lord of the flies


Few thought he was even a starter.
There were many who thought themselves smarter.
But he ended PM,
CH and OM,
A peer and a Knight of the Garter.

Clement Attlee’s neat summary of his career might be adapted for William Golding. He too 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. But, like Attlee, he outstripped many who had a head-start on him and he ended with a knighthood and the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first English novelist to be awarded it since Galsworthy. His life was transformed in 1954 by the publication of Lord of the Flies, the novel to which his biographer has thought fit to call to our attention in his subtitle – in case Golding’s name might otherwise be unfamiliar. Yet Lord of the Flies came close to sharing the fate of three novels Golding had already written, which had failed to find a publisher. Five publishers and one literary agency returned it, and the reader for Faber & Faber recommended its rejection as an “absurd and uninteresting fantasy . . . . Rubbish and dull. Pointless”.

more from Allan Massie at the TLS here.