Sunday, 16 August 2009

Pre-publicity for Sunday Times Serialisation

A story in today's Sunday Times serves as a taster for the serialisation, beginning next week, of John Carey's biography of Golding. 'Author William Golding attacked girl of 15', it states, above a photograph of Golding in his late thirties with his wife. Not until the eighth paragraph is it revealed that Golding had been 18 at the time.

In an unpublished memoir written decades after the event, Golding accused himself of attempted rape. Walking with 'Dora' on the common, he had 'felt sure she wanted heavy sex, as this was visibly written on her pert, ripe and desirable mouth'. Soon they were 'wrestling like enemies' as he 'tried unhandily to rape her'. When she resisted, he shook her and shouted 'I’m not going to hurt you'. Then Dora ran off. The Sunday Times reports that two years later they consummated their relationship, in circumstances evidently adapted by Golding for the open-air sex between Oliver and Evie in The Pyramid.

There is a lively discussion in the comments section over whether Golding was accurate in using the word 'rape'.

Update: my view of the 'rape' story is here.


  1. Predictably the rape story has got all the publicity, but another leaked detail from the biography intrigues me. It's claimed, apparently, that when a teacher Golding set groups of boys against one another, organising war games on a school trip to a neolithic site, for example. He gave boys liberty to be cruel and: "My eyes came out like organ stops as I watched what was happening."
    I'm intrigued by the connection between the teacher setting up situations in which boys will be horrible to each other and the novelist who imagines the perfect setting for such brutality. Is the author of 'Lord of the Flies' complicit in the nastiness he describes?

  2. That's a good point, George, although I would quibble about the word 'complicit'. It's true that Golding has to suspend our disbelief in order to get his pre-pubescent boys onto that desert island without any adults. Lord of the Flies seems to me to be a wonderfully vivid thought-experiment, whereas later novels such as The Spire (focusing on the community around Salisbury Cathedral) and Rites of Passage (a ship sailing to Australia circa 1810) are, I think, greater because less obviously staged. The reasons why Lord of the Flies should have eclipsed Golding's later novels are hard to fathom.

  3. Two reasons for LOTF being his best-known:
    1. The Peter Brook film, which made a big impact.
    2. It's been a set-book on GCSE syllabuses since at least the mid-sixties. And it's stayed there because it's easy to teach - well-defined characters, obvious symbolism and a clear theme. perfect exam material.