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William Gerald Golding was a prominent English novelist, an essayist and poet, and winner of the 1983 Nobel Prize for literature. Golding's often allegorical fiction made broad use of allusions to classical literature, mythology, and Christian symbolism. Although no distinct thread united his novels and his technique varied, he dealt principally with the problem of evil, emerging with what has been characterized as a kind of dark optimism.
Golding's first novel, Lord of the Flies (1954), introduced one of the recurrent themes of his fiction - the conflict between humanity's innate barbarism and the civilizing influence of reason. The Inheritors (1955) reaches into prehistory, advancing the thesis that humankind's evolutionary ancestors, "the fire-builders," triumphed over a gentler race as much by violence and deceit as by natural superiority. In Pincher Martin (1956) and Free Fall (1959), Golding explored fundamental problems of existence, such as survival and human freedom, using dreamlike narratives and flashbacks. The Spire (1964) is an allegory concerning the hero's obsessive determination to build a great cathedral spire regardless of the consequences. Golding's later novels did not win the praise his earlier works achieved. They include Darkness Visible (1979) and the historical trilogy Rites of Passage (1981), which won a Booker Prize, Close Quarters (1987), and Fire Down Below (1989).
Golding studied English literature and philosophy at Oxford and served in the Royal Navy during World War II. In addition to his novels, he published a play, The Brass Butterfly (1958); a book of verse, Poems (1934); and the essay collections The Hot Gates (1965) and A Moving Target (1982). He was knighted in 1988.
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