...was born on September 19th in 1911. As a writer he is a great favourite of mine and, this week - the 107th anniversary of his birth - seemed as good a time as any for me to celebrate his work...
Born in Cornwall, he served in the Navy and worked as a teacher before he became a full-time novelist and poet. Say the name William Golding and everyone thinks of 'The Lord of the Flies'. This book, perhaps his most well-known, was rejected 21 times before it was finally picked up and published in 1954. It didn't sell particularly well, to begin with, either, but has now become a classic. And yes, I've read it more than once, and have my own copy. Alas, not a first edition - you can pay anything from £1,000 and upwards for one of those! Mine is a much later and more affordable copy.
But it's one of his other works that I particularly want to mention today. In 1967 Faber and Faber published 'The Pyramid'. I came across my copy by accident, as I have a great deal of my collection of books. As I was browsing through a second -hand bookshop in Ripon, the title caught my attention rather than the author. I had recently returned from an extended trip to Egypt and the experience and the country were still very fresh in my mind. When I looked inside I found this:
'If thou be among people make for thyself love, the beginning and end of the heart.'
It's from an ancient Egyptian text written by the vizier, Ptah-Hotep who lived during the 5th dynasty (around 4,500 years ago). What struck me about the quote was how relevant it still was. I bought the book, still not totally aware that the author was Golding. It was a couple of years before I got round to reading it and I have recently re-read it.
Set in the fictitious and small town of Stilbourne, it is a story in three chapters. Perhaps that should be three parts, as the different scenes are delineated within each part, but the narrative in each separate section remains continuous. From a writer's perspective, the format is interesting.
The story surrounds a selection of characters in Stilbourne - a quiet place by an equally quiet and unsubstantial river. It is an acutely accurate presentation of life in a small town. As the reader delves into the world of Oliver, the story becomes an interlacing and overlapping of the human dynamics between the inhabitants of Stilbourne. The characters - from Miss Dawlish, the music teacher to Evie, the girl everyone wants, Ewan with his motorbike and Mr de Tracey the director for the Operatic society - are all wonderfully drawn and each mesmerising in their own, and sometimes tragic, way. And there's Stilbourne itself. Not just a backdrop to contain the action and the characters, but an unobtrusive and beautifully presented character in its own right.
This story is sensitively told using elegant and flowing prose. The ending was unexpected and something that I was not prepared for. An excellent read that I will pick up again and again.