MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19: It was 100 years ago today that the world welcomed an author whose first novel would be read by almost every student who passed through American and British schools. On Sept. 19, 1911, William Golding was born.
Golding wrote and published poems for 20 years before his first novel, “Lord of the Flies,” was rescued from a rejection pile and finally published. He wrote a dozen other novels, often winning high praise for his work, but nothing he published subsequent to “Lord of the Flies” sparked such international acclaim. Then, in 1983, his entire body of work earned the Nobel Prize in Literature. (NobelPrize.org has more.)
“Lord of the Flies” tells the story of a group of boys stranded on a deserted island. Through the novel, Golding managed to explore many levels of conflict: personal greed vs. common good, instinct vs. rationality and morality vs. immorality. In more than just the religious realm, Golding raised broad ethical questions—through the thoughts and actions of children left to their own devices for survival. Even Stephen King has said that he “identified passionately” with one of Golding’s characters. (Think you know the novel well? Try your hand at a themed game.) Also Wikipedia has more about his most famous novel.
GOLDING AND RELIGION / MYTHS
The Nobel announcement of Golding’s prize is fascinating reading for anyone trying to draw spiritual themes from Golding’s often exceedingly dark novels. The Nobel committee said in part: William Golding can be said to be a writer of myths. … The second world war changed his outlook. He discovered what one human being is really able to do to another. … There is a mighty religious dimension in William Golding’s conception of the world, though hardly Christian in the ordinary sense. He seems to believe in a kind of Fall. … All is not evil in the world of mankind, and all is not black in William Golding’s imagined world. According to him, man has two characteristics—the ability to murder is one, belief in God the other. Innocence is not entirely lost.
CONTEST TO FIND A NEW COVER FOR ‘FLIES’
In commemoration of Golding’s centennial, The Guardian is sponsoring a contest for new illustrations of the book’s cover. (Learn more from The Guardian.) Teenagers have been encouraged to create a cover that will “excite a new generation of readers,” with an opportunity to see their artwork placed on the cover of “The Lord of the Flies.” A special exhibition at the Guardian Gallery in London early next year will also showcase entries from the contest.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.