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William Golding was born in Cornwall in 1911. Before he became a schoolmaster he was an actor, a lecturer, a small-boat sailor and a musician. In 1940 he joined the Royal Navy and saw action against battleships, and also took part in the pursuit of the Bismarck. After the war he returned to Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury and was there when his first novel, Lord of the Flies, was published in 1954.He won the Booker Prize for his novel Rites of Passage in 1980, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. He was knighted in 1988. He died at his home in the summer of 1993. The Double Tongue, a novel left in draft at his death, was published in June 1995.
Sammy Mountjoy, artist, rises from poverty and an obscure birth to see his pictures hung in the Tate Gallery. Swept into World War II, he is taken as a prisoner-of-war, threatened with torture, then locked in a cell of total darkness to wait. He emerges from his cell transfigured from his ordeal, and begins to realise what man can be and what he has gradually made of himself through his own choices. But did those accumulated choices also begin to deprive him of his free will?