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Journal Entry: Remembering the First World War

William Golding kept a journal from 1971 until his death in 1993. The journals are unpublished.

16 October 1979

We have driven all day through the scenes of World War I. The names have a horrible familiarity. Every so often there is a monument to this people or that. Notices tell you that such and such a cemetery is so many hundreds of metres away. Every now and then you see high hedges drawn closely round a square of land as if what was inside was precious or obscene, or both.

Twice from a rise we caught sight of major British cemeteries, near, I think, Bethune. My mind made no comment on the first, except that there was a very large number of small grey stones. But a few minutes later and the grey stones marshalled themselves again beyond a hedge, and this time, it seemed to the horizon. Without any volition or thought on my part, and astonishingly, two large tears dropped out of my eyes.