (1985)
  • Our Father (1987)
  • Kingdom Come (1990)
  • A Solitary Grief (1991)
  • Mother Russia (1992)
  • Autobiopsy (1993)
  • Hijack (1993)
  • Yesterday in the Back Lane (1995)
  • The Waiting Game (1997)
  • I, Dreyfus (1999)
  • Milwaukee (2001)
  • Nine Lives (2002)
  • The Sergeants' Tale (2003)
  • When I Grow Up (2005)


  1. ^ Cunningham, Valentine (2008). "Rubens, Bernice (1923-2004)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94398. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b c d Watts, Janet (14 October 2004). "Bernice Rubens: Booker-winning novelist whose work focused on the more disturbing aspects of human behaviour". Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  3. ^ Anderson, Hephzibah. "Bernice Rubens". Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  4. ^ James Kidd (2014-01-24). "A Brief History of The Man Booker Prize | South China Morning Post". Retrieved 2014-02-09.

External links


1928 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1928 in the United Kingdom.

1970 in Wales

This article is about the particular significance of the year 1970 to Wales and its people.

1970 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1970.

1991 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1991.

A Solitary Grief

A Solitary Grief (1991) is a novel by Bernice Rubens about a Harley Street doctor who cannot cope with his own life. Increasingly alienated from his wife and daughter, he also considers himself unable to help his patients any longer and decides to start a new life together with a newly found friend. However, his hopes are again shattered, which eventually leads to catastrophe.

Bernice (given name)

Bernice is a given name.

Birds of Passage

Birds of Passage may refer to:

Migrating bird species in their regular seasonal journey. See Bird migration.

Birds of Passage (band), a musical project of New Zealand poet and singer-songwriter Alicia Merz

Birds of Passage (album), an album by Norwegian band Bel Canto

Birds of Passage (film), a 2018 drama film

Birds of Passage, 1983 play by Hanif Kureishi

Birds of Passage, 1987 album by Sadao Watanabe and Kazumi Watanabe

Birds of Passage: Migrant Labor and Industrial Societies, 1979 nonfiction book by Michael J. PioreNovels:

Birds of Passage (1981) by Bernice Rubens

Birds of Passage (1983) by Brian Castro

Birds of Passage (1993) by Linda Leith

Birds of Passage (2005) by Lou Drofenik

Booker Prize

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Booker–McConnell Prize and commonly known simply as the Booker Prize) is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured international renown and success; therefore, the prize is of great significance for the book trade. From its inception, only novels written by Commonwealth, Irish, and South African (and later Zimbabwean) citizens were eligible to receive the prize; in 2014 it was widened to any English-language novel—a change which proved controversial.A high-profile literary award in British culture, the Booker Prize is greeted with anticipation and fanfare. It is also a mark of distinction for authors to be selected for inclusion in the shortlist or even to be nominated for the "longlist".

Gerda Charles

Gerda Charles was the pseudonym of Edna Lipson (14 August 1914 – 4 November 1996), an award-winning Anglo-Jewish novelist and author. She was born in Liverpool and spent her early years there. Her father died when Edna was a year old, throwing the family into poverty. At the age of 15, Edna moved to London with her mother. Together, they ran a boarding house while she continued her education through evening classes.

Lipson published her first novel The True Voice in 1959. A Slanting Light, her third novel, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1963. She met further success with the publication of The Destiny Waltz which won the inaugural Whitbread Novel of the Year award in 1971. Lipson worked as a journalist and reviewer for various newspapers such as the New Statesman, Daily Telegraph, New York Times and Jewish Chronicle. She also edited an anthology of modern Jewish short stories.

Edna Lipson never married and lived with her mother until the latter's death in 1981. Much of their lives were spent in loneliness and economic hardship. Lipson died on 4 November 1996.

She is regarded as one of the chroniclers of the Anglo-Jewish experience, alongside writers such as Emanuel Litvinoff, Bernice Rubens, Bernard Kops and Arnold Wesker. Her posthumous papers reside in a collection at the University of Reading library. The collection consists of miscellaneous literary papers, with periodicals, press cuttings and personal correspondence. Tel Aviv University also inaugurated an award called the Gerda Charles Award.

Harold Rubens

Harold Rubens (16 July 1919 – 29 April 2010) was a Welsh pianist and anti-apartheid activist.

Jews in Wales

The history of the Jews in Wales begins in the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, shortly after the English conquest of Wales, Edward I issued the 1290 Edict of Expulsion expelling the Jews from England. Except for one exceptional record, between 1290 and the formal return of the Jews to England in 1655, there is no official trace of Jews on Welsh soil.

Major Jewish settlement in Wales dates from the 19th century, although there are also records of Jewish communities in the 18th century.

List of Welsh women writers

This is a list of women writers who were born in Wales or whose writings are closely associated with that country.

List of winners and shortlisted authors of the Booker Prize

The following is a list of winners and shortlisted authors of the Booker Prize for Fiction. Winning titles are listed in yellow, first in their year.

The prize has been awarded each year since 1969 to the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations or the Republic of Ireland. In 2014, it was opened for the first time to any work published in the United Kingdom and in the English language.

There have been three special awards celebrating the Booker's history. In 1993, the "Booker of Bookers" prize was awarded to Salman Rushdie for Midnight's Children (the 1981 winner) as the best novel to win the award in its first 25 years. Midnight's Children also won a public vote in 2008, on the prize's fortieth anniversary, "The Best of the Booker". In 2018 a special "Golden Booker" was awarded celebrating 50 years of the award - this award was won by Michael Ondaatje for The English Patient.

List of years in Wales

Indexes of individual year in Wales. Every given year has been acknowledge for its notable event throughout the history.

2010s - 2000s - 1990s - 1980s - 1970s - 1960s - 1950s - 1940s - 1930s - 1920s - 1910s - 1900s - 1890s - 1880s - 1870s - 1860s - 1850s - 1840s - 1830s - 1820s - 1810s - 1800s - 1790s - 1780s - 1770s - 1760s - 1750s - 1740s - Pre-1750

Madame Sousatzka

Madame Sousatzka is a 1988 British drama film directed by John Schlesinger, with a screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. It is based upon the novel of the same name by Bernice Rubens.

Nicholas Tucker

Nicholas Tucker is a British academic and writer who is an honorary Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex.

He was educated at Burgess Hill School in Hampstead, London, where his English teacher was briefly Bernice Rubens. A former teacher and then an educational psychologist, he has had a long association with the Sussex University, having lectured in Educational psychology and Cultural studies and Children's literature at the institution. He was a Senior Lecturer in several of these disciplines.

Tucker is a regular broadcaster and participated in Stop the Week on Radio 4. He contributes to The Independent, the New Statesman, and The Times supplements. He lives in Lewes, East Sussex and has three adult children.

Robin Dalton

Robin Dalton (born 1920) is an Australian literary agent, film producer and memoirist who has lived in London for most of her adult life. She has also been a journalist, television performer and intelligence agent.

The Elected Member

The Elected Member is a Booker Prize-winning novel by Welsh writer Bernice Rubens.

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