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"Lord of the Flies": rejected!

Posted by Christopher Shea  August 23, 2010 11:00 AM

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The classicist Peter Green, in a loving review* of the biography "William Golding: The Man Who Wrote 'Lord of the Flies,'" by John Carey--Green knew Golding well--describes the story of the publication of Golding's most famous novel as akin to "a fairy tale."

This was the reaction, for example, of the "professional reader" at Faber & Faber, the distinguished literary house in London:

Time: the Future. Absurd & uninteresting fantasy about the explosion of an atom bomb on the Colonies. A group of children who land in jungle-country near New Guinea. Rubbish & dull. Pointless.

The book, however, had one champion at Faber--a new hire, Charles Monteith--who eventually won the day (though he insisted on significant editorial changes). So ambivalent were the publishers about the book that they did not inform T.S. Eliot, who served as a literary adviser, of its existence. Green writes:

Told, at his club, that 'Faber had published an unpleasant novel about small boys behaving unspeakably on a desert island,' Eliot at once, in some alarm, got hold of a copy, read it, and .... 'told Monteith next day that he had found it not only a splendid novel but morally and theologically impeccable.'"

The rest is ninth-grade English-class history.

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*New Republic subscribers only, but most of this anecdote appears in front of the paywall.

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