ISLAND OF DARKNESS:
‘LORD OF THE FLIES’
‘LORD OF THE FLIES’
Director: Peter Brook. With James Aubrey,
Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards
(British Lion, 1963, DVD Second Sight Films, 2007)
Anthony Burgess was always slightly peeved that, although in his opinion he’d written much better, more mature works, the novel he’d always be recognised for was one he regarded as a piece of minor playful hackery – ‘A Clockwork Orange’. There’s something similar about William Golding and ‘Lord Of The Flies’, a superficially simple story about a group of schoolkids trapped on a tropical island devolving into tribal savagery. He subsequently wrote highly-regarded and critically well-received literary work, but it’s that first novel his name will always be associated with. It has been twice-filmed, first by Peter Brook in 1963 – ‘an honest but slightly plodding and ‘literary’ rendition of a work that is much greater in book form’ according to John Brosnan (in ‘The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction’ edited by Peter Nicholls, 1979), then again in a lesser 1990 version, with director Harry Hook transposing the action to American themes and settings. And, although there have been far more explicitly violent films since, with greater more gratuitous levels of gore, it persists as a strangely unique and uniquely unsettling fiction. The corrupted innocence of children gives it a continuing potential to disturb, one that gnaws away at our self-image and our concept of ourselves as a rational and reasonable species.
First, there’s Ralph, aged twelve and a few months. As the novel opens he’s being trailed along the beach by protesting fat-kid Piggy. The only other sound is the buzzing of insects. Piggy is an asthma-prone (‘ass-mar prone’) orphan brought up by his over-protective Auntie. He later tells the little ‘uns that Camberley is his home. He’s given no other name than Piggy. Ralph’s parents have separated, although he claims his father is a Naval Commander. He’s the only character given anything resembling a back-story – sketched out by his ‘daydream’ of his parents still together in a snow-bound cottage on the edge of Dartmoor. As the chapter proceeds, other child-survivors emerge, and the cast assembles. Boys who hadn’t previously known each other, they’re from different schools, apart from the complete choir in their black cloaks, which arrives as a group.
In the novel, a plane has deposited them on a remote Pacific island via its passenger tube, then it flew on with ‘flames coming out of it’. Elsewhere it’s suggested the plane was ‘shot down in flames’. The details, as understood by the boys themselves, are muddled, and the ambivalence lingers. There’s a passing reference to ‘before the evacuation’. So they were being evacuated? If so, from what? The experience of the wartime evacuee was still current at the time of the book’s first publication. It seems there was an earlier chapter filling in the background, subsequently edited out, explaining the situation in greater detail. As it is, the undisclosed military danger, is left tantalisingly vague. The Peter Brook film economically intersperses the opening credits with a series of story-setting stills matched to a slow percussion-only soundtrack, of stately public schools, choirboys, cricket, then sudden flash-frames of missiles and warfare. An evacuation notice on a classroom chalkboard. Dark clouds gathering. A Pacific map… and a plane downed in a lagoon.
‘Didn’t you hear what the pilot said?’ comments Piggy, ‘about the bomb? They’re all dead’. So it’s a post nuclear-apocalypse scenario? Although this means it’s set in the near future, it’s still their future, which is decidedly our past. Does that make it Science Fiction? No, but it does place it on the periphery of fantasy. As it is, only the enabling frame of the book has this Science Fiction element. It’s not essential. The American movie dispenses with such a context entirely. All that’s necessary for the tale is that the boys are removed from parental control. As in much children’s fiction, adults are conspicuous by their absence. Something to be first experienced as a liberating freedom, enabling unsupervised adventures. Until that reassuring protection is needed. ‘I bet it’s gone tea-time’ complains Piggy ruefully. Without the ‘protection of parents and school and policemen and the law’, with two exceptions, the boys quickly revert to the savagery of Devlish Angels, a process that results in brutal murder. A premise clumsily undermined by Harry Hook shifting the marooned children into military school cadets, who seem anything but innocent, with a discipline-structure and weapons-training already in place. Prematurely overdosed on world-weary cynicism, the cadets bring the barbarism with them to the island. Hook’s intention seems to have been to present the tale as a diatribe against war/militarism, which grossly over-simplifies Golding’s complexity.
Nevertheless, the story’s theme, in book and film, can be interpreted in several ways, as a replay-enactment of original sin, as a variant of HG Wells theme of civilisation as a skin-deep veneer masking what Golding calls ‘the darkness of man’s heart’, a complex utterance about the survival-struggle in an unremittingly savage society, and the shapes our nature assumes when ‘free’ to do as it pleases. As if the boys’ descent into savagery is intended to mirror the mass-atrocity techno-barbarism of World War III which is presumably taking place beyond their island enclave. Or maybe it’s simply an indictment of the British public-school system. The 1950’s period detail is precise. Their clothes mark them out as the product of the safe formalised middle-class Home Counties school system, clear down to the ‘snake-clasp on his belt’ of their knee-length shorts, the differently badged caps, striped ties, grey shirt and the school uniform they wear. They say things like ‘Whee-oh’, ‘Wacco’, ‘Bong’, ‘Wizzoh’, and ‘Doink’. There is even a Billy Bunterish ‘Yaroo you Rotters’ moment when the boys seize Piggy’s glasses to use the lens to light the fire. So perhaps it works best as a metaphor? A refutation of the sentimental idealisation of childhood innocence, as typified by the soon-come flower-power late-sixties? It’s been multiply interpreted in ways that even Golding himself might not recognise.
First, Ralph is voted chief. He uses a conch-shell to summon assembly, and so it assumes mystical status. As a symbol of governance. The choir, led by arrogant red-headed Jack Merridew, forms a rival power-base. They are designated hunters, although their first attempt to slaughter a wild piglet fails. ‘Next time, there would be no mercy’ he promises with dark prescience. Just as the mock play-killing with Robert as the game-victim also rehearses what is to come. While Ralph (played in the first film by James Aubrey) struggles with the complexities of leadership dilemmas, with what is and is not possible. ‘The trouble was, if you were a chief, you had to think, you had to be wise’ he reasons with uncertain resolve. But he’s resented for his attempts to impose some kind of moral order. For trying to think ‘like a grown-up’. Their first collective project, a signal fire, gets out of control and ignites half the island. Then, when a ship is detected on the horizon (a jet-plane in Peter Brook’s film), the signal fire has been neglected. While the plaintive Piggy – perfectly embodied by young actor Hugh Edwards, watches events owlishly, squinting myopically through the single lens of his specs. He functions as Ralph’s wise back-up counsel. Lacking charisma or authority himself he acts as adviser, Piggy could think, Piggy – ‘for all his ludicrous body, has brains’. There’s mutual respect, despite Ralph betraying Piggy’s reluctant confidence and divulging his nickname to the group. ‘You told ‘em’ he accuses, ‘after what I said’. Ralph does not back down or apologise. ‘Better Piggy than Fatty’ he offers, ‘with the directness of genuine leadership’.
Peter Brook’s film is a rough and ready adaptation of the novel, filmed in locations on the Puerto Rican Isla de Vieques and its El Yunque National Forest, on a budget that would now barely cover the cost of a boat-cruise around the island. Although part-improvised by a cast of schoolboys who’d never acted before, it stays remarkably close to the source novel, with chunks of dialogue lifted intact. And there’s a technical rawness about its black-and-white authenticity that still packs a punch far more effectively than the 1990 remake. As they explore, the boys discover that the island is roughly boat-shaped, humped at one end. While their days are one long playtime, spent bathing in ‘a wetness warmer than blood’, nights are scary. It’s the twins who become Sam-‘n’-Eric, ampersanded together as Samaneric, then Samneric who are first to see ‘the Beast’ during night watch. The group’s sense of control is eroding, they’re supernaturally afraid of rumours of a Snake-Thing, a Beastie. A giant squid? A ghost? Despite Ralph’s most earnest intentions, ‘the world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away’. Even he finds himself afraid of these unknown unknowns.
William Gerald Golding was born 19 September 1911 and brought up in the Wiltshire market-town of Marlborough as the son of Alec Golding, an socialist-atheist science-teacher. After taking his BA (Hons) Second Class at Brasenose, Oxford, he wrote a book of ‘Poems’ (1934), but despite such early evidence of literary aspirations, he found himself frittering time away as a creatively-frustrated schoolmaster. A forty-a-day smoker caught up in the fusty habits of homework and cricket at Salisbury’s ‘Bishop Wordsworth’s’ school. His last desperate throw as author was hand-scripted during 1952-‘53 in Stephens ink in standard-issue school exercise books, then typed up on foolscap pages with a manual typewriter. He was already forty-three at the time of the unlikely publication of ‘Lord Of The Flies’ (1954). And it’s not difficult to understand why this weird tropical dystopia was rejected by some twenty potential publishers before finally finding a home with Faber. Discovered and rescued from the slush-pile by publisher’s reader Charles Monteith, the first-draft manuscript then called ‘Strangers From Within’, had verdicts from previous readers scrawled on it – ‘absurd and uninteresting fantasy… rubbish’. On first impressions Monteith was inclined to agree. Until gradually the power of the text made itself apparent. Yet he insisted on substantial rewriting before it could be unleashed upon the literary world. Because realistically, it’s a strange hybrid of a novel in which there are no adult characters, and yet its bleakness determines it is not an obvious kid’s book either (although it’s since become something of a set-text for school English classes).
In form, it’s essentially a twentieth-century reworking of the Victorian boys adventure story, in which the protagonists are all English schoolboys, so there are no mature relationships. The oldest boys are aged around puberty, and ‘littluns’ – like Johnny, as young as six. There are no female characters. Yet despite much casual nudity there’s no sex either (something surely untypical of the British public-school system?). Superficially it’s a traditional castaway tale, familiar in literature at least since Daniel Defoe. Maybe intended as a riposte to the cosy moral lessons of ‘The Swiss Family Robinson’ (by Johnann David Wyss, 1812) in which virtue triumphs and civilised standards are maintained. A repudiation of the schoolboy heroism of RM Ballantyne’s ‘The Coral Island’ (1858), in which there is also a Jack and a Ralph. In fact Golding lists his own reference-points as the marooned boys point out that their situation is ‘like in a book!’ ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Swallows & Amazons’, ‘Coral Island’.
But where high-brow critics point to the ‘Robinson Crusoe’ literary tradition, further down the scale of respectability, the infant Tarzan was shipwrecked and raised by the Apes, only to rise above them to become ‘King Of The Jungle’, the very personification of the Noble Savage. And it was an idea rife in popular culture. Dudley Watkins’ ‘The Shipwrecked Circus’ started out as a text-serial in ‘The Beano’ (1943-1947), later revived as a picture-strip (1951-1958). It’s tempting to see Golding – as a schoolmaster fighting his corner for serious literature, competing for his pupil’s attention against this kind of junk culture. Maybe confiscating a copy of the comic, and idly flipping through the stories. ‘The Kings Of Castaway Island’ portrays another nice middle-class nuclear-family on the pages of ‘The Beezer’, marooned around a similar premise, the survivors of a plane-wreck prospering in adversity, erecting pleasant shacks and overcoming a variety of problems. It was Golding’s novel that draws attention to the flaws in these charming aspirational group-jeopardy tales. Golding who saw beyond the triumph of the human spirit, to the darker psychological hooligan tendencies on its other side, to what he terms ‘a disharmony in our natures’.
If ‘Lord Of The Flies’ uses a microcosm of Prep-school boys to illustrate the fable of the ‘Fall’, Golding’s second novel ‘The Inheritors’ (1955) ventures back into prehistory to view the same process happening on a species-level, with the morally ambiguous triumph of the Cro-Magnon ‘bold hunters and magicians’. The arrival of these ‘new people’ is seen through the eyes of a doomed Neanderthal called Lok. Although sensitive to the external world, because they lack the capacity for imagination the Neanderthals live in a prelapsarian world without awareness of good or evil.
Yet Golding’s increasing preoccupation was with the ‘beauty, monstrosity and mystery of the sea’. He sailed his own converted oyster-smack named ‘Wild Rose’, describing himself as ‘a storyteller and a sailor’. The theme resurfaces in the next novel. ‘Pincher Martin’ (1956), is an experimental hallucinatory account of Christopher Hadley ‘Pincher’ Martin, a torpedoed naval lieutenant thrown up on a tiny isolated rocky islet in the middle of the north Atlantic, one that appears ‘only on weather charts’ and is much the same shape as a diseased tooth he touches constantly with his tongue. Even more radically isolated than the boys of ‘Lord Of The Flies’, his desperate survival struggle seems defiantly hopeful, until the denouement suggests that no, as in Ambrose Bierce’s shock-ending to “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” with which it has been compared, all that has happened is merely ‘a dream of a life’ experienced by a dying consciousness. As Golding later clarified, Pincher Martin dies on page two.
Golding’s closest direct brush with the fantasy genre is “Envoy Extraordinary”, a long tale that places him alongside John Wyndham and Mervyn Peake in the ‘Sometime, Never’ anthology (1956), a tale about an Alexandrian Greek scientist called Phanocles who attempts to interest the Roman Emperor in a variety of extravagant inventions – a steam-engine, gun-powder, a pressure-cooker and a printing-press. In anticipating the social consequences of these innovations, and refusing to accept them, the Emperor proves to be philosophically the wiser of the two. Subsequently adapted as a play called ‘The Brass Butterfly’ (1958), the story also appears in Golding’s ‘The Scorpion God’ collection (1971), along with two other fantasies. Elsewhere, ‘The Spire’ (1964) is an elaborate historical novel about the construction of a 400-foot spire on a medieval church – based on Salisbury Cathedral, a ‘stone bible’ ‘laying its hand on the whole landscape’, which shrugged ‘itself obediently into a new shape’ around it. Its detailed construction involves a good deal of largely improvised proto-science, while the human element evokes the dangers, hubris and joy of undertaking such an ambitious ‘apocalypse in stone’ in the face of its author’s ambiguous sense of divinity. But if Golding had a strange relationship with reality, compounded by his difficulty in separating the imaginative world from the real one (‘it is fiction which is rockhard and history which is a dream or a nightmare’), his concept of the sea as ‘our unconscious’ and the place of our species aquatic evolutionary origins, returns in his epic ‘To The Ends Of The Earth: A Sea Trilogy’ (1980, 1987 & 1989). Less metaphorical, less allegorical, his preferred term was ‘mythic’.
Meanwhile, the marooned party on the darkening island has split into two factions, with Jack leading his tribe of war-painted ‘hunters’ to a new ‘Castle Rock’ cave fortress. In a charged confrontation Jack strikes Piggy and shatters one lens of his glasses. ‘We’re not savages’ insists Ralph uncertainly, ‘we’re English’. While Piggy tut-tuts that they’re behaving ‘like a crowd of kids’. Yet dissident Jack shrugs off all responsibility and disrespects the authority of the conch. ‘The rules are the only things we’ve got’ reasons a conciliatory Ralph. ‘Bollocks to the rules’ retorts Jack. To Ralph the rules are a defence against barbarism, to Jack – with his praetorian guard of hunters, they are a convenient excuse to beat those who transgress. In the Peter Brook film Jack watches regally – ‘like an idol’, as a naked boy (named as Wilfred in the novel) is thrashed for such a trespass. Yet the factions unite in a joint expedition to hunt and destroy the unnameable ‘Beast’. They miscalculate distance so that it’s darkening as hey ramble, with Jack and Roger advancing into ‘a kind of dentist’s chair unreality’. They see suggestions of terror, and flee in panic. Instead, in the crude symbolism of a gathering storm, with tribal drums sound-tracking the pig-hunt, Jack’s whooping hunters kill a sow, and set its head impaled on a stake – ‘The Lord Of The Flies’ itself, left as an offering to the beast. Jack’s power-grab coup is complete. He’s both the provider of meat, and his group’s protector from the menace of the Beast.
Innocent blonde Simon is the mystic of the group, a visionary prone to epileptic fits (‘one of his times was coming on’), the only one who dares suggest that ‘maybe if there is a beast, maybe it’s only us…?’ It’s this ‘Simon pure’ who seeks solitude, approaching the fly-crawled pig’s head in a kind of reverent curiosity, only to hallucinate that it is talking to him with the ‘voice of the beast’. It’s also Simon who solves the mystery of the Beast by climbing alone to the island’s highest point, to face it in its lair. In the American movie ‘The Beast’ is Captain Benson, pilot of the original plane, who is then accidentally killed by ‘Larry’, one of the boys unmentioned in any other version. In the novel, and the original film, the ‘creature that bulged’ is an unidentified dead parachutist with ‘the ruin of a face’. Simon hurries back to tell the group, who are partying and feasting on pigmeat around a huge beach bonfire with all ‘the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought’. As he stumbles into the bacchanalia Simon is himself mistaken for the beast, and it is he who is set upon and killed. The stark monochrome night, ripped by whirling torches in jittery ‘Blair Witch’ impressionism, adds to the realistic blood-lust frenzy with their chant ‘Kill The Beast! Cut His Throat! Spill His Blood!’ beating like a steady pulse. ‘With the throb and stomp of a single organism’ driven by hysterical fear, as thunder roars and lightning strobes ‘there were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws’.
With morning, Ralph and Piggy are alone again, with only the Samneric-twins still loyal. Was last night’s terrible event an act of murder, or accident? They daren’t even phrase the question for fear of making it real. And Jack’s tribe come hunting for Piggy’s specs. Ralph calls assembly at Jack’s Castle Rock stronghold in a final attempt at reason, with Piggy carrying the iconic conch. But it only leads to Jack and Ralph fighting. Piggy calls for them all to be ‘sensible’. Beseeching ‘which is better, to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?’ Instead, they loose a rock – as earlier they’d loosed a rock down a ravine in play, this time it falls to smash Piggy. His body is washed into the tide. In the same impact ‘the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist’, their last symbol of rationalism gone. Ralph turns and runs.
Press-ganged into joining Jack’s savages, Samneric manage to message Ralph that their new chief has sharpened a stick at both ends. Ralph’s head is set to join the pig’s head, impaled on a stake. Yelling their ‘Kill The Beast! Cut His Throat! Spill His Blood!’ war-cries the group begin hunting the outcast down. Part menacing game, part pack instinct, part cruel bullying blood-sport, they use fires to burn him out. The island itself burns in a vision of hell. Fleeing in terror Ralph stumbles onto the beach, only to fall on his knees at the feet of a Naval Officer. In Peter Brook’s final sequence the newcomer, with a cutter and two ratings, wears starched tropical white uniforms, with efficient binoculars. Harry Hook’s American version replaces the rescuer with a Rambo-esque marine (played by Bob Peck). Ironically – as was Ralph’s plan all along, the smoke has attracted them. The smoke from the ‘burning wreckage of the island’, from Jack’s fire ignited to flush Ralph out. It’s left to Golding’s novel to add the final damning indictment, as the officer sniffily chides ‘I should have thought that a pack of British boys, you’re all British aren’t you? would have been able to put up a better show than that, I mean –’. And the gathering savages revert to being nothing more than a ‘circle of little boys, their bodies streaked with coloured clay, sharp sticks in their hands’. And Ralph cries with a mix of relief, shame and ‘for the end of innocence’.
A tormented, dissatisfied man, despite the Booker and even the Nobel Prize, unsettled and haunted by horrific wartime experiences, Golding remained something of a troubled outsider. His novels selecting the most unlikely subject-matter, too fantastic or too experimental to fit comfortably into the polite literary mainstream. It could be argued that his tangential relation to fantasy is just as uncertain as his relation to conventional mainstream novels, or conversely that he treads an uneasy line between allegory and narrative with astonishingly fruitful results. He mused that ‘there are authors who can see their work numbered by the hundred. Mine are so few! I have just totted them up on my fingers and the grand total is sixteen – not much, you would say, for a man of seventy-eight’. The ‘locusts have eaten’ his years, and he died 19 June 1993. And yes, he wrote many other highly-regarded and critically well-received literary works, but he will be remembered for ‘Lord Of The Flies’. And that’s more than enough.
‘LORD OF THE FLIES’
‘Fortunately for me, I belong among the natural storytellers
in whose gentle mouths the truth is not to be distinguished
from the white lies of fiction’
(William Golding, ‘The Observer’, 30 October 1994)
‘LORD OF THE FLIES’ (Columbia Pictures, March 1990) Inferior American remake directed by Harry Hook, produced by Lewis M Allen, from a screeplay by Sarah Schiff from the William Golding novel, with Balthazar Getty, Chris Furrh, Danuel Pipoly, James Badge Dale, Andrew & Edward Taft. 90-minutes. (DVD, Twentieth Century Fox, 2003)
‘LORD OF THE FLIES’ (2011) Nigel Williams theatrical adaptation staged at Regent Park’s ‘Open Air Theatre’, directed by Timothy Shader
‘LORD OF THE FLIES’ (1954, Faber, ISBN 0-571-08483-4) novel. Republished in 1962 in a movie tie-in edition with black-&-white photo-stills insert section. The 1973 paperback has a Peter Brook movie-still cover. The 1979 26th Faber impression has a Michael Ayrton Pig’s Head design. The 1984 reprint cover is by Paul Hogarth. The 2011 cover is by Neil Gower, with a new introduction by Stephen King.
‘POEMS’ published as by WG Golding (1934, Macmillan’s Contemporary Poets) 33-page softback
‘THE INHERITORS’ (1955, Faber) novel, distinctive cover-art by Anthony Gross. A novel described by Arthur Koestler as ‘an earthquake in the petrified forests’ of English literature.
‘PINCHER MARTIN’ (1956, Faber, US title ‘The Two Deaths Of Pincher Martin’ by Harcourt Brace) novel
‘SOMETIME, NEVER: THREE TALES OF IMAGINATION’ (1956, Eyre & Spottiswoode) three tales with Golding’s novella “Envoy Extraordinary”, Mervyn Peake’s “Boy In Darkness” & John Wyndham’s “Consider Her Ways”)
‘THE BRASS BUTTERFLY’ (1958, Faber) ‘A Play In Three Acts’ adapted from “Envoy Extraordinary”, produced in April 1958 at the London ‘Strand Threatre’ with Alastair Sim and George Cole
‘FREE FALL’ (1959, Faber) novel, cover by Anthony Gross. Samuel Mountjoy is an artist, a POW in WWII Germany, isolated and awaiting possible torture, retrospecting his life in hallucinatory flashbacks
‘JOHN BULL’S SCHOOLDAYS’ Edited by Brian Inglis (1961, Hutchinson) includes Golding’s essay “Billy The Kid” about his childhood
‘THE LADDER & THE TREE’ (1961, Marlborough College Press) pamphlet, short story
‘THE SPIRE’ (1964, Faber) novel. Its poor critical reception led Golding to a profound personal and artistic crisis. He also began his private ‘Dream Diaries’ which he would continue writing for the next twenty years and run to some two-million words
‘THE HOT GATES & OTHER OCCASIONAL PIECES’ (1965, Faber) essays ‘and other occasional pieces’, including a reprinted “Billy The Kid” from 1961
‘THE PYRAMID’ (1967, Faber) novel
‘THE SCORPION GOD’ (1971, Faber) ‘Three Short Novels’ including novella “Envoy Extraordinary”
‘DARKNESS VISIBLE’ (1979, Faber) novel. Saintly boy Matty in the World War II blitz
‘RITES OF PASSAGE’ (1980, Faber) First volume of ‘To The Ends Of The Earth: A Sea Trilogy’, covering an eventful voyage from Tilbury to Sydney. Cover artwork by Cathie Felstead
‘A MOVING TARGET’ (1982, Faber) essays
‘NOBEL LECTURE’ (1983, Sixth Chamber Press)
‘THE PAPER MEN’ (1984, Faber) novel
‘AN EGYPTIAN JOURNEY’ (1985, Faber) travel
‘CLOSE QUARTERS’ (1987, Faber) second volume of ‘To The Ends Of The Earth: A Sea Trilogy’. Cover watercolour art by Paul Hogarth
‘FIRE DOWN BELOW’ (1989, Faber) third volume of ‘To The Ends Of The Earth: A Sea Trilogy’. Cover watercolour art by Paul Hogarth (the three volumes published in a single edition by Faber in 1991
‘THE DOUBLE TONGUE’ (June 1995, Faber ISBN0571175260) an extraordinary short novel, left in ‘penultimate draft’-form at the time of Golding’s death on 19 June 1993, and discovered by his executor and Faber editor John Bodley. It is set in Greece under Roman rule. As Arieka, the local girl chosen to be prophetess, grows old in the surreal confines of Delphi, she looks back over her life as the ‘double tongue’ voice of the Delphic Oracle god Apollo. She becomes aware of the Oracle’s other ambiguity – its political function in an enslaved land, and the real terror of religion. To reviewer Tobias Hill ‘Golding’s last unfinished work is like a found fragment of ancient Greek pottery – clean-lined, patterned and incomplete’ (‘Observer’ 18 August 1996)
THE CRITICAL STUFF…
BBC-TV ‘MONITOR’ (25th October 1959) Golding interviewed shortly after the publication of fourth novel, ‘Free Fall’, while still working as a teacher at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury. He talks about the process of writing and the painstaking craftsmanship that he brings to his work, his interest in archaeology and his love of sailing and the sea, all subjects that have found an outlet in his books, and explains his fascination with exploring what lies behind the surface of everyday life (17:16minutes). It can be viewed at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/writers/12203.shtml
‘THE SOUTH BANK SHOW’ William Golding was twice profiled by Melvyn Bragg’s TV arts-showcase, first 16 November 1980 (Season 4:2) and again 15 July 1993
‘ARENA: THE DREAMS OF WILLIAM GOLDING’ (BBC2, 7 March 2012) Director Adam Low’s portrait of Golding, balanced, intimate and calmly illuminating. Reviewer Mike Bradley writes ‘most importantly, this is a programme which is likely to inspire many viewers to read lesser known novels such as ‘The Spire’, ‘The Inheritors’ and ‘Pincher Martin’. Unmissable’ (‘Observer’, 11 March 2012). Novel extracts read by Bendict Cumberbatch (who appeared in BBC2 three-part dramatisation of ‘To The Ends Of The Earth’ (May-June 2005)
‘THE ART OF WILLIAM GOLDING’ (1965) by Bernard S Oldsey & Stanley Weintraub
‘WILLIAM GOLDING: A CRITICAL BIOGRAPHY’ (Faber & Faber) by Mark Kinkead-Weekes & Ian Gregor. The 1967 edition covers Golding’s first five novels. The 1984 revision includes the next three novels. Although Gregor died in 1995 the third edition in 2002 brings the work up to do date
‘WILLIAM GOLDING: A BIBLIOGRAPHY’ (1993, André Deutsch) by RA Gekoski & David Hughes
‘THE CHILDREN OF LOVERS’ (June 2011, Faber) by Judy Golding. A personal memoir by Golding’s daughter of her ‘very pretty’ mother, the fear of the dark she shared with her father, her own breakdown and her brother’s episodes of mental illness.
Career retrospects in ‘Book & Magazine Collector Magazine’ by Katharine Gunn (issue no.24) and by Crispin Jackson (no.114, September 1993). Jackson writes ‘if the modern English novel has largely been able to break free of its obsession with social niceties and love affairs, then much of the credit must go to Golding’