William Golding (1911-1993) - in full Sir Willam Gerald Golding
William Golding (1911-1993) - in full Sir Willam Gerald Golding
English novelist who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. The choice was unexpected, because the internationally famous novelist Graham Greene (1904-1991) was considered the strongest candidate from the English writers. In many works Golding has revealed the dark places of human heart, when isolated individuals or small groups are pushed into extreme situations. His work is characterized by exploration of 'the darkness of man's heart', deep spiritual and ethical questions. "Twenty-five years ago I accepted the label 'pessimist' thoughtlessly without realising that it was going to be tied to my tail, as it were, in something the way that, to take an example from another art, Rachmaninoff's famous Prelude in C sharp minor was tied to him. No audience would allow him off the concert platform until he played it. Similarly critics have dug into my books until they could come up with something that looked hopeless. I can't think why. I don't feel hopeless myself." (from Nobel Lecture, 1983)
William Golding was born in the village of St. Columb Minor in Cornwall. His father was a schoolmaster who had radical convictions in politics and a strong faith in science. Golding started writing at the age of seven, but following the wishes of his parents, he studied natural sciences and English at Brasenose College, Oxford. His first book, a collection of poems, appeared a year before Golding received his B.A. After graduation Golding became a settlement house worker, and wrote plays in London. In 1939 he moved to Salisbury, where he began teaching English at Bishop Wordsworth's School. During World War II he served in the Royal Navy in command of a rocket ship. His active service included involvement in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck and participating in the Normandy invasion. After the war Golding returned to writing and teaching, with a dark view of humanity's progress. "They cried for their mothers much less often than might have been expected; they were very brown, and filthily dirty." (from Lord of the Flies)
In Salisbury Golding wrote four books, but did not get them published. His novel LORD OF THE FLIES, set in the near future during wartime, was turned down by twenty-one publishes, until it finally appeared in 1954. The book became an immediate success in Britain and a bestseller among American readers in the late 1950s.
In the gripping story a group of small British boys stranded on a desert island lapse into tribal battles and murder after they have lost all adult guidance. Ironically the adult world is deveasted by nuclear war. The success of the novel allowed Golding to give up teaching. Lord of the Flies was followed by THE INHERITORS (1955), which overturned H.G. Wells's Outline of History (1920) and depicted the extermination of Neanderthal man by Homo Sapiens. Neanderthals are first portrayed compassionate and communal, but they are finally led by example of the Cro-Magnons into sin and selfishness. Lok, the early Neanderthal point-of-view character, is as unrealiable narrator as Tuami, of the "new people." PINCHER MARTIN (1956) was story of a naval officer, Christopher Hadley Martin, who faces death on his torpedoed ship. Much like Ambroce Bierce's 'Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge', the story shows Christopher imagining his survival on a rock island in the middle of the ocean. The FREE FALL (1959) was set in contemporary society, focusing on an ordinary man who looks back over his past. Golding resigned in 1961 from teaching and devoted himself entirely to writing. THE SPERE (1964) was a story about the construction of a cathedral soire. Jocelyn, dean of a cathedral, has decided to erect a 400-foot spire before his death. But its construction causes sacrifice of others, treachery, and murder. From this novel Golding's work devoloped into two directions: the metaphysical with the theme of the fable like fall from childlike innocence into guilt, and the social without mythical substructure. -"...What a noble prospect the ocean is under a low sun! Only when the sun is high does the sea seem to lack the indefinable air of Painted Art which we are able to observe at sunrise and sunset."
--"I am so accustomed to the sight that I do not see it. Indeed, I am grateful - if the phrase is not meaningless in the circumstances - to the oceans for another quality."
--"And that is?"
--"Their power of isolationg a man from his fellows."
(from Rites of Passage, 1980)
Among Golding's later works is the historical trilogy RITES OF PASSAGE (1980), which portayed life abroad an anciet ship of the line at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. It was awarded the Booker Prize. Other parts of the trilogy were CLOSE QARTERS (1987) and FIRE DOWN BELOW (1989). Golding's novel THE PAPER MEN (1984) was about the pursuit of world-famous English novelist Wilfred Barclay by American academic Rick L. Turner. Lord of the Flies has been translated into many languages and filmed in 1963 and 1990. It is an ironic comment on R.M.
Ballantyne's Coral Island, describing of a group of childred, who are evacuated from Britain because of a nuclear war. Their airplane crashes on an uninhabitated island, and all the adults are killed. The boys create their own society, which gradually degenerates from democratic, rational, and moral community to tyrannical, bloodthirsty, and evil. The older boys take control, a boy called Piggy is a target of picking. Leaders emerge, two of the older boys get killed and they begin to hunt another, just as a ship arrives. Golding's view is pessimistic: human nature is inherently violent, which reflects the mood of the post-war and post-Hitler years and comments the 19th century optimism of progress and education. The values that the boys have been raised by, are nothing compared to their desire to kill. The Lord of the Flies is Beelzebub, Prince of Devils, the source of evil outside oneself, and through his parable the author shows that man is a fallen being. - See: Daniel Defoe and Robinsonade, a story of a person marooned on a desert island.
Golding was knighted in 1988. He died in Perranarworthal on June 19, 1993. Golding's last novel, THE DOUBLE TONGUE, left in draft at his death, was published in 1995. The story was set in the ancient Greece, and depicted a Delphic oracle, who witnesses the rise of the Roman power, and retreat of the Hellenistic culture. For further reading: William Golding: a Critical Study by I. Gregor and M. Kinkead-Weekes (1967); The Novels of William Golding by H.S. Babb (1973); W. Golding: Lord of the Flies by J. Whitley (1970); William Golding by S. Medcalf (1975); William Golding: Some Critical Considerations, ed. by J.I. Biles and R.D. Evans (1978); William Golding: A Structural Reading of His Fiction by Philip Redpath (187); The Modern Allegories of William Goldman by L.KL. Dickson (1990); William Golding by Lawrence S. Friedman (1992); William Golding by Pralhad A. Kulkarni (1994); The Robinsonade Tradition in Robert Michael Ballantyne's the Coral Island and William Golding's the Lord of the Flies by Karin Siegl (1996); Readings on Lord of the Flies, ed. by Clarice Swisher (1997); Language and Style in the Inheritors by David L. Hoover (1998)
· POEMS, 1934
· LORD OF THE FLIES, 1954 - Kärpästen herra - film 1963, dir.
by Peter Brook; remake 1990, directed for American tv-savvy kids
· INHERITORS, 1955 - Perilliset
· PINCHER MARTIN, 1956 - radio play in 1958
· ENVOY EXTRADORDINARY, 1956 (in Sometime, Never: Three Tales of Imagination)
· THE BRASS BUTTERFLY, 1958 (play)
· FREE FALL, 1960 - Vapaa putoaminen
· MISS PULKINHORN, 1960 (radio play)
· THE ANGLO-SAXON, 1962
· BREAK MY HEART, 1962 (radio play)
· THE SPIRE, 1964
· THE HOT GATES, 1965
· THE PYRAMID, 1967
· THE SCORPION GOD, 1971
· DARKNESS VISIBLE, 1979 - Näkyvä pimeys
· RITES OF PASSAGE, 1980 - Merimatka - Booker Prize
· A MOVING TARGET, 1982
· THE PAPER MEN, 1984 - Paperimiehet
· AN EGYPTIAN JOURNAL, 1985
· CLOSE QUARTES, 1987
· FIRE DOWN BELOW, 1989 - republished under the general title TO THE END OF THE EARTH in 1991
THE DOUBLE TONGUE, 1995.