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Darkness Visible

By (author) William Golding
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Faber & Faber, London, United Kingdom
Published: 1st Oct 1979
Dimensions: w 140mm h 200mm
ISBN-10: 0571114547
ISBN-13: 9780571114542
Barcode No: 9780571114542

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Kirkus US
What do a disfigured religious madman, a seedily paranoid pederast, a pair of amoral twin sisters, and two tweedily genteel seance-seekers have in common? They are all acting on "the passionate desire to be weird, to be on the other side . . ." And Golding's new novel - his first since The Pyramid (1967) - is an exploration of the many-guised and often antithetical surgings-up of darkness in human nature, horrors that are splendidly various in their origins. In the case of poor Matty Windrove (who has the book's first section to himself), there's little mystery about why darkness should become visible: a nameless orphan-survivor of London's WW II bomb-burning, Matty grows up with only a Bible to compensate for his two-tone face, his hideously gnarled ear, his half-hairy bald head. So, from a disastrous start at the Foundlings School (where Matty innocently triggers the dismissal of his beloved teacher, repressed boy-lover Mr. Pedigree), he moves from job to job, to Australia and back, always hard-working, always unwanted; and by the time that he has become a handyman at the posh Wandicott House School (near his old Foundlings School), Matty's "jagged and passionate nature" has been channeled away from existential despair into religious fervor, complete with visions, voices, and messianic mania: "I am at the centre of an important thing and have been always." Golding gives this mini-bildungsroman a Dickensian, picaresque texture that transcends clinical phychology - so Matty's mythic presence (along with that of old Mr. Pedigree, now, years later, haunting the men's lavatory in the village near the schools) sustains the book's tension through the introduction of a more psycho-cliched outcast: Sophy Stanhope, who (with twin sister Toni) is abandoned by Mother, neglected by intellectual Father, and so decides to indulge her "own self sitting inside with its own wishes and rules at the mouth of the tunnel." In other words, Sophy becomes a thief, a lover of violence (Toni is a more political terrorist), her madness finally intersecting with Matty's when she conceives a scheme to kidnap a rich child from the school where Matty works. And among the innocent bystanders: the village bookseller and a gentle teacher who have been leaning towards mysticism (and Matty) for spiritual sustenance. Golding's knot of themes - Who is really evil? How does society create its monsters? - occasionally becomes a slippery tangle; and bad-witch Sophy is a mundane counterpart to goodwitch Marry. But Golding is often at his un-didactic best here, compassionately populating a bleak contemporary landscape with a motley cast of characters who have only a few essential things in common: loveless lives, intimations of life's meaninglessness, and the doomed instinct to turn dark-wards for comfort or exhilaration. Depressing, mostly compelling work - from a somewhat overbearing but authentically intense prose-poet. (Kirkus Reviews)