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From the Modern Library’s new set of beautifully repackaged hardcover classics by William Faulkner—also available are Snopes, As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and Selected Short StoriesFirst published in 1936, Absalom, Absalom! is William Faulkner’s ninth novel and one of his most admired. It tells the story of Thomas Sutpen and his ruthless, single-minded attempt to forge a dynasty in Jefferson, Mississippi, in 1830. Although his grand design is ultimately destroyed by his own sons, a century later the figure of Sutpen continues to haunt young Quentin Compson, who is obsessed with his family legacy and that of the Old South. “Faulkner’s novels have the quality of being lived, absorbed, remembered rather than merely observed,” noted Malcolm Cowley. “Absalom, Absalom! is structurally the soundest of all the novels in the Yoknapatawpha series—and it gains power in retrospect.” This edition follows the text of Absalom, Absalom! as corrected in 1986 under the direction of Faulkner expert Noel Polk and features a new Foreword by John Jeremiah Sullivan.
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I enjoyed Faulkner's hallucinatory style with the story meandering through digressions and side-tracks and lush descriptions, resulting in my not being exactly sure what happened, but feeling as if I've been immersed in a hot lazy summer afternoon daydream.more
There is a lot I don't understand about this book, but my instincts tell me it's justifiably a classic. I liked the language and structure a lot. Maybe the characters are more symbols than three dimensional, but they're pretty interesting symbols. Faulkner's descriptions of black people are highly racist, but I /think/ he's trying to comment on it rather than perpetuate it... need to find out more about that.more
This book is not for the faint of heart. It's probably one of the hardest, more confusing books I've ever read.more
I would compare it to a nightmarish journey into the world of southern gothic writing. Long sprawling sentences, multiple layers of families, and interwoven tales told through the eyes of an old embittered woman. Good stuff, but it is a literary workout. Expect to be emotionally exhausted after spending time reading this unique, poetic, and tragically beautiful novel.more
Chronicles the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen, a white man born into poverty in western Virginia who comes to Mississippi with the aims of becoming rich and a powerful family patriarch. This was the first and only Faulkner novel I have read. It was a challenging read, and it took a lot of my attention, but I enjoyed it, particularly for its depiction of the American South. It did not inspire me to read any more Faulkner, however.I read this in college (early 1990s).more
"You can't understand it. You would have to be born there."
"Would I then? Do you understand it?"
"I don't know. Yes, of course I understand it. I don't know."
A seductive dreamlike death-whisper of the South.more
"Would I then? Do you understand it?"
"I don't know. Yes, of course I understand it. I don't know."
A seductive dreamlike death-whisper of the South.more
What drives the dreadful ambitions of Colonel Sutpen? After hundreds of pages of human agony, frustration, loss, and suffering, we are given the answer. Once, when a young boy, Sutpen was told by a Negro house slave to go to the back door of the house he was attempting to enter. He never recovered from the sense of crippling social humiliation this episode inspired in him. Never have the depredations of racism and class been explored with such devastating gothic force.more
I have read As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, and Light in August. However, Absalom, Absalom! is by far my favourite Faulkner. Indeed, without hesitation I would put it among the greatest books I have ever read. I feel Absalom is almost neglected behind As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury, the former of which I still consider a stunning piece of writing, but neither contain the towering, epic and biblical passages of which Absalom is entirely constructed. All the things I love about Faulkner come together most completely in this book and resonate so deeply and heavily: Mythical characters of the South that embody its underlying filth and decay; the scenery and landscape which you can feel sweltering and shimmering around you; the grand passages of such intense writing that builds up and up so confidently without faltering it shows no sign of collapsing under its own ambition. Most clearly in Absalom is the style Cormac McCarthy is so overtly influenced by, which through his career he worked and moulded into his own. The overall structure to Absalom's story also bears resemblance to One Hundred Years of Solitude (another of my all-time favourites), in that it details the rise and fall of an empire of sorts, told in the style of a legend. Utterly recommended to anyone serious about literature.more
This is perhaps the best Faulkner I can remember. The plot is simple, but the exposition of themes is incredibly rich, convoluted, poly-stylistic. Some sort of Freudian analysis of a savage, a genius, a sad personality. Surrounded by pain. The pain of all of us.more
My only experience with Faulkner to date was The Sound and the Fury. While I found it a fascinating read, you can’t deny that it’s incredibly muddled. There are multiple points of view, one of which is a mentally handicapped person, which makes for a confusing flow to say the least. So I’ve been a bit hesitant to try anything else from the famous southern author. This book tells the tragic story of Thomas Sutpen, a proud man determined to create an epic legacy. He builds a huge plantation, Sutpen’s Hundred, convinced that its success, along with having male children, will ensure his goal of becoming a “great” man. To reach this end he becomes blinded to the needs of those around him, blatantly disregarding the fate of others in his obsessive quest (I give a more detailed summary in the spoiler section). The book’s name comes from the Biblical tale of King David’s son Absalom, who tried to destroy his father’s empire. Like the old testament story, Faulkner’s book focuses on a patriarch’s sins which eventually bring pain and suffering to his children. **SPOILER ALERT**See if you can follow me here… Thomas Sutpen marries a woman, Eulalia, in Haiti. He later finds out she’s part Negro and so he divorces her; leaving both his wife and their son, Charles Bon. He then travels to Mississippi where buys 100 acres of land and marries a woman named Ellen. He has two children, Judith and Henry, with her and believes he has the perfect male heir to continue his line. Years later, Henry goes to the University of Mississippi where he befriends, Charles Bon, without knowing that he is his half-brother. Henry takes Charles home to meet his family and Judith falls in love with him. Henry encourages the romance because he is a bit infatuated with both Charles and Judith and their union would allow him to live out his feelings vicariously. Charles realizes that Thomas is his father and thinks that Thomas will announce himself to Charles and welcome him into his home. This never happens and Charles decides to move forward with his plans to marry Judith. Henry finds out, much to his horror, that Charles is his and Judith’s half-brother and begs Charles to leave her alone. When he refuses, Henry kills Charles to stop the marriage and then he runs away from home. Thomas’ empire is destroyed by the tragedy and he turns to the only women left around him in a desperate attempt to have another son. He fails and his callous disregard for those women leads to his murder. **SPOILERS OVER**Faulkner really makes you work for it. The narrative is hard to follow because the story is told by multiple characters, all of whom are relating the story to other people. The timeline bounces around because there are flashbacks and contradicting details and different points of view. It meanders about while trying to find its footing, but the rambling is very intentional. You’re supposed to get a bit lost as you get sucked into the story. Part of the reason it’s interesting is that you don’t know exactly what’s true. A large portion of the story is told by Quentin Compson (a character from The Sound and the Fury) to his Harvard roommate Shreve, decades after the events have taken place. Another part is told by Rosa, Thomas’ sister-in-law who has her own agenda and reasons for hating Sutpen. Absalom, Absalom is a bit like watching a train wreck. You know it’s all going to end badly, but you can’t look away. Faulkner’s writing is beautiful, but again, it’s not a clear narrative because you’re never sure whether what you’re hearing is fact or someone’s opinion or just rumors. The scope of the story is epic. It touches on a dozen complex topics, including slavery, southern prejudice, devotion to land, incest, the downfall of the South, material wealth vs. familial love, etc. all the while mapping out a complicated tragedy of Greek proportions. So far I haven’t loved reading Faulkner. I’ve been captivated by his work and it makes me feel like I’m wandering through decrepit old southern mansion as I read it, but I don’t feel passionate about it. This book kind of defies my rating system, because I didn’t love reading it, but it really challenged me and I thought about it long after I finished it. I like it when books do that to me.I’d like to try another one of his next year and see how that goes. I’m thinking maybe As I Lay Dying of Light in August. Do you guys have any strong feelings about which Faulkner books I should try? The next one might decide whether I pursue him further or not. "Jesus, the South is fine, isn't it. It's better than the theatre, isn't it. It's better than Ben Hur, isn't it" more
I had never read Faulkner before and I was blown away. Stylistically it's thick, difficult, and sparkling. Its plot was revealed at an enticingly and frustratingly slow manner. It's interpretations are so numerous, interwoven, and complex that it'll be reverberating in my head for a long time. Definitely worth the struggle.more
I took a course on Proust, Joyce, and Faulkner in college and have returned to Faulkner’s works many times in the thirty years since I graduated. As my life experience grows, a return to Yoknapatawpha County always holds new insights – Faulkner’s novels are of such depth and complexity that they cannot be exhausted. (Wait, I can hear the joke now – “although the reader may be exhausted before the last page”!)It’s true Absalom, Abaslom! is not an easy read. Faulkner makes you work, no doubt about it. But if you make the effort, you’ll be amply rewarded by an immersion in a fully realized world, and a family history so tortured, dark, and brilliant that you shouldn’t be surprised if Thomas Sutpen rides right into your dreams to build a mighty plantation in your unconscious.Faulkner gives a primer in the ugly history of race in America, and shows how a tiny trace African American blood could destroy generations of a family. It’s absurd to us now, but Faulkner helps us understand that we still (even today with an African American president), live in a world that has been shaped by an almost unimaginably horrific past.To my mind, Absalom, Absalom! is one of Faulkner’s most terrifying and greatest works. The obsessions of the novel’s characters are relentless and their inability (unwillingness?) to escape their fate is a chilling commentary on how humans make meaning of their lives and then cling to that construction even as it destroys them from the inside out. Don’t take Absalom, Absalom to the beach, but do pick it up anytime you want to stare unflinchingly into the human soul.more
This was definitely the most dense and challenging novel I've ever read in its entirety. But the fact that it's impenetrable is totally the point, and it's beautifully written and fascinating.more
A fantastic piece of work. I was charged to examine it specifically from the perspective of gothic literature, but certainly open for a myriad of interpretations. Faulkner's language is, as usual, beautiful, and somehow simultaneously elusive and direct. One could spend a lifetime reading any given one of his works, and still not totally plumb its depths, and this is as true of Absalom, Absalom! as any of his others.more
Absalom, Absalom! was my first introduction to William Faulkner. It has become my favorite book. I rarely reread novels and I have read this novel twice and plan to read it again. Many readers find Faulkner very confusing. He often writes in stream of consciousness while jumping back & forth in time. However, it is for these reason that Absalom, Absalom! is my favorite novel. The story unfolds through the voices of several characters that are speaking from different years. If one presses through the initial confusion an intricate plot is revealed by dynamic characters. Faulkner's style and language are rich in meaning and depth. Absalom, Absalom! can be read as a mystery which helps bypass some of the confusion a reader may encounter. I have also read Faulkner's Sound and Fury which I found more confusing and did not engage with an much. However, I love Faulkner's style and hope to read all of his novels and short stories. Faulkner's works do require a lot of attention and time. One must be prepared to focus on the work, they are not books that can be set down for a few days and picked back up. So during a blizzard delve into the mystery and characters of Absalom, Absalom!more
I suggest reading The Sound and the Fury before reading Absalom, Absalom! so that you are familiar with the main character, Quentin Compson. When you are, you understand his love/hate relationship to the South and to his ancestry. A book about changing ideologies, overcoming (or being engulfed) by the past, and establishing a personal identity, Absalom, Absalom! is definitely a novel you want to spend some time on. Be prepared for tough reading, but completely worth it if you have a guide or a professor to help you realize the importance of recurring themes.more
Not my favorite Faulkner. The narrative complexity seems inorganic and there is an elongated feel to the entire enterprise. The interplay between the two college chums is unconvincing, at least to me. On the plus side, there's Rosa Coldfied, a very fine invention and superbly characterized.more
I had to read this for a college class, and I must admit: I was bested by it. While the story held within the book had my interest, the convoluted style of Faulkner's writing beat me in the end. I got about 2/3 through the book, then skimmed over the rest, read the "ending" in full, and then looked over a plot synopsis online. I hated doing so, because I really wanted to finish it, but I couldn't bring myself to do so. Reading it was proving to be (for me!) unrewarding, and was more a chore than anything else.Maybe I'll have another go at it a few years down the road, when I have as much time as I want to read it. In retrospect, I was trying to read it relatively quickly to be prepared for class, and perhaps that caused me to stumble over Faulkner's writing more than I would otherwise.more
Absalom Absalom! is a book that over the years has become less bewildering and I appreciate more with each successive reading. It's outstanding on so many levels, and it might just be the greatest mystery ever written. I'm still not sure what is fact, what is fiction, and what the true story was. No sooner is one question answered (maybe) then another arises, and only in retrospect do certain pieces of information assume significance. It's definitely a book that makes me think like no other, that's for sure.more
What at first seemed indecipherable is now one of my favorite Southern novels. I had to study this in two different college classes and, after lots of study and rereading, I've (finally) come to recognize Faulkner's genius. His deconstruction of time and other standard elements makes for a heartbreakingly beautiful look at a doomed family's ugly secrets.more
A powerful and stirring story about a southern family during the civil war. The book is narratologically complex, with looping chronology, and revised re-tellings, and questionable narrators. The narrative attempts to explain why the South lost the war and concurrently makes a moving comments on immortality, greed, and racism.more
A stupendous achievement in narration. I find it to be Faulkner's most difficult book, and I prefer several others to it, including Light In August and The Sound and the Fury, as well as Go Down, Moses, which includes "The Bear."more
One of the very best novels I have ever read, maybe even the very best; only "Lolita" and "Ulysses" come close. But Faulkner is undoubtedly the most incredible author I have ever read, bar none. Sheer genius; there is no one like him!more
How I love this book! (Oh, yes, I love The Sound and the Fury, too.) That is hard for many people to comprehend. I fully understand that the difficulty of Faulkner's prose and his switching of perspective is enough to discourage even determined readers. I sympathize with the frustration of those who say he isn't worth the trouble, he's over-rated, etc. (I WON'T condone the person who said he must have been paid by the word--that just reveals that reader's ignorance of the most fundamental facts of Faulkner's life). But here's the thing: if you want to read Faulkner, enjoy and understand Faulkner, YOU DON'T BEGIN WITH THIS ONE. Yes, it is one of his masterpieces. It has all the elements he is known for, and they are honed to a fine point here. It is quintessentially Southern, quintessentially Faulkner, and a tough nut to crack. But if you have been introduced to the world of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, perhaps by reading The Unvanquished, or The Hamlet, Sartoris or Intruder in the Dust, you will be much better prepared to plunge into Absalom, Absalom! or The Sound and the Fury. Or pick up a copy of his collected stories, and read "Barn Burning", "Wash", "A Bear Hunt". Grab Knight's Gambit and sample "Tomorrow", or "Smoke". You'll either be hooked, as I have been for 35 years, or you'll know he's not for you. In which case, you can say you gave him a fair trial, and leave him alone with a clear conscience.more
absalom, absalom! is one of the classics of American literature and I tackled it as a book club selection, but have to admit that I gave up on it. I liked parts of the writing, and the presentation and interpretation of events from different perspectives but overall I just can't get into Faulkner's convoluted prose stylemore
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