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Lord of the Flies Author Revealed

A new biography of the writer gets us digging for a rare interview from WNYC.

"A writer nowadays ought to know priests and prostitutes. He ought to have pen-friends, maybe. He ought to know about dockers and he ought to know about what it's like to be an ambassador...a writer should avoid the literary world as much as he can."

So said the British author and Nobel laureate William Golding in a 1963 interview with WNYC's Patricia Marx.

Golding rarely gave interviews and did not want a biography written during his lifetime, according to The New York Times.

Nearly 20 years after his death, the notoriously hard to track down author of Lord of the Flies (1954) can't avoid the literary world any longer. He's immortalized in a biography called, aptly enough, William Golding: the Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies.

Golding (1911-1993) is most famous for writing the book that tops high school reading lists about a group of schoolboys who, when stranded on an island with no parents, become savagely violent toward one another.

To write his biography, the first to be published about him, author John Carey (Here Comes Dickens: the Imagination of a Novelist, 1973) went through 5,000 pages of Golding's diaries, searching through personal notes of a man who wrote primarily about the darkness of human nature. 

When WNYC asked Golding if he was a pessimist back in 1963, he said, "I'm an intellectual pessimist, perhaps, to a large extent, but an emotional optimist." When asked where the optimism in Lord of the Flies is hidden, Golding responded: "You cannot write a book pointing out what is wrong with man if you don't basically believe that man is worth having this pointed out to him."

This "emotional optimism" is evident in Carey's biography. The Times says "the plump and well-researched biography sits lightly on the lap," and "portrays Golding, a man of constant sorrow, in a warm, fondly comic light." 

It seems Golding has been captured by the literary world, whether he likes it or not.