The bad side of Wil­liam Gold­ing

Wil­liam Gold­ing’s daugh­ter writes about her warm – yet at times, painful – up­bring­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - by ALI­SON FLOOD

The chil­dren of lovers are or­phans, so the say­ing goes. Draw­ing from that for the ti­tle of her forth­com­ing mem­oir, Wil­liam Gold­ing’s daugh­ter, Judy Carver, is set to show that life for the chil­dren of fa­mous au­thors can be just as dif­fi­cult. De­scrib­ing the book as “a di­a­logue be­tween his life and mine”, writ­ing a mem­oir is some­thing that Carver, 65, has been pon­der­ing, col­lect­ing notes and set­ting down mem­o­ries, since her fa­ther died in 1993. The book will be pub­lished by Faber in May. Next year marks the cen­te­nary of her No­bel prize-win­ning fa­ther’s birth, with a con­fer­ence, cen­te­nary edi­tions of his nov­els and the open­ing of the ar­chive of cor­re­spon­dence be­tween Gold­ing and his long-time edi­tor at Faber, Charles Mon­teith – who plucked Lord Of The Flies from the slush pile. “The ti­tle, The Chil­dren Of Lovers, is part of a proverb; the chil­dren of lovers are or­phans, and that’s re­ally I sup­pose meant to be a clue that our par­ents were very wrapped up in each other and them­selves, and that comes out in the book,” Carver said. “Am I be­ing fair? I don’t know. Are chil­dren ever fair about their par­ents? God knows I hope mine never write a mem­oir of me.” Gold­ing, the cre­ator of one of the most acutely ob­served por­traits of child­hood in his novel Lord Of The Flies, was “in many ways very kind and very un­der­stand­ing and very sweet” as a fa­ther, said Carver. “In many ways he was a very warm per­son, and tremen­dously funny. What’s strange is that no one be­lieves that. They think he was all doom and gloom.” But there was also a “painful side” to her and her brother, David’s, up­bring­ing, she said, which she will de­tail in the mem­oir. “Both my brother and I had prob­lems grow­ing up. My brother now, very sadly, though he’s com­pletely open about it, has a mental ill­ness. While I can’t say it was my par­ents, it is a tricky busi­ness. I’m sure they won­dered all their lives had they been in­stru­men­tal, or made it worse or bet­ter, or no dif­fer­ence.

“When I was grow­ing up I did have a break­down. I am ro­bust in the ex­treme now, but this is why it’s called The Chil­dren Of Lovers. There was not that much room, re­ally, for the two of us. I didn’t feel we had enough from them.” But in a fam­ily emer­gency her par­ents would have dropped ev­ery­thing. “My fa­ther would say, ‘It’s only a bloody book.’ he al­ways meant us to feel that hu­man be­ings were far more im­por­tant than any­thing else – that didn’t al­ways come across in the way we were brought up. My fa­ther was tremen­dously af­fected by the war. We were aware the war had done some­thing to him, and that af­fected our child­hood too,” she said. Gold­ing had a darker side, a “feel­ing of self-con­tempt which came from very far back. Some­times it was dealt with fun­nily, with self-dep­re­cat­ing jokes, but some­times it was a much darker busi­ness which he couldn’t live with. “I know he re­ferred to him­self as a mon­ster. Very oc­ca­sion­ally I re­mem­ber him be­hav­ing quite badly, be­ing un­kind, but that was very un­usual and was usu­ally when he had a lot to drink,” Carver said. “he was in spurts a heavy drinker. Of­ten he was happy not drink­ing at all. It was one thing or the other.” Re­call­ing a walk with her fa­ther as a child, when she was chat­ter­ing away to him, Carver says he told her not to talk be­cause he was try­ing to think. “It turned out he was think­ing about Pincher Martin, a bril­liant novel which is very com­pli­cated. I can see the point now, but at the time I was hurt. his ca­pac­ity for con­cen­tra­tion was ab­so­lutely ex­tra­or­di­nary.” When she orig­i­nally set out to write the book, she found it was stray­ing too close to a bi­og­ra­phy of her fa­ther, some­thing she felt she was too close to him to write. In the end the fam­ily asked John Carey to write the bi­og­ra­phy, and it was pub­lished last year to gen­eral ac­claim. De­spite the head­lines which sur­rounded its pub­li­ca­tion, fo­cus­ing on Gold­ing’s ad­mis­sion in an un­pub­lished mem­oir that he “tried un­handily to rape” a girl of 15 while a stu­dent, Carver said she “couldn’t ask for any­thing bet­ter at all”. her fa­ther’s gen­er­a­tion was, she said, “not nearly as un­fet­tered as they liked to think. he did feel very, very guilty, not only about this girl who he’s sup­posed to have had sex with, or nearly, or rather un­civilised sex with, but also about the girl he was en­gaged to (be­fore he mar­ried Carver’s mother). “he didn’t feel very good about sex un­til he met my mother and fell in love. Be­fore that, and even af­ter in ret­ro­spect, it was a dif­fi­cult sub­ject.” Ju­lian Loose, Faber’s edi­tor han­dling The Chil­dren Of Lovers, de­scribed it as a “pow­er­ful and some­times painful fam­ily mem­oir which is so ar­rest­ing and beau­ti­fully writ­ten that it would find many read­ers even if the fam­ily in ques­tion weren’t the Gold­ings”. he added that it may not be the fi­nal piece of pub­lish­ing from the Gold­ing clan. Wil­liam Gold­ing left be­hind a “huge amount” of un­pub­lished ma­te­rial, from a jour­nal to nov­els; “the place is stuffed with paper”, said Carver. “At the moment there aren’t any spe­cial plans (to pub­lish). I would love to see some of the jour­nal come out. There are a cou­ple of com­plete early nov­els which he de­scribed to me – he didn’t think they were up to much. he said one was so bad, it didn’t even have any sex or vi­o­lence.” – Guardian News & Me­dia 2010

His flip­side:

Bri­tish author Wil­liam Gold­ing, who wrote LordOfTheFlies, was a warm and tremen­dously funny per­son but some­times he could be a ‘mon­ster’.

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