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

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.


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 check this book out, the old librarian exclaimed, "Not a soul has checked this book out in over ten years!" So you can imagine my curiosity.But unlike Sebastian's story, which ends with him saving an enchanted world from an evil wolf and its partner in crime, "The Nothing," mine ended with me feeling super creeped out in my bed at midnight, wondering if I had scarred my mind forever.I would have given this book 5 stars if it weren't for one thing. I loved the theme of the book, which deals with the "are we inherently good or evil" question - one I always enjoy in literature. The writing is quite compelling and the characters are truly memorable. But...the book is just too disturbing, even for me! And the fact that I had recommended this book to teens before having finished it myself certainly didn't help! Every time I got to one of the many dark and horrible moments in the novel, I just pictured some mother calling me, demanding to know why I was exposing such filth to her son. I think Golding really does go a little overboard in an effort to make the darkness visible to us. If the novel had been more subtle in that department, I know I would have enjoyed it more.If, like me, you enjoy books like Heart of Darkness, The Stranger and Lord of the Flies, you might like this one too. But, I'm warning you...this contains passages you do not want to talk about with your mom...and especially not with teens!!!


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...

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.


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 the mind. The despair that grows deeper with each hour, until it seems there is no end to it.Styron stopped drinking, and blamed his rapid descent into the deep dark hole of depression on this fact.As one who has suffered and battled with depression, I fully understood his despair, and the thoughts that tormented him. I applauded his recovery, and was cheered by the thought that there is a light at the end of the tunnel (and it's not the oncoming train).I received this from Net Galley for review. Thank you!


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 physically, are indeed scarred psychologically. Perhaps the most memorable of these are Mr. Pedigree, a compulsive pedophile, who becomes a brilliant but sad case study of obsession, and Sophy, a young woman who thinks constantly of "the cone of black light" that extends from the back of one's head into infinity--that trail of darkness we drag behind us. Matty is clearly symbolic of the modern man who no longer knows what or who he is but can sprinkle his language with fragments of apocalyptic biblical rhetoric, even if the latter is sometimes incoherent. Other characters too reflect various facets of a world gone awry. The Cornwall-born Golding, as all readers of Lord of the Flies know, is more than a little pessimistic about humanity. This novel of several story lines does not weave together at the end as tightly as I had expected. Nevertheless, for an intensely dark but acute vision of modern man, "Darkness Visible" is recommended. And for someone like me, who grew up with the prose of the King James Bible, Matty's Bible-soaked language is at times distressing and at times downright funny.


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.

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.

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...


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. Onward to the center of the sun!

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.

Christian Schwoerke

Coincidence is the key in this book, as was my reading this and Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear it Away back to back. Both are literal books, tales of minds that are seeking a reality most of us dismiss as metaphor, allegory, or symbol.


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 Paper Men, even if it was a bit corny.

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