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About William Faulkner
Rejected by the US military in 1915, he joined the Canadian flyers with the RAF, but was still in training when the war ended. Returning home, he studied at the University of Mississippi and visited Europe briefly in 1925.
His first poem was published in The New Republic in 1919. His first book of verse and early novels followed, but his major work began with the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929. As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and The Wild Palms (1939) are the key works of his great creative period leading up to Intruder in the Dust (1948). During the 1930s, he worked in Hollywood on film scripts, notably The Blue Lamp, co-written with Raymond Chandler.
William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 and the Pulitzer Prize for The Reivers just before his death in July 1962.
Photo by Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
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“I set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force. Before I ever put pen to paper and set down the first word I knew what the last word would be and almost where the last period would fall.” —William Faulkner on As I Lay Dying
As I Lay Dying is Faulkner’s harrowing account of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Narrated in turn by each of the family members—including Addie herself—as well as others the novel ranges in mood, from dark comedy to the deepest pathos. Considered one of the most influential novels in American fiction in structure, style, and drama, As I Lay Dying is a true 20th-century classic.
This edition reproduces the corrected text of As I Lay Dying as established in 1985 by Noel Polk.
The Sound and the Fury is the tragedy of the Compson family, featuring some of the most memorable characters in literature: beautiful, rebellious Caddy; the manchild Benjy; haunted, neurotic Quentin; Jason, the brutal cynic; and Dilsey, their black servant. Their lives fragmented and harrowed by history and legacy, the character’s voices and actions mesh to create what is arguably Faulkner’s masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.
“I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire. . . . I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” —from The Sound and the Fury
Quentin Compson scion of the lineage whose ruin is described in "Noise and Fury" recreates, with the help of his Harvard roommate, the stubborn efforts of Thomas Stupen to rule a large plantation and found a dynasty. Destruction and failure are the final conclusion of a story of violence, pride, incest and crime.
In a letter to Harrison Smith — the 1929 editor of The Noise and the Fury — dated on a Thursday in August 1934, it is where we begin to get the first news for this novel: “… I have a title for her that I like, Incidentally, Absalom, Absalom !: the story of a man who wanted to have a son by force of pride, who had too many, and whom his children destroyed ”. This germ of his work was completed by Faulkner in Mississippi on January 31, 1936. "It is a tortured story and a torture to write it" I would blurt out its editor and friend Ben Cerf. Faulkner continued to think about the novel even after finishing it.
He wrote an orderly chronology. The genealogy included seventeen characters and I would go over it again to add more details by hand. Then he incorporated a map of Yoknapatawpha County and drew the Tallahatchie to the north and the Yoknapatawpha to the south, vertically bisecting the county with the John Sartoris Railroad ... He carefully identified twenty-seven places. He included the extent of the county and its population, and then wrote: "William Faulkner, sole owner and proprietor." Fourteen years later, in 1950, the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature confirmed that Faulkner was, is, and will continue to be one of the Masters of Universal Literature, a model for generations of writers and readers around the world.
In 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Sound and the Fury sixth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” —William Faulkner
Light in August, a novel about hopeful perseverance in the face of mortality, features some of Faulkner’s most memorable characters: guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father of her unborn child; Reverend Gail Hightower, who is plagued by visions of Confederate horsemen; and Joe Christmas, a desperate, enigmatic drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.
“I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t and then tries the short story which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing that, only then does he take up novel writing.” —William Faulkner
Winner of the National Book Award
Forty-two stories make up this magisterial collection by the writer who stands at the pinnacle of modern American fiction. Compressing an epic expanse of vision into hard and wounding narratives, Faulkner’s stories evoke the intimate textures of place, the deep strata of history and legend, and all the fear, brutality, and tenderness of the human condition. These tales are set not only in Yoknapatawpha County, but in Beverly Hills and in France during World War I. They are populated by such characters as the Faulknerian archetypes Flem Snopes and Quentin Compson, as well as by ordinary men and women who emerge so sharply and indelibly in these pages that they dwarf the protagonists of most novels.
Here, published in a single volume as he always hoped they would be, are the three novels that comprise William Faulkner’s famous Snopes trilogy, a saga that stands as perhaps the greatest feat of this celebrated author’s incomparable imagination.
The Hamlet, the first book of the series chronicling the advent and rise of the grasping Snopes family in mythical Yoknapatawpha County, is a work that Cleanth Brooks called “one of the richest novels in the Faulkner canon.” It recounts how the wily, cunning Flem Snopes dominates the rural community of Frenchman’s Bend—and claims the voluptuous Eula Varner as his bride. The Town, the central novel, records Flem’s ruthless struggle to take over the county seat of Jefferson, Mississippi. Finally, The Mansion tells of Mink Snopes, whose archaic sense of honor brings about the downfall of his cousin Flem. “For all his concerns with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man,” noted Ralph Ellison. “Thus we must turn to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for the greatness of our classics.”
Light in August is a 1932 novel by the Southern American author William Faulkner. It belongs to the Southern gothic and modernist literary genres.
Set in the author's present day, the interwar period, the novel centers on two strangers who arrive at different times in Jefferson, Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, a fictional county based on Faulkner's home, Lafayette County, Mississippi. The plot first focuses on Lena Grove, a young pregnant white woman from Alabama looking for the father of her unborn child, and then shifts to explore the life of Joe Christmas, a man who has settled in Jefferson and passes as white, but who secretly believes he has some black ancestry. After a series of flashbacks narrating Christmas's early life, the plot resumes with his living and working with Lucas Burch, the father of Lena's child, who fled to Jefferson and changed his name when he found out that Lena was pregnant. The woman on whose property Christmas and Burch have been living, Joanna Burden, a descendant of Yankee abolitionists hated by the citizens of Jefferson, is murdered. Burch is caught at the scene of the crime and reveals that Christmas had been romantically involved with her and is part black, thus implying that he is guilty of her murder. While Burch sits in jail awaiting his reward for turning in Christmas, Lena is assisted by Byron Bunch, a shy, mild-mannered bachelor who falls in love with her. Bunch seeks the aid of another outcast in the town, the disgraced former minister Gail Hightower, to help Lena give birth and protect Christmas from being lynched. Though Hightower refuses the latter, Christmas escapes to his house and is shot and castrated by a state guardsman. Burch leaves town without his reward, and the novel ends with an anonymous man recounting a story to his wife about some hitchhikers he picked up on the road to Tennessee—a woman with a child and a man who was not the father of the child, both looking for the woman's husband.
In a loose, unstructured modernist narrative style that draws from Christian allegory and oral storytelling, Faulkner explores themes of race, sex, class and religion in the American South. By focusing on characters that are misfits, outcasts, or are otherwise marginalized in their community, he portrays the clash of alienated individuals against a Puritanical, prejudiced rural society. Early reception of the novel was mixed, with some reviewers critical of Faulkner's style and subject matter. However, over time, the novel has come to be considered one of the most important literary works by Faulkner and one of the best English-language novels of the 20th century.
In “A Rose for Emily,” the first of his stories to appear in a national magazine, a straightforward, neighborly narrator relates a tale of love, betrayal, and murder. The vicious family of the Snopes trilogy turns up in “Barn Burning,” about a son’s response to the activities of his arsonist father. And Jason and Caddy Compson, two other inhabitants of Faulkner’s mythical Yoknapatawpha County, are witnesses to the terrorizing of a pregnant black laundress in “That Evening Sun.” These and the other stories gathered here attest to the fact that Faulkner is, as Ralph Ellison so aptly noted, “the greatest artist the South has produced.”
“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” —William Faulkner, on receiving the Nobel Prize
Go Down, Moses is composed of seven interrelated stories, all of them set in Faulkner’s mythic Yoknapatawpha County. From a variety of perspectives, Faulkner examines the complex, changing relationships between blacks and whites, between man and nature, weaving a cohesive novel rich in implication and insight.