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Golding, William

talbot voyage novel prize

(British, 1911–93)

Golding served in the Navy during the Second World War, then worked as a schoolmaster for some years. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. His novels have very diverse settings, but are often moral dramas depicting mankind's capacity for good or evil. This is certainly true of Lord of the Flies (1954), still his most widely read work. When a group of schoolboys are stranded on an island following a plane crash, their civilized values give way to superstition and savagery, leading to murder, before they are rescued. The Inheritors (1955), a beautiful and underrated novel, is written from the viewpoint of a Neanderthal family coming into contact and conflict with ‘the new men’; visions and co-operative living give way before the scheming, ruthless new arrivals. Golding's largest fictional enterprise was a three-volume narrative of an early nineteenth-century voyage to Australia, starting with the Booker Prize-winning Rites of Passage (1980). Cast as the onboard journal of young Edmond Talbot, the atmosphere and mentality of the times, and intrigues between passengers and crew, are superbly evoked; the opening volume turns upon Talbot gradually finding out the reasons for the death of a drunken clergyman. Close Quarters (1987) continues the voyage, as Talbot deals with various conflicts, falls in love, then discovers that the ship is slowly sinking. By complete contrast, Golding's comic novel, The Paper Men (1984), finds a famous novelist doggedly pursued by an American academic around the world, with many observations on the nature of biography and reversals of fortune between them.

John Fowles, Patrick White, Barry Unsworth. See CHILDHOOD, THE SEA  JS

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