Lord of the Flies has entered the culture. Ralph, Jack and Piggy are archetypes of human fallibility, but most of all they are real characters, fully imagined and leaping to life off the page.
In 1951 Golding was living in Salisbury with his wife Ann, and two children, David and Judy. Golding and Ann read to their children and the books were often island-based adventure stories. While sitting in front of the fire in their flat Golding said ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea if I wrote a book about children on an island, children who would behave in the way children really would behave?’ This idea grew into Lord of the Flies.
The novel was rejected by a number of publishers before finally being published by Faber and Faber in 1954.
A powerful and savage story about the struggle between Neanderthals and modern humans. This is Golding at his most imaginative.
Golding’s vision of the Neanderthals’ world being disrupted, and eventually destroyed by the ‘New People’ (Homo Sapiens) has been proven to be accurate. Recent scientific discoveries have confirmed that the Neanderthals died out within a few thousand years of the arrival of Homo Sapiens, and DNA analysis has shown that Neanderthals did interbreed with the New People.
The landscape in The Inheritors was inspired by Golding’s visits to Savernake Forest, Wiltshire.
Christopher ‘Pincher’ Martin is drowning. Drowning in the Atlantic Ocean, and in the polyphonic memories of his deceptive past. This desolate and powerful novel still has the power to shock.
The title of the American edition of Pincher Martin is The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin. Golding’s American publishers were concerned that ‘Pincher’, a term used in the British Navy for anyone with the surname Martin, would be incomprehensible for an American audience. Golding came up with a number of alternate titles which were rejected, including The Chinese have X-Ray Eyes and Perchance to Dream.
Pincher Martin was adapted for the first time in 2014, into an opera by Oliver Rudland. Performed at the Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, the opera combined music, video, and everyday sounds to create an unforgettable narrative.
At this stage in Golding’s career, he began writing journalistic pieces. The first of these to be published was his childhood memoir ‘Billy the Kid‘ in The Spectator, a tribute to his mother who died in 1960. Many of these pieces have been collected in The Hot Gates (1965) and A Moving Target (1982).
Shortly after the publication of Free Fall, Golding was finally able to give up his job as a teacher at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury, due to the success of his writing, and an invitation to lecture at American universities. Golding was nicknamed ‘Scruff’ by his pupils.
Rich in symbolism and with a beautifully realised setting, The Spire reveals the cost and sacrifice of one man’s obsession.
The Spire is dedicated to Golding’s daughter, Judy, who in her memoir The Children of Lovers, recalls that she and her family often visited Salisbury Cathedral. She remembers seeing the ‘awkward sight’ of some of the tombs, although her ‘parents must have distracted [her] as [they] passed the cadaver tomb, with its collapsed, decaying body’. Golding uses this tomb in The Spire as inspiration for Jocelin’s monument.
Judy is the CEO of William Golding Ltd, and is married with three children.
Golding was a schoolmaster at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury, and the window of his classroom looked directly out onto the spire on Salisbury Cathedral. During restructuring work at the Cathedral, Golding began to imagine how the majestic spire could have been built, and the result was The Spire.
Featuring love, lust and rebellion, The Pyramid is a comic coming-of-age tale in small-town England.
The Pyramid is dedicated to Golding’s son, David. David was born in 1940, shortly before Golding reported for duty in the Second World War. Like his father, David attended Brasenose College, Oxford, but David read History, rather than literature. In addition to the dedication for The Pyramid, it is probable that David’s strong religious beliefs and medical history influenced the character of Matty in Darkness Visible.
David lives at Tullimaar and is a director of William Golding Ltd.
During childhood, Golding lived in Marlborough, Wiltshire, in the double-gabled white house at the centre of the picture. His experiences here inspired parts of The Pyramid.
Three witty novellas revisioning space, time and history, uniquely imaginative in Golding’s inimitable style.
At this time, Golding was experiencing a number of difficulties. He began writing his dream diary in 1971, and an undated entry was entitled ‘History of a Crisis’. Golding began to find life pointless and turned to alcohol in a misguided attempt to remedy this. He found it impossible to write at this time.
Golding initially called his journals his dream diaries, and he used them to reflect on, and analyse his dreams. He kept these journals for over 22 years, and they contain over a million words. The journals are unpublished but were used by John Carey in his biography of Golding.
A surprisingly modern novel mixing terrorism, religion, and sexual power. A masterpiece.
Golding famously refused to discuss Darkness Visible, either in private, or in public. It was written after a long period of writer’s block, and the development of the book is recorded meticulously in Golding’s journal, from 1975–1979.
During the writing of Darkness Visible, Golding bought an early chess computer, a Chess Challenger, which proved a ‘welcome distraction from the agonies of writing’. Golding was a frequent chess player, both in person, and by post. Darkness Visible features a chess player – Sophy and Toni’s father, Mr Stanhope.
Golding was also writing Darkness Visible! The two novels are extraordinarily different, and it is hard to imagine how Golding was able to juggle both these books.
According to John Carey, Golding was inspired to write Rites of Passage after reading Elizabeth Longford’s biography of Wellington, in which a chaplain got drunk and disgraced himself…
In 1983, Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
A thrilling chase between subject and biographer. A must-read in our time of self-portrayal and disruption of privacy.
In 1983, Golding was made a Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature. At any one time there are only ten Companions so this was an extremely prestigious award. Samuel Beckett and Graham Greene were also appointed Companions at this time.
While writing The Paper Men, Golding developed a new hobby – horse riding. Golding was 71 years old but took lessons three times a week. He eventually bought his own horse, Cobber, and took great pleasure in riding around the Wiltshire countryside, exploring ancient burial mounds and forgotten orchards.
Half-mad with fear, with drink, with love and opium, everyone on this leaky, unsound hulk is ‘going to pieces’…
Golding and Ann visited Canada for the first time in 1985, embarking on a reading tour arranged by the British Council. Golding was impressed by Canada, particularly for its ‘wonderful sense of endless space’.
While on tour, they met a whole host of writers, including Les Murray, Julia O’Faolain, Brian Aldiss, Malcolm Bradbury and Alison Lurie.
In 1985, Golding and his wife Ann moved to a house in Cornwall called Tullimaar, near Perranworthal. The house is surrounded by stunning gardens, which was rather like a wilderness when they arrived. Golding was delighted by the space and quiet. The first novel to be written there was Close Quarters.
Golding’s characters at last reach Australia … as their ship smoulders threateningly to their near-destruction.
The novels of Jane Austen were a source of inspiration for The Sea Trilogy. During the writing of Rites of Passage he re-read all six of her novels, and read Emma three times.
In his review of Fire Down Below, W L Webb praised the ‘magnificent sea pictures’, and suggested that the pastiches of Jane Austen’s social comedy made it ‘almost post-modern’.
Golding writes about Austen in the essay ‘Rough Magic’ from A Moving Target and refers to her as ‘the novelist’s novelist’.
The BBC adapted the three novels of The Sea Trilogy – Rites of Passage, Close Quarters, Fire Down Below into a TV mini-series in 2005. Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed Edmund Talbot, with Sam Neill as Mr Prettiman and Jared Harris as Captain Anderson. To the Ends of the Earth marked the first time Cumberbatch was involved with Golding’s works as he would go on to read passages and extracts from novels and journals in the BBC Arena Documentary, The Dreams of William Golding, and also narrated Canongate’s audiobook of The Spire.
Set amidst the gradual domination of Greece by the Roman Empire, Priestess Arieka struggles with religion, and with what it means to be a woman.
The Double Tongue is Golding’s first novel with a solely female narrator, told in the first person. Although Part Two of Darkness Visible is about Sophy, Golding tells her story through omniscient narration.
In this final novel, Golding beautifully captures the voice of Arieka, an unloved daughter of a Greek noble, who becomes a priestess of Apollo:
‘I understood a little more of what a girl was’ – Arieka.
Golding died on 19th June 1993, while at home in Cornwall. His final novel, The Double Tongue was left in draft at his death. It was published posthumously.