Sir William Golding (Sir William Gerald Golding) Biography
(1911–93), (Sir William Gerald Golding), Poems, Lord of the Files, The Inheritors, Pincher Martin, Free Fall
British novelist, born in Columb Minor, Cornwall, educated at Marlborough Grammar School and Brasenose College, Oxford. He worked as an actor and producer in small theatre companies before the Second World War when he joined the Royal Navy, becoming lieutenant in charge of a rocket ship; from 1945 to 1961 he was a schoolteacher. His early Poems were published in 1935. Golding won immediate critical acclaim with his first novel, Lord of the Files (1954), a powerful narrative about a group of English schoolboys, stranded on an island after a plane crash, who resort to savagery. The harsh brutality of man is the underlying theme of this novel, a theme which he addresses in a diversity of historical contexts and settings in subsequent works. The Inheritors (1955) describes an episode when Neanderthal man is displaced by Cro-Magnon man and focuses on the doomed relationship of Lok and Fa; through his characters, who struggle to articulate their imaginative lives, Golding challenges the concept that ‘new men’ are intellectually and morally superior to those they supplanted. Pincher Martin (1956), which presents the last moments of a drowning man and his purgatorial reflections on his past life, demonstrates Golding's concern with fundamental moral contraries in man and his frequent use of the trick ending or dislocating shift of perspective. Free Fall (1959) investigates loss of innocence and the individual's moral destiny. The later Darkness Visible (1979) attempts to propose a solution to the moral darkness that most of his fiction discusses. Golding can be described as a profoundly religious novelist, although religion is not expressed in traditional Christian terms, even when describing clergymen as in Rites of Passage (1980). Much of his writing addresses the theological problem of Original Sin, yet few of his characters who witness evil are portrayed as really understanding it. The Spire (1964) concerns a dean who is gripped by an obsession that he has been chosen by God to build a huge spire on his cathedral; whether the dean is driven by human ambition or by a visionary desire to glorify God remains ambiguous. His next novel, The Pyramid (1967), was followed by The Scorpion God (1971), a collection of novellas set in antiquity, which includes the theme of ancient Egypt. Rites of Passage (1980; Booker Prize), with Close Quarters (1987) and Fire Down Below (1989), forms a trilogy entitled ‘To the Ends of the Earth’; almost entirely set at sea, the trilogy chronicles a voyage from England to Australia during the nineteenth century. The Paper Men (1984) is an entertaining account of the pursuit of a famous English novelist by an industrious American academic researcher, which Golding has drawn from his own experiences as a literary celebrity. He has also published a play, The Brass Butterfly (1958), and two collections of essays, The Hot Gates (1965) and A Moving Target (1982). Later editions of A Moving Target include his speech on receiving the 1983 Nobel Prize for Literature. Golding was knighted in 1988.