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The Double Tongue: A Draft of a Novel Hardcover – September 11, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nobel Laureate Golding, who died in 1993, explores the disturbing relationships between the mystical, the sacred and the profane in ancient Greece in his 13th and final novel. Narrated by an octogenarian prophetess named Arieka, the book proceeds in rigidly linear form to recount her life from birth onward, employing a distinctly British voice that is mildly philosophical, occasionally graphic, often self-deprecating and generally rather arch. The young Arieka is ugly and dangerously naive, and she apparently possesses mysterious powers and a propensity for mischief that make her impossible to marry off. In late adolescence, she is "adopted" by Ionides, the High Priest at Delphi. Worldly and somewhat cynical, Ionides manages the renowned Delphic oracle like a lucrative tourist site, often fabricating prophecies to soothe the masses. Knowing that Arieka would make an ideal Pythia?the double-tongued Lady, voice of Apollo?he takes her under his care, educating her in a massive bookroom. That Arieka herself is never fully realized as a character is partly the result of her "occupation"?she is, after all, a medium, the human mouthpiece for the prophetic god, and not much else?and in part because she has been left in draft form amid an essentially unfinished narrative. The novel's philosophical framework is in place: questions about faith and exploitation, slavery and freedom abound, as do musings on human societies and their all-too-human perversions. But the plot (and an underdeveloped subplot in which Ionides attempts to subvert Roman rule) feels rushed and inconclusive, and its characters, while articulate, remain curiously soulless.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Nobel Prize winner Golding had finished only the second draft of this book when he died in 1993, a fact the publisher justifiably felt a need to include in a forenote. The story of Arieka (Little Barbarian), a sexually alluring and rebellious girl of ancient Greek Aetolia, is awfully promising but needs literary flesh. Arieka flees an arranged marriage, thereby shaming her family and dooming herself to a life of spinsterhood, when Ionides, the high priest of the nearby Delphic oracle, offers to make her a Pythia, or priestess of the oracle. Arieka exhibits such an extraordinary affinity for the gods that she soon becomes First Pythia, a role she plays with aplomb. When a winter storm threatens their buildings, Ionides and Arieka travel to Athens to raise funds-as if the pope, in order to put a new roof on St. Peter's Basilica, made the rounds of New York's cocktail circuit. Things take a turn for the worse when Ionides, always the schemer, gets involved in a plot against the Roman aggressors. The novel is somewhat undeveloped, but the author's reputation guarantees interest. Recommended for most collections, especially those wishing to fill out the Golding oeuvre.
Harold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib., New York
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); 1st American ed edition (September 11, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374143293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374143299
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,049,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Cornwall, England, William Golding started writing at the age of seven. Though he studied natural sciences at Oxford to please his parents, he also studied English and published his first book, a collection of poems, before finishing college. He served in the Royal Navy during World War II, participating in the Normandy invasion. Golding's other novels include Lord of the Flies, The Inheritors, The Free Fall, Pincher Martin, The Double Tongue, and Rites of Passage, which won the Booker Prize.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathon Penny on March 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is Golding at his gentlest. As with The Inheritors, Golding goes into the ancient past for his material, choosing as his protagonist the reluctant Oracle at Delphi in a time when Greek culture and political power were waning, and Roman influence under Julius Caesar was fast becoming a juggernaut. Her agon is the nature of her faith in Greek religious tradition, caught as she is between the economics, ethics, and metaphysics of religious and priestly praxis.
Golding has freed himself from the contraints of his earnest and often spellbinding Christianity here: the Oracle is a Greek Matty Windrover/Pincher Martin in some ways, though not as intensely immersed in the spiritual. But Golding also christianizes his subject in subtle and, for Christian readers at any rate, engaging ways. Paul's statue "to the unknown god" figures here, as does the Apollo/Christ connection so often discussed in myth criticism and anthropology. That Christ may not be easily recognizeable, however. He has more akin with Donne's "three-personed God"--at least as Donne would want Him--than he does with the persona of the NT.
My chief complaint is that the novel is too short. It lacks a substantial middle, in Aristotelian terms, so that the rising action feels a bit malformed and hurried. I imagine that, had he lived, Golding would have shaped and expanded it considerably. But overall, the premise is interesting, and the text works aesthetically. Golding had lost none of his ability to "see through to the heart of things" eschatological and ontological, and to represent those experiences in language in intense and ultimately rewarding ways. I recommend it unreservedly to readers familiar with Golding's oeuvre beyond Lord of the Flies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jan Dierckx on February 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
An aged prophetess at Delphi, the most sacred oracle in ancient Greece, looks back over her strange life as the Pythia, the First Lady and voice of the god Apollo. As a young virgin with disturbing psychic powers, Aricka was handed over to the sevice of the shrine by her parents. She has now spent sixty years as the very medium, the thorn mouthpiece , of equivocal mantic utterances from the bronze tripod in the sanctuary beneath the temple. Over a lifetime at the mercy of god and people and priests she has watched the decay of Delphi's fortunes and its influence in the world. Her reflections on the mysteries of the oracle, which her own weird gifts have embodied are matched by her feminine insight into the human frailties of the High Priest himself, a true Athenian, who's intriguing against the Romans brings about humiliatian and desasters.

This extraordinary short novel, left in draft at the author's sudden dead in 1993 is a psychological and historical triumph. An absolutely convincing portrait of a woman's experiance, something rare in Golding's work. Aricka the Pythia is one of his finest creation.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Darren White on May 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I must agree with other reviewers on this work: while certainly an interesting read, it is not quite as satisfying as one might hope -- especially if familiar with the author's other works.
It must be kept in mind that this book is but a draft, unfinished upon Golding's untimely death. Yet for that very reason it is of interest to those who are intrigued by the workings of the writing process: here is a text that is but in 'draft form', and offers a none-too-often seen glimplse into a writer's mind, before revisions and editing have cleared away all the excess stone from the statue.
Golding's grasp of the Classical world lends a nice touch of familiarity to this short novella, which I would recommend for fans of his works, and those curious of the writing process.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Ko on April 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Set in the times of Greeks and Romans, this is a story of a prodigy with in one way, divine powers and perspective, but in another, a broken view of pagan faith. In no way Goldings best work, but certainly a finely written and unique perspective to the less critical approach of introspective reasoning about the existence of god(s).
It should be mentioned that, like it's hardcover counterpart, this is a draft. Golding's unexpected death in 1993 left this piece of fiction somewhere in between a second and third draft.
Regardless, I would recommend this to anyone interested in a) Golding's later work, and/or b) what exactly a draft of a novel sounds like. A quick, light-hearted discussion, certainly worth your time.
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