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


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.


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 well, it's a mystery that there's no attempt to solve. At the time, due to his Lord of the Flies book, this book may have been more esteemed, but it just seems like a diary of people who aren't very nice, mixed in with one or two who are. Times have changed, and the monsters in this book may have been more monstrous at the time, when child molesting and gangster types were a lot rarer.I think he was intending to shock, but it's lost it's shock value with the degradation of Western Culture. It's an interesting read and maybe gave me validation that a lot of bad things in my culture had it's roots in the 60's, not in the 80's that I thought.It's very well written, smooth and gentle and the insinuations of insight is interesting.

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.


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!!!

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.


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.

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.


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!

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.


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.

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.

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...


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.


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 all mad and in solitary confinement.” “We think we know.” “Know? That’s worse than an atom bomb, and always was."


...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?

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