Darkness visible

by William Golding

Hardcover, 1979





London : Faber, 1979.


Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize Darkness Visible opens at the height of the London Blitz, when a naked child steps out of an all-consuming fire. Miraculously saved but hideously scarred, soon tormented at school and at work, Matty becomes a wanderer, a seeker after some unknown redemption. Two more lost children await him, twins as exquisite as they are loveless. Toni dabbles in political violence; Sophy, in sexual tyranny. As Golding weaves their destinies together, his book reveals both the inner and outer darkness of our time.

User reviews

LibraryThing member toad97
fascinating first-hand account of the author's experience with deep depression and his self-cure.
LibraryThing member na-chan
Ok William Golding books are über depressing. I didn't know at the time that I bought this book, that William Golding was the author of 'Lord of the Flies' (I missed it on the back of the book because well I only read the synopsis not the brief authors bio) if I had I probably would have put it back. Its not that hes a bad author or that his stories are bad, but wow they make me frown at the book as I read them. So as far as the actual story, I don't really know what to make of it. I wouldn't say I liked the book so much as it made me stop and think. I guess my over all impression is that wow some things are really fucked up and people can be blamed and horribly affected by things that aren't their fault D:… (more)
LibraryThing member jessicakiang
Creepy as all hell. Brilliant.
LibraryThing member icolford
Hellfire is a potent symbol and William Golding makes liberal use of it in his brooding and pessimistic 1979 masterpiece Darkness Visible. As a child Matty Septimus Windgrove (or Windrove, or Windrake--the reader is never offered a solution to the mystery of his name) emerges disfigured from a burning building during the London Blitz and responds to the scars and markings he is left with by withdrawing from the society that rejects him for being physically unappealing. At school he unintentionally exposes Mr. Pedigree, the only teacher who pretends to tolerate him, as a pederast. Mr. Pedigree loses his position and guilt for being the cause of this plagues Matty for the rest of his days. In adulthood he embarks on a quasi-spiritual quest (which takes him to Australia and then back to England) for meaning—or something like it—a quest that consumes the remainder of his life. Matty's inept and largely ineffectual goodness finds its moral antithesis in the Stanhope twins, Toni and Sophy. These two begin life as deceptively angelic little girls who grow up to become seductively attractive young women, and who respond to their inauspicious upbringing (absent mother, neglectful philandering father) by embracing evil. Toni leaves home to take up a career as a political terrorist. Sophy flees a mundane existence for crime, starting out in desultory fashion as a prostitute before graduating to petty larceny and then hatching a scheme to kidnap a boy whose wealthy parents will surely pay a king's ransom to get him back. Unfortunately, the men she enlists to help carry off the plan are clods and everything goes awry, foiled in part by Matty, whose life ends as it began: in flames. Golding's characters are never in a position to clearly articulate or even reflect upon what they are seeking. In a series of exquisitely cryptic journal entries Matty writes about beings (spirits?) that visit him, but how they influence him and the things he does is unclear. Sophy does not seem necessarily determined to become a criminal; crime is simply a default response to the intolerable boredom that everyday life inflicts upon her. In the end, Darkness Visible comes across as an indictment, but of what exactly? Golding judges neither his characters nor their actions. Mr. Pedigree, though loathsome, is depicted as a pathetic victim of perverse impulses that nature has made it impossible for him to resist. He does not want to be this way, but since he can't do anything about it he might as well make the most of it. The same could be said of Matty and Sophy. Each responds to the life they are given in the only way they know how. But is the reader expected to admire Matty’s heroism and condemn Sophy’s wickedness? In the psychologically complex and morally ambiguous world that William Golding conjures up in this novel, that seems far too simple-minded a response.… (more)
LibraryThing member jigarpatel
Not just dark, but utterly miserable. I put the novel down after the first part centred on a naive boy called Matty. Sure, the subject matter is necessarily disturbing. But I could neither identify with the characters, nor appreciate in any depth their difficulties. That said, the metaphorical opening scene, describing the London Blitz in WWII, is well written.… (more)



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