William Golding: the making of a novelist

Filed under: Biography

John Carey on his biography of William Golding


In 1953, an editor at Faber and Faber pulled off the rejection pile the manuscript of a novel about a group of schoolboys stranded on a desert island, and their chilling descent into barbarity. Its author, William Golding, was a middle-aged provincial schoolmaster, whose work had been turned down by a host of publishers; but this book, which became Lord of the Flies, sold in its millions, and earned Golding worldwide recognition. Subsequent novels included The Spire, The Inheritors and Rites of Passage (the first of the ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ trilogy, and winner of the 1980 Booker Prize), and in 1983 Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Chaired by Claire Tomalin

John Carey, Emeritus Merton Professor of English Literature, chief book reviewer for The Sunday Times and author of studies of Dickens, Donne, Marvell and Milton, has had access to a wealth of previously unpublished material in writing William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies. To mark its publication, he reflects on some of the influences that shaped Golding: his father, who was a scientist and atheist; the haunted house in which he grew up; his war service in the Navy; his depressions, fears, phobias and alcoholism; and his unshakeable belief in the imagination.

Recorded on on Monday 2 November 2009. 

Related RSL Fellows

Claire Tomalin 1976
John Carey 1982