Late Bloomer

William Golding, writes Allan Massie in a review of John Carey’s biography in the TLS, was “a late starter, one oppressed in youth by doubts and feelings of social, and perhaps intellectual, inferiority. Until his middle forties he was a poor, reluctant and unsatisfied provincial schoolmaster.”

He more than made up for his slow start. When he published Lord of the Flies in 1954, his life rocketed: “he ended with a knighthood and the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first English novelist to be awarded it since Galsworthy.” Golding received a 60 pound advance for the book. Decades later, the original manuscript was valued at a quarter million.

According to Massie, Golding was an unusually groping writer: “Many good novelists often have little idea where their novel will take them when they write its first sentence and opening pages, but it does seem that Golding, especially in writing Darkness Visible, had fewer signposts along the road than most like to have. He told Monteith, ‘“The basic difficulty is that I don’’t know what the damn thing is about either”.'”

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