Darkness Visible

ISBN: 0374530513
ISBN 13: 9780374530518
By: William Golding A.S. Byatt

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About this book

A reissue of the tour de force by the Nobel laureate that is "a vision of elemental reality so vivid we seem to hallucinate the scenes" (The New York Times Book Review). It opens during the London blitz, when a naked child steps out of an all-consuming fire; that child, Matty, becomes a wanderer and a seeker. Two more lost children await him, twins as exquisite as they are loveless. In a final conflagration, William Golding's book lights up both the inner and outer darknesses of our time.

Reader's Thoughts


...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 its bald, bright-shining METAPHOR AlERT or, worse, GREAT STATEMENT UPON THE HUMAN RACE COMING UP... It's this scene where two characters are having sex for the first time. They're, like, numb or something because I remember what was immediately interesting to my 15-yr old mind came across as some kind of drab, trying-too-hard version of REAL LITERATURE... Anyway the girl character sort of is described (already a problem there) as enjoying it in an odd, sort of abstract way, calling it a "faint, ring-shaped pleasure"...which took me awhile to get, to be honest, but now that I feel like I've got it I don't feel like I've experienced anything at all... Lots of burning, anguish, freaky-deaky-deaky-doo...I remember the title was immediately gripping, also why I probably read it in the first place. I mean, how can darkness be 'visible'? Ooh, zen riddle approacheth. But seriously, I do remember thinking about that one for a while. I mean, you can SEE darkness, can't you? I mean, if you're looking at it then it's something you can see----or, is it that darkness is the emptiness filling the void of what you can't see? Poetically it somehow makes so much potent, counter-intuitive sense...years later, quite by accident, I stumbled over the phrase in a moment of "Paradise Lost"; I shook my head, blinked my eyes, and sighed with deep satisfaction. Cover's pretty haunting, too, isn't it?


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.

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-dimensional on that count to me. In fact, I think the characters were a bit flat as well. At least the leading characters; the supporting roles seemed more developed. odd. just odd.

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 strike me as real enough to engage any curiosity about their lives because I'm always aware they are simply clever words on paper. Plodding on, I can find no answer to the question why should I be interested in this story? On the other hand perhaps the philosophical subtext is important enough to keep trying. The world these cyphers move through is a bleak one. Other reviewers have commented on the difficulty of finding any underlying meaning - and I suspect there is none. Golding is telling us the world is essentially accidental, certainly without any meaning imposed by the God of Matty's Bible. But it's a narrow view, a one-sided debate, and not profoundly original.As an exercise in the craft of pure writing, Darkness Visible is perhaps up there with the modern greats (lower ranks). But that's about all to recommend it. I remember the older generation of my family, brought up in a culture where practical rather than intellectual skills were the vital ones, dismissing certain individuals as being "too clever by half". But to be fair to William Golding I'd say in this book he's only too clever by a quarter.

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.

Miguel Ángel

Simplemente, hay temas en la vida en los que son difíciles abordar con palabras, ni qué decir de tratar de ponerlos en historias, vean mi reseña sobre esta novela.


Seriously. This book stinks. It's dismal and dull; nothing worthwhile ever happens.

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.

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.

Aerik Von

One of the best "lost" novels of all time. William Golding captures a sense of I humanity, loneliness and desperation that whole set in the "real" world is any bit as dehumanizing as his calling card "Lord of the Flies".This ranks as an extremely difficult but moving read...


Loved the writing, the mystical touch, but not really sure what happened. I don't mind reading a novel that doesn't answer all the questions it raises, but I still don't understand all the pieces. Need to read some criticism on this one I think


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.

Víctor Sampayo

Uf, novela oscura, inquietante, divertida por momentos, en la que convive una especie de mesianismo versus la psicología del perfecto terrorista: el exceso de ideas en medio de una absoluta vacuidad interior, malograda gracias al convencimiento de un objetivo en la vida por parte del ser menos pensado...

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, morality, community, and spirituality, but he denies the possibility of easy answers. The result is a dense novel, generally difficult, sometimes entertaining, written in prose that I found to be needlessly verbose. It is an interesting book, but I did not find the main characters to be convincing as individuals so much as vehicles for the author's explorations of the extremes of human nature. Some of the secondary characters, particularly the bookseller Sim Goodchild and the pedophile Mr. Pedigree, were more compelling. That they figure prominently in the conclusion is to the novel's credit.

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, he can be frightening; he commits "a grievous deed" for which he turns to the Bible, and then to spirits/spiritual guides, in a quest for redemption. There is a dreamy, surreal aspect to the prose, that occasionally left me confused as to the exact nature of whatever reality was being described at a particular moment; for example, near the end of the book--is Sophy (one of two "evil twins") actually brutalizing the young boy that has been kidnapped for her, or only suffering from criminal delusions of grandeur? Is she merely imagining this violence? I am impressed with the way Golding develops both the inner and outer lives of the two little girls (Sophy and Toni), who start out innocently enough as children. Sophy and Toni grow up in an emotional vacuum, nursing dangerous fantasies, as a result of their father's neglect. Nevertheless--in the end, both girls make their choices about the type of individuals they want to be. Certainly the traumatic childhoods of Sophy and Toni contribute to their respective downward spirals into delinquency. [And yet others, who in real life come from scarier circumstances than these two little girls, can go on to accomplishment, achievement and greatness in their adult lives.] Sophy and Toni are both very bright girls; at least metaphorically, the twins resemble Regan and Goneril from Shakespeare's "King Lear", minus Cordelia. Matty chooses his destiny as well; the difference being that I can sympathize with Matty, as he, and his life, has been so literally "scarred" from the beginning. Like Quasimodo, the archetypal "ugly monster" often has the biggest heart. Matty's deformity also makes him stronger than either Sophy or Toni; he is resiliently independent from a very young age. And as reclusive and mysterious as Matty is--I believe him to be compassionate. After reading this book, which contains some "Dickensian" aspects (particularly the character of Mr. Pedigree), in my understanding of the term--I can see why Golding became a Nobel laureate. Not only by means of his intellectual and creative gifts, but also via the empathy and understanding he shows for his characters. All of which Golding is able to elucidate in a prose that is often poetic, and explicit when necessary (surely this was much easier to do in 1979 when this book was published, then it would have been in 1954 when "Lord of the Flies" was published). I am looking forward to reading Golding's second novel, "The Inheritors". There is a lot to be learned from this multi-faceted writer.

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