William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!

Vintage International 1990 Marc J. Cohen

Vintage International 1990
Marc J. Cohen

Absalom, Absalom! is said to be Faulkner’s most difficult but most brilliant work. Absalom presents the story of Thomas Sutpen, an enigmatic stranger who came to Jefferson in the early 1830s to wrest his mansion out of the muddy bottoms of the north Mississippi wilderness. He was a man, Faulkner said, “who wanted sons and the sons destroyed him.”

Described as ‘hard-core Faulkner’, one review says: “The words and writing are critically acclaimed since your parents were in school. The examples of how a war can raze an entire culture’s edifice of identity are compelling, each person’s doom and curse being common among her kin and her countrymen: ghosts and sex and violence and cruelty, gut wrenching drama to challenge any soap opera or miniseries or movie. There are themes and studies aplenty within the nightmare realm of Faulkner’s masterpiece.”

Absalom, Absalom! includes characters and shadows from The Sound and the Fury but delves more deeply into the surrounding world and Southern inheritance that S&F traces. The multiple voices and perspectives each clamor to have their story told, to get to the heart of how they understood the fecund and exhausted world and their role in it. Faulkner orchestrates shifting sympathies and the reader is struck with how deeply immersed we become with the characters and the unfolding mystery at the heart of the work. Racism and its imbedded structure in Southern history at first seem to be the background against which the drama of the story is played out; but ultimately slavery and its de-humanization of all involved becomes the project of the book to explore—although from an unusual and intimate angle.

This book will offer the Salon much to discuss in its gorgeous language and complex subjects: racial identification, pride, identity, impact of history on family, the drive of revenge, the struggle to claim selfhood in a broken world. . .


  • Five meeting study
  • Recommended edition: Absalom, Absalom!, by William Faulkner, Vintage Classics  edition (1995); ISBN-: 978-0099475118

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Posted on

February 26, 2019