THE DOUBLE TONGUE by William Golding


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The final draft of a novel-in-progress at Golding's death, in 1993, is more than a mere footnote to the distinguished work of the Nobel Prize-winner--but far less than a full-bodied tale worthy of being judged on its own merits. In the Greece of Roman times, the young girl Arieka is recognized as having unusual abilities (such as curing the terminally ill by touching them), and so is taken from her less-than-loving parents and brought to Delphi by Ionides, High Priest of Apollo. Arieka is trained as a Pythia, one of the priestesses who have served as oracles, mouthpieces for the god, from time out of mind. Then, when the two other current Pythias die within the course of a year, Arieka--though only reluctantly acquiescent--finds herself quickly thrust into that terrifying role. With Ionides' help she shoulders a burden that includes being raped and otherwise possessed by Apollo, and she begins to restore to Delphi some of its former glory through her oracular utterances. The priest, however, intent not only on bringing Delphi back but on restoring the long-faded power and glory of Greece as well, overreaches himself: First, a fund-raising trip to Athens with the Pythia fails to gather the funds needed for expensive emergency repairs at Delphi, and then Ionides is implicated in a conspiracy to overthrow Roman rule--although the plot is revealed to be so weak that Ionides is ridiculed and released. Unmanned, he returns to Delphi to die, leaving Arieka, in the absence of her mentor, to carry on without hope or glory--which she does for the rest of her long life. The Nobelist's stature may have made it inevitable that this be brought to market, but admirers of Golding will recognize it for what it is: intriguing, but unfinished.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0374526370
Page count: 165pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"