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Sunday, 16 August 2009

Fact in Fiction - William Golding and Lewis Carroll

William Golding, in the summer vacation whilst he was an 18 year old undergraduate at Oxford, 'attacked a 15 year old girl'- in his own opinion, he tried to rape her. This has emerged today in the Sunday Times, as extracts begin to be released for the upcoming biography of Golding by John Carey.

Aside from the arguments about whether he did actually rape Dora, the 15 year old girl, it's interesting to note the obvious parallels between his experiences in that summer, and the experiences of his character Oliver in 'The Pyramid'. In the novel, Oliver is wiling away the time during the summer before he starts his studies in Oxford. Oliver pursues Evie Babbacombe, a younger girl, through the summer, culminating in a messy and aggressive session of sex in woodland near the village. The new biography, built upon private writings by Golding, tell also of his suspicions that Dora had plotted with Golding's father for him to see them having sex in a field through binoculars. This scene can also be found in The Pyramid.

Many writers form their fiction from their own experiences - for Golding, one feels his fiction serves the function of allowing him to unburden himself. And many other prominents writers do the same - be it self-consciously or sub-conscious cathartic.

Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' is probably the most famous example of life inspiring fiction. When an Oxford Don, he befriended a new Dean, Henry Liddell and his family, including the youngest daughter, Alice. Although he denied it later in his life, it is generally accepted it is this Alice on whom Alice in Wonderland is based. Many biographers comment on his passion for female children and his total lack of interest in the adult world. Again, like the details of Golding's rape, it is practically impossible to decisively state Carroll's sexual tastes (or Charles Dodson's to give him his real name). What is interesting is the relationship between the life of the author and his fiction. For Dodson, his fiction was a gift for Alice - some biographers see him as a celibate and repressed paedophile and in this respect, the importance of his stories become more important. It can be seen as one of the main communications of his relationship with his obsession. His muse?

This raises 2 interesting points.
- A writer's fictional creations often speak volumes about the thoughts and experiences of the author.
- Oxford may attract 'sexual deviants' who go on to be esteemed literary types. Think Philip Larkin's obsession with pornography.

But seriously, sometimes the best stories are those behind the fiction.

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