William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies by John Carey - review by Raleigh Trevelyan

Raleigh Trevelyan

The Man & the Beard

William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies


Faber & Faber 586pp £20

Over twenty million copies of Lord of the Flies have been sold in this country. It is required reading in schools and it has been made into several films. So it could be true, as John Carey says, that a mention of the book sparks instant recognition for many in a way that William Golding’s name does not – hence the subtitle. Even so, what might have been Golding’s reaction? In the end he would probably not have been surprised. From early on he had longed for fame, but he always avoided publicity. When he heard that he was about to be awarded the Nobel Prize, he took out his horse for a solitary ride. Shy and private, he was also a self-examining, self-blaming man, conscious of what he considered to be the seeds of evil within him. Was that beard a form of protection?

For twenty-two years he kept a journal. In the family archives there are unpublished novels, projects and drafts. He suffered from nightmares and kept a dream diary. All this has been a treasure trove for his biographer. In the journal Golding reports on the progress of his writing,

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