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Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner ( Book review and recommendation of the day)

My book recommendation of the day is Absalom, Absalom, a novel by William Faulkner. Published in 1936, it is considered to be one of the Faulkner's best works.  Absalom, Absalom! is a family saga that spans three generations and while the focus is on Sutpan's family, the story is really about three families, not one. The story itself starts with Thomas Sutpan, a young man who sets out to make a name for himself. He is determined to rise above his poverty and he has a plan how to do it. The narrative frame is quite complex and it includes different narrators. The time period that the story encompasses is before, during and after civil war.

This novel features some rather complex writing, but don't let that discourage you, as the writing is beautiful and is very much worth the effort. I am of the opinion that nobody writes the stream of consciousness as well as Faulkner does. This can make reading challenging at time, but in the end it is very rewarding to see a wild and chaotic thought process captured on page. After all, aren't most of our thoughts rather chaotic? 

While I was reading this novel, I really had the sensation that I got to knew these characters intimately. I had high expectations of this novel and I wasn't disappointed. Previously, I had read and loved two of Faulkner's novels, Light In August and The Sound and The Fury. I am happy to add this one to the list. These three novels have impressed me deeply and I can not wait to read more of Faulkner. I'm also excited If you want to read in more detail, so scroll down.


 ( #Book #review and #recommendation of the day)


I would describe it as a  masterpiece of modernist writing. A true literary masterpiece. I took my sweet time reading this novel and I have no regrets, as it was absolutely worth the time and effort I invested into reading it. I set all the other books aside because I felt that this novel deserves my full attention. This is one writer that does not shy away from difficult subject and this means that his works often can be and do feel emotionally draining. This novel is not afraid to explore some difficult themes, themes that could perhaps be said to be typical of Faulkner, such as isolation, incest, childhood trauma, bad parenting, racism and family tragedy.

“It's just incredible. It just does not explain. Or perhaps that's it: they don't explain and we are not supposed to know. We have a few old mouth-to-mouth tales, we exhume from old trunks and boxes and drawers letters without salutation or signature, in which men and women who once lived and breathed are now merely initials or nicknames out of some now incomprehensible affection which sound to us like Sanskrit or Chocktaw; we see dimly people, the people in whose living blood and seed we ourselves lay dormant and waiting, in this shadowy attenuation of time possessing now heroic proportions, performing their acts of simple passion and simple violence, impervious to time and inexplicable - Yes, Judith, Bon, Henry, Sutpen: all of them. They are there, yet something is missing; they are like a chemical formula exhumed along with the letters from that forgotten chest, carefully, the paper old and faded and falling to pieces, the writing faded, almost indecipherable, yet meaningful, familiar in shape and sense, the name and presence of volatile and sentient forces; you bring them together in the proportions called for, but nothing happens; you re-read, tedious and intent, poring, making sure that you have forgotten nothing, made no miscalculation; you bring them together again and again nothing happens: just the words, the symbols, the shapes themselves, shadowy inscrutable and serene, against that turgid background of a horrible and bloody mischancing of human affairs.” 

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner ( Book review and recommendation of the day)


The writing is at times challenging, but nonetheless beautiful for it. The narrative itself is at times difficult to follow. There are quite a few narrators in this one, and they are not exactly reliable narrators either. As a reader, you are often left wondering what exactly is going on. To add insult to injury, the narrative is not chronological. 

The characters themselves are not only confusing in their talks, but also do not always sound credible. Their talk is simply too eloquent at times. For example, you have this Southern woman who supposedly grew up in isolation and poverty, quoting Homer and seeming suspiciously familiar with Greek classics and mythology. At times, some lady characters seem to talk like University professors and it does not seem exactly credible, considering the time period and the limited education that must have been available to them, yet none of it matters. 

Despite details like this one, all the characters feel incredibly real and that is what really matters. It is like they are speaking from their soul, and Faulkner is translating their talk, shaping it, allowing it to be remain chaotic and wild, but adding eloquence to it. Does that make sense? It is not easy to describe his writing style and technique, but it is possible to say that his portrayal of characters is most impressive. One feels like one has traveled back in time reading this novel, that feeling and atmosphere of a past time is so tangible one can almost grab hold of it. 

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner ( Book review and recommendation of the day)


The language employed and the narrative itself both feel chaotic, but there is method in Faulkner's madness, I am sure. It seems that the chaotic writing is only befitting when it comes to narrating such complex psychological experiences. For what are many of the experiences in this novel if not a psychological turmoil? I struggled a bit reading this one, I do admit it. Nevertheless, I would still claim that this tale of revenge and tragedy, this deeply psychological family saga is written beautifully and eloquently. I loved reading it. I wanted to reread it before  I ever finished reading it. The sentences often feel interrupted, the grammar is sometimes very simplified and the story telling confused, but even while you are struggling with it all, you can feel it is a masterpiece. A true literary masterpiece. 


This is a beautifully written tragic family tale, driven mostly by a rise and fall of one man. A man who, like many others, is trying to achieve his American dream. His destiny doesn't affect only him, but a number of other people as well. This is also a very successful psychological novel. All in all, Absalom, Absalom is a heavy book, tackling themes from incest to slavery, but it never disappoints. As you are trying to piece it all together, all the different tales from different narrators, you can't help but be drawn into the story. This is a book that examines the South mercilessly but without hate. Faulkner digs deep in this one, not only in terms of examining the Southern society. I can't help but feeling that Faulkner managed to display human souls here, show them in the way that only art can. In a way that is truly magic. I can't recommend this novel enough.

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