Darkness Visible
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Darkness Visible

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  622 ratings  ·  55 reviews
A dazzlingly dark novel by the Nobel Laureate.

At the height of the London blitz, a naked child steps out of an all-consuming fire. Miraculously saved yet hideously scarred, 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 vi...more
Hardcover, 265 pages
Published October 1st 1979 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 1979)
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Golding's prose herein is of elemental force. Apropos to the title, this is pure darkness, but infused with energy, fleet and engulfing and laced with a humour utterly attuned to this spelunking of the visceral, primordial reservoirs we all possess and bear the potential to tap into. As always in books of this subject when handled by a master, it awoke and evoked thought, emotion, and reflection in parallel and at a tangent to that sprung open within the primary characters—proved a fictive Rorsc...more

...except out of morbid fascination. I remember this book, I just stumbled over it when I was reading someone else's review. I'd forgotten this book, it's literally been over ten years since I read it.

I read it because the library had it and I'd of course read LOTF, and I wondered what another book by this guy might be like.

Ugh. Portentious, bleak, kind of absurd and random and overly allegorical, boomfog at its finest.

I do remember one thing, though, which stuck with me then and now for it...more
Weird book, course William Golding doesn't write bland literature! I am 10 pages from the end and can't figure the point of the book other than weird things happen, child molesters exist, and people can be monstrous. It's not an offensive book, and the only thing that would make it a difficult read is that I can't figure out the 'point'. It's a couple of biopics of people who's lives cross this poor strange man who was blown up or burnt in the London Blitz. The cover says it's a mystery, but wel...more
This novel begins with a child emerging from a fire caused by German bombs in World War II London. Anonymous and badly disfigured, the child will be named Matty and will become one of the central characters in Nobel laureate William Golding's disturbing 1979 novel. Matty asks the questions "Who am I," "What am I," and finally "What am I to do." His lonely journey through life, with only a Bible for a companion, brings him into contact with a number of other characters who, though not scarred phy...more
Stephen Bird
I recently read "Lord of the Flies" and then happened upon this lesser-known book by William Golding. I am a slow reader, but I read this novel surprisingly quickly, and was drawn in and eventually absorbed by the characters, their inner dialogues and their private universes. Matty, the "Anti-Hero/Martyr", represents many things for me--a prophet in the wilderness, a shaman, a clown, whom I would not consider to be evil; he is not vengeful, violent, nor is he vindictive. And yet in his silence,...more
Does anyone remember the moment when Sebastian from The Neverending Story first handles the mysterious book in the creepy attic of his school? That's how I felt when I first picked up this book - intrigued, particularly by the allusion to Paradise Lost in the title, but also a little apprehensive, like I was getting in over my head. A senior of mine who decided to read this book with me as part of an extra credit opportunity said that when she approached the circulation desk at the library to ch...more
arthur noble
Golding is a master story-teller. His characters are vivid and intriguing - which he manages to achieve with the minimum of detail; more sketches or even caricatures. His plot is fabulous.

Some parts of interior dialogue are too ethereal for my taste, and could have been shortened. Also the first half is too interior and therefore a bit hard going. However the second half more than compensates - you just turn page after page.

I will read more of him.
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 unintentional...more
I love Golding's view of the world. This continues where "Lord of the Flies" left off; that human nature is inherently savage. That is, the world isn't needed to corrupt a child, we all accomplish that just fine on our own. Bleak, but intriguing. This book was also clever and suspenseful, more so than LotF, excellent read.
They gave Golding the Nobel Prize in 83? Must have been a dearth of contenders. This 60s novel of ideas is actually tedious, with a narrative so laden with "meaning" that the story is lost. Ugh. Penance. Darkness visible indeed.
This is a tiny book, but it is one of the most powerful descriptions of depression I have ever read. "A Memoir of Madness" is the perfect subtitle for this book.

In October of 1985, Styron is in Paris to accept an award, when he realizes he is plunging into a deep, dark depression. He ends up hospitalized, and with the help of many professionals, he regains his sanity.

With the use of actual suicides, from Randall Jarrett, the poet, to Abbie Hoffman, he examines the causes and the effect it has on...more
David Bonesteel
A man disfigured as a boy in the fires of WWII London and a beautiful young woman represent polar opposites of the spiritual spectrum, the first a literal-minded social outcast who believes himself to be in communion with holy spirits and undergoes great sacrifice in order to do their bidding and the second a believer in chaotic chance who exploits herself and others in order to satisfy her need for autonomy.

William Golding is on a serious mission here. He is concerned with questions of judgment...more
I bought this book as it was one of the works of Golding which I had neer come across, and I do love his writing - it brings so much alive. But I do not know if I made a mistake here. The imagery and writing is powerful, but I was rather confused as to the untimate goal of the book. It tells the story of a number of intertwining lives, but because of the confused nature of the 'coincidental' intertwinings, as well as the disproportionate length of time given to two of the major characters, I was...more
Victoria Roe
All the way through this book I wasn't sure what to make of it and I'm still not even now I've finished and have had some time to think about it.

I started the book with a vague sense of foreboding, due in no small part to suffering through a class reading of Lord of The Flies at 13 and really not enjoying the experience. I was surprised that this book felt so much more accessible all the way through, but I struggle to know if that's due to the fact I'm considerably older or that Darkness Visible...more
David B
A man disfigured as a boy in the fires of WWII London and a beautiful young woman represent polar opposites of the spiritual spectrum, the first a literal-minded social outcast who believes himself to be in communion with holy spirits and undergoes great sacrifice in order to do their bidding and the second a believer in chaotic chance who exploits herself and others in order to satisfy her need for autonomy.

William Golding is on a serious mission here. He is concerned with questions of judgment...more
Jack Chapman
Golding's 1979 offering (8 years after his previous novel) is powerfully and poetically written. Scenes such as the opening in the London Blitz are compellingly described. The story has a strangeness that comes from a finely honed talent for manipulating words and images (I'd stop just short of calling him a genius though of course many think he is).

And yet - the insights he displays seem more literary than human. The characters, however elegantly drawn, simply don't come alive to me. They never...more
Vit Babenco
The struggle of good and evil is eternal... and there are no winners. And at times it is hard to decide which is which.
Darkness Visible is complex and multilevel and the mazes of human mind are like gaols.
“We're all mad, the whole damned race. We're wrapped in illusions, delusions, confusions about the penetrability of partitions, we're all mad and in solitary confinement.”
The human destiny is the eternal biblical struggle with the darkness without and the darkness within.
Katie Lynn
This was an accidental read of sorts; thought I was purchasing a book of a similar title. I didn't find the book as dark and evil as some reviewers, but maybe that says more about me than the book. :(

I found myself lost a lot in the story, not IN the story, but FROM the story... "what is going on?!" But not intrigued enough to really explore it and figure it out. I suppose it can be said that it examines the inner (self) and outer darkness (society, family, environment), but it seemed a bit one-...more
So this is the last of the whole inherent-blackness-of-the-human-soul reading list I've inadvertently embarked upon lately. I don't know what I was expecting, picking up a book that takes its title from Milton's famously oxymoronic description of hellfire.

Maybe I need to read, you know, The Devil Wears Prada, or something. I'm giving myself the heebie jeebies over here. Or maybe I'll just re-read Jimmy Corrigan again while I listen to Xiu Xiu on repeat and induce some sort of angsty catatonia....more
I came to this after seeing Lars Iyer describe it as one of a handful of 'half-mad' modern English novels. Well, he's not wrong - though I'd question his use of 'half'. It's a damaged book, full of intensities, characterised by a kind of warped, flailing, questing - a search for answers, answers to questions that are, at best, incoherent, at worst, non-existent.

"We’re all mad, the whole damned race. We’re wrapped in illusions, delusions, confusions about the penetrability of partitions, we’re a...more
Seriously. This book stinks. It's dismal and dull; nothing worthwhile ever happens.
It was dark, intriguing, and vivid, certainly; Golding has that mastered. I suppose I didn't like it quite as much as The Paper Men because (1) I'm naturally going to be more drawn to books about writers, (2) the humor wasn't as present, or at least was different (3) reading Matty's sections and especially his journal felt like revisiting the work of Medieval female mystics - interesting, but not my cup of tea (4) it had the same abrupt, cut-off ending, but it worked MUCH more effectively in Pap...more
Honestly, I'm not sure I completely "got" this book. Despite it's somewhat meandering and bloated philosophical / moral message, and confusing non-linear plotline I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out what was going on, giving up completely thinking I'd missed the point entirely only to have it all summed and tidied up for me a few pages later. The whole book playing itself out that way, and weirdly funny when I was not expecting it.
Luis Felipe
Un libro con un comienzo excelente: surge de las llamas Matty, un personaje sin pasado, desfigurado, casi mudo, cuya repulsiva presencia es narrada por Golding con un definido tono de misterio. Luego llega Sophy, extraña y bella criatura que sólo "entra" al mundo mediante actos de crueldad. Pero este contrapunto de seres raros e imprevisibles, es culminado de manera torpe, apresurada, dejando un gusto de incompletud.
A fascinating and rather disturbing book; need to read it again in order to understand it better. Does not hold up overall to the spectacular promise of the opening passages. Portrayal of inner lives of female characters was extremely negative and ultimately repellent. Nabokov does a better job of portraying the psychological agony of a pedophile--Golding's achievement is comparatively flat.
Darkness Visible sounded like an interesting title. However, the book failed to live up to its name. It's not a good sign when you've read two thirds of a novel and still have no idea what it's about. Well, in the end the three separate storylines did somewhat come together, but it was still messy. And I didn't like the sparse dialogue, it was too much like just random stream of consciousness.
Kate S
What a dark read! I really enjoyed the first third about Matty and thought this may become a book I loved. Then I met Sophy and Toni and decided I was not a fan. The contradictions between good and evil, outer beauty and inner beauty and how they can relate directly and indirectly were thought-provoking and at times heartbreaking.
Good and evil?
Light and darkness?
damnation and redemption?

All that's in there.
This is one that I don't fully agree with on a philosophical level, but still found it intriguing. There are some pretty weird scenes in here. Especially when the guy who's had 1/2 his body burned up sees some guy with chains rising out of a swamp.
The one positive thing I can say for this book is that it had vision. However, I'm not so fond of what it is that Mr. Golding "sees"--that is, seemingly, that human passion is unfailingly vile and dangerous, with one's only other option being fatuous and ineffectual complacency. _The Road_ is optimistic in comparison.
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Sir William Gerald Golding was a British novelist, poet, and playwright best known for his 1954 novel Lord of the Flies. He was awarded the Booker Prize for literature in 1980 for his novel Rites of Passage, the first book of the trilogy To the Ends of the Earth. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983 and was knighted by the Queen of England in 1988.

In 2008, The Times ranked Golding...more
More about William Golding...
Lord of the Flies Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1) The Inheritors Pincher Martin: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin The Spire

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“We're all mad, the whole damned race. We're wrapped in illusions, delusions, confusions about the penetrability of partitions, we're all mad and in solitary confinement.” 9 likes
“The way towards simplicity is through outrage.” 4 likes
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