Dan Sandman

31: The Pyramid by William Golding

In Books, Fiction on 31/07/2015 at 12:00 pm

The Pyramid by William GoldingWilliam Golding will always be known as the man who wrote Lord of the Flies (1954), but each one of his novels are worth investigating. The Pyramid (1967) is a coming of age novel set in an early twentieth century village, and is narrated in the first person by a man looking back on his childhood and youth. There is no overt plot to the story, with the reader being left to speculate indirectly about what has happened. Instead of telling his story in a plot-driven manner, the narrator chooses to allude to incidents through the unreliable haze of memory, perhaps because the truth can only be guessed at in these illusory terms.

And so, it is what might be called a novel of style; a fictional work where the language used, as opposed to the story tolled, is the most important narrative aspect. Through the way in which the narrator organizes his memories in non-chronological order, the reader is asked to explore memory in a way that more truly represents how people really think and truly feel. Our childhood and youth are not simple children’s stories, with a simple beginning, middle and end; they are complicated puzzles, with fragments of things long lost and buried deep beneath our consciousness. But by engaging in an intelligent way with literature and other art forms – such as music, which is frequently referred to in The Pyramid – we can find meaningful symbols for the existential questions we undoubtedly all ask as human beings turning our way through the book of life, until the final page is closed.

And speaking of books, at the front of my 1969 paperback edition, just after the title page, Golding writes the following dedication: ‘For My Son [and then a gap] DAVID’. Perhaps, by the evidence suggested by this unadorned message, somewhere in this novel, there is a father passing on a message to a son. But whether or not this novel does contain a strong autobiographical element, its narrative style and thematic focus, the non-linear exploration of past memory, in its understated way, reads as though it might have been written by a contemporary British literary novelist – perhaps a Julian Barnes or an Ian McEwan. This must be because William Golding was unquestionably one of the most influential British novelists of the twentieth century. And although this may not be the great writer’s best novel, it is still heads and tails above most of the fiction I am yet to come across.

A pyramid of literary brilliance.

  1. Haven’t read this one, but I absolutely love Golding. Sounds right up my alley! Thanks so much for sharing!

    If you’re ever interested in some other great book reviews and musings, be sure to follow! Thanks!

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