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Absalom, Absalom!

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Published in 1936, Absalom, Absalom! is considered by many to be William Faulkner's masterpiece. Although the novel's complex and fragmented structure poses considerable difficulty to readers, the book's literary merits place it squarely in the ranks of America's finest novels. The story concerns Thomas Sutpen, a poor man who finds wealth and then marries into a respectable family. His ambition and extreme need for control bring about his ruin and the ruin of his family. Sutpen's story is told by several narrators, allowing the reader to observe variations in the saga as it is recounted by different speakers. This unusual technique spotlights one of the novel's central questions: To what extent can people know the truth about the past?

316 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 1936

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About the author

William Faulkner

1,013 books8,936 followers
William Cuthbert Faulkner was a Nobel Prize-winning American novelist and short story writer. One of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, his reputation is based mostly on his novels, novellas, and short stories. He was also a published poet and an occasional screenwriter.

The majority of his works are set in his native state of Mississippi. Though his work was published as early as 1919, and largely during the 1920s and 1930s, Faulkner was relatively unknown until receiving the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel." Faulkner has often been cited as one of the most important writers in the history of American literature. Faulkner was influenced by European modernism, and employed stream of consciousness in several of his novels.

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Profile Image for Tom.
66 reviews27 followers
November 23, 2019
Apologies for previously having some snobbery in this review that I wrote 10 years ago which I have now edited. In the interim 10 years I have had children and now have to read books about cat mermaids so karma has bit my ass aggressively.

Let’s just enjoy this:

“. . . and opposite Quentin, Miss Coldfield in the eternal black which she had worn for forty-three years now, whether for sister, father, or nothusband none knew, sitting so bolt upright in the straight hard chair that was so tall for her that her legs hung straight and rigid as if she had iron shinbones and ankles, clear of the floor with that air of impotent and static rage like children's feet, and talking in that grim haggard amazed voice until at last listening would renege and hearing-sense self-confound and the long-dead object of her impotent yet indomitable frustration would appear, as though by outraged recapitulation evoked, quiet inattentive and harmless, out of the biding and dreamy and victorious dust. Her voice would not cease, it would just vanish."

Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,464 reviews3,614 followers
January 22, 2022
Absalom, Absalom! is a full of dark secrets and murky mysteries ghost story – the ghosts of the past rise and follow you everywhere.
All the human vices turn around the procreative instinct...
And a male instinct of procreation turns around a woman...
...the other sex is separated into three sharp divisions, separated (two of them) by a chasm which could be crossed but one time and in but one direction—ladies, women, females—the virgins whom gentlemen someday married, the courtesans to whom they went while on sabbaticals to the cities, the slave girls and women upon whom that first caste rested and to whom in certain cases it doubtless owed the very fact of its virginity...

But if a man erects his “economic edifice not on the rock of stern morality but on the shifting sands of opportunism and moral brigandage” then sooner or later a day of reckoning will come.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
September 25, 2015

The picture above was used on the first edition dust jacket published in 1936 by Random House. It is the image I had in my mind of Sutpen's Hundred the plantation built by Thomas Sutpen. The hundred stands for a 100 square miles, the geographic size of the plantation. 100 square miles of land is equivalent to 64,000 acres. In other words it is a BIG PLACE. The gist of all this is that Thomas Sutpen built himself an empire. These plantations were so large that it required an unbelievable amount of human labor to keep them productive. Mechanical invention had not advanced enough to provide the machines that the plantation owners needed to work such a large tract of land. When you own more land than you can work and there is not a labor pool available to sustain your industry...what do you do?

Well, we know what they did, but what should they have done? Around 1800 when cotton became king is when the demand for slaves escalated exponentially. The potato famine in Ireland happened in 1845 which brought thousands of displaced Irish to the United States, but this wave of immigration came too late to keep the South from becoming too economically dependent on slavery. Now I'm not advocating turning the Irish immigrants or the Chinese immigrants who followed into slaves, but wouldn't it have been a better solution for our history if those plantation owners had adopted the flawed, but still better than slavery, system of tenant farmers?

Eventually technology would have caught up with the needs of large land owners which would have freed up the tenement farmers for the industrial work that made the North so strong. Maybe the availability of that labor pool would have encouraged manufacturing in the South. Some of the better tenement farmers would have become land owners themselves as plantations fell out of the hands of Southern aristocratic families due to the untimely death of a patriarch or because of mismanagement. Not a perfect world, but a better world and maybe, just maybe we would have avoided a costly Civil War for which the South to this day has never fully recovered.

But then would Southern literature be the same?

I have a grudging respect for Thomas Sutpen. As a boy he was asked to deliver a message to a wealthy plantation owner in Virginia. He watched the plantation owner lying in a hammock with his shoes off while a slave fanned him. Thomas was asked to go to the backdoor to deliver his message. He will never forget the slight. He lays awake at night thinking about what he can do about it. He does a stint in the West Indies and comes back to the United States, specifically Mississippi, with blacks speaking a strange language. "He wasn't even a gentleman. He came here with a horse and two pistols and a name which nobody ever heard before, knew for certain was his own anymore than the horse was his own or even the pistols, seeking some place to hide himself.

Quentin Compson is the thread that sews the plot together. As Rosie Coldfield and his father and a host of other people tell him stories about Yoknapatawpha County his head becomes filled with a convoluted history of his birthplace. "Quentin had grown up with that; the mere names were interchangeable and almost myriad. His childhood was full of them; his very body was an empty hall echoing with sonorous defeated names; he was a being, an entity, he was a commonwealth."

Quentin spends more time with Rosie Coldfield than he really wants to, but she has memories that he needs to hear to fill in the gaps of the story in his head. "Quentin....sitting in the buggy beside the implacable doll-sized old woman clutching her cotton umbrella, smelling the heat-distilled old woman=flesh, the heat-distilled camphor in the old fold-creases of the shawl, feeling exactly like an electric bulb blood and skin since the buggy disturbed not enough air to cool him with motion, created not enough motion within him to make his skin sweat."

The families who have lived in this county in Mississippi for generations are also the same people who regarded this new comer, Thomas Sutpen, with bemusement. When he successfully rooked a drunken Indian out of some land they clucked about that, but then as he continued to gain influence and wealth, building a comfortable living out of nothing; they started to worry. This opportunity had been there for them their whole lives, but it took a man with daring from outside the county to see the potential (or have the immorality to make it happen). He took a wife descended from a good family and the community showed their disapproval by not showing up to the wedding. Undaunted, barely noticing that the community had turned against him, Thomas Sutpen forged forward siring a son and a daughter and building the life for himself he had coveted as a boy in Virginia.

The Civil War happens. Almost every able man is called up to serve. Thomas's son Henry is away from school and has become friends with Charles Bon who because of the encouragement of his mother has, at the advanced age of 28, decided to go back to school. He meets up with Henry and as the plot advances we find out that Charles Bon is Henry's half brother. Charles becomes engaged to Henry's sister Judith and of course she is also his half sister. As you might expect this causes much consternation in the family.

I really didn't think that Charles loved Judith. "It was not Judith who was the object of Bon's love or of Henry's solicitude. She was just the blank shape, the empty vessel in which each of them strove to preserve, not the illusion of himself nor his illusion of the other but what each conceived the other to believe him to be-the man and the youth, seducer and seduced who had known one another, seduced and been seduced, victimised in turn each by the other, conquerer vanquished by his own strength, vanquished conquering by his own weakness." I think he saw Judith as the only way of achieving his own birthright.

The story is much larger than what I've touched on here. The book is riddled with incredible passages that would balloon this review up to megalithic proportions if I were to share them all with you. The layers of the story are frustrating and magnificent. I equate this book to going to a family reunion and spending time with a great aunt, an uncle, and a grandparent and asking them each the same question. The story is told with lots of repetitiousness because the narrators know a lot of the same information; and yet, from each storyteller is gleaned a few more nuggets because each person who is solicited for the story has a unique perspective and is in possession of different pieces of the life puzzle.

I had moments where I wanted to deconstruct this story, strain out all the redundant information and write this story out in a linear fashion, but then it wouldn't be a masterpiece. It would just be another book telling a story about a slice of Southern history. By writing this book, this way, Faulkner not only preserved a piece of Southern history, but also preserved the tradition of Southern oral storytelling.

I found that I read this book best late at night after my family was in bed and the only sound that I could hear were the goldfish coming up for air in our fish tank. I would always begin reading intending to only read a chapter, but once I landed in Jefferson, Mississippi I was soon caught up in the intricacies of the writer's web. I found myself reading chapter after chapter as if Faulkner's hand was giving me a gentle push to continue.

"Well, Kernel, they kilt us but they aint whupped us yit air they?"

I know this book is difficult, but my suggestion is to find a quiet place, while reading this book, so that you can achieve almost a zen like focus. If you can relax enough you might find yourself sitting on the porch with Quentin and hearing the Southern cadences of the voices of the people narrating this tale. Sometimes we all just need to let people tell us a story.

Bonus points to those that can actually smell the "wistaria".


If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews46 followers
October 18, 2021
(Book 622 from 1001 books) - Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner (1897 - 1962)

Absalom, Absalom! is a novel by the American author William Faulkner, first published in 1936. Taking place before, during, and after the Civil War, it is a story about three families of the American South, with a focus on the life of Thomas Sutpen.

Epic tale of Thomas Sutpen, an enigmatic stranger who comes to Jefferson, Mississippi, in the early 1830's to wrest his mansion out of the muddy bottoms of the north Mississippi wilderness.

Quentin Compson and Shreve, his Harvard roommate, are obsessed by the tragic rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen.

As a poor white boy, Sutpen was turned away from a plantation owner's mansion by a Negro butler.

From then on , he was determined to force his way into the upper echelons of Southern society.

His relentless will ensured his ambitions were soon realized; land, marriage, children, his own troop to fight in the Civil War...but Sutpen returns from the conflict to find his estate in ruins and his family collapsing.

Secrets from his own past threaten to ruin the lives of his children and destroy everything he has worked for.

ابشالوم، ابشالوم - ویلیام فاکنر (نیلوفر)ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دهم ماه آوریل سال 2000میلادی

عنوان: ابشالوم، ابشالوم؛ اثر: ویلیم فاکنر؛ مترجم: صالح حسینی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، نیلوفر، 1378، در 414ص، شابک 9644480864؛ چاپ دوم 1382، موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

کتاب از دیدگاه موضوع و سرگذشت، به رمان دیگر «فاکنر»، با عنوان «خشم و هیاهو»، بستگی پیدا میکند؛ زیرا «کوئنتین کامپسون»، در این داستان، نقش بازجوی اصلی را بازی میکند، در حالیکه در رمان پیشین، ایشان خودکشی میکند؛ «آبشالوم»! از شاهکار پیشین «فاکنر» دور میشود، و با روشنای دیگری، برخی از مسائل فلسفی را بازمیگوید؛ چیزی که بهتر از هرچیز میتواند همین کتاب را معرفی کند، شکل مارپیچ آرامی است، که با ایست های ناگهانی کوتاه، در بگذشته، اندک اندک فراختر میشود، و سرانجام به افسانه، و سپس به اساطیر یا همان افسانه های کهن میپیوندد؛ «آبشالومی» که بر پدرش «داوود» میتازد تا پادشاهی وی را به زیر کشد

کمتر رمان همدوره ای، تا این اندازه بازتاب متاقیزیکی داشته، و بی زیاده روی میتوان گفت، که پهلوان راستین داستان «آبشالوم»! زمان است؛ هوش سرشار و بیمانند نویسنده، از این جستجوی همراه با دودلی، پوشانیده شده، و گاه آزار دهنده، رمانی پلیسی به هستی آورده، که در آن همه چیز، از اندیشه تا رخدادها، از مهربانی تا دریافتنها، به گویش مورد پسند «فاکنر»، «مادی» شده اند؛ پهلوان داستان، چهل سال پیشتر، در روزی از ماه سپتامبر سال1909میلادی درگذشته است؛ «کوئنتین» در دعای گشایش، نخستین عناصر خبری را، از دهان «کولدفیلد» پیر، که از راویان چهارگانه است، دریافت میکند؛ و ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 11/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 25/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
December 29, 2018
How am I to put all the pain of this novel into a review?

The pain of the suffering characters? The pain of the reader suffering with them? There were moments when I felt I couldn't take it anymore, when the carefully built puzzle added another piece to the beautifully decorated and carefully furnished hellscape.

What makes you able to talk about that kind of pain, then, I could ask, following the path of Quentin and Shreve, the two dialogue partners who preside over the story in the story, trying to carve out truth in the muddle of prejudice, pride, hatred and occasional passion (mostly unaccompanied by love)?

Anger, I'd say.

Anger at the fact that a monster like Sutpen can walk the earth, admired as a godlike creature by the people who share his racist and misogynist revenge and entitlement thinking. Anger that he has the power to put children into the world - to CREATE like an evil mirror of the Creator of the Southern religion - whose only purpose is for his "glory and honour" to be perpetuated in a pure, male line. Female descendants don't count, and neither do sons if they have any trace of African American ancestry. Some women are just about good enough to give pleasure if the occasion arises, but their children are not even good enough to acknowledge their existence in front of the world.

Anger drove me, and one quote broke my heart: "So it's the miscegenation, not the incest, which you can't bear?".

As did the fate of Milly Jones and her baby GIRL! A human being, for Goodness Sake. No, not a vessel of Sutpen genes lacking y-chromosomes! Sutpen differs from his biblical source in that his heart is not broken like that of David confronted with Absalom's death. He is merely offended in his right to perpetuate his meaningless string of genes in a line of white-only male gorillas.

He pushed one old man over the edge and found his end in the most suitable way. His curse lives on, and on, and on, way beyond the magnetic closing lines, answering the question put to Quentin, why he hates the South:

"I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark; I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!"

Repeating the mantra in the same way a desperately caring person says: "I don't care, I don't care, I don't care!"

But we do, and therefore books like this hurt. A lot.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
468 reviews3,253 followers
February 18, 2020
A great writer William Faulkner was, winner of the Nobel Prize yet not an easy read....This novel the name comes from the Bible could be his best, shows this. Seemingly just another southern Gothic book with erratic flashback after flashback revealing the truth ...layer by layer maybe, set both before and after the American Civil War 1861-1865, North against South... (620,000 soldiers died ) with different characters narrating the confusing story of Thomas Sutpen. A dirt poor man from what will become West Virginia leaving his family at 14, traveling to find a better life walking mostly across southern states and arriving in the fictional sleepy hamlet of Jefferson, Mississippi in 1833 at the age of 25. Not welcomed by the local population, trust never is given to the aloof stranger doesn't matter to the ambitious man wealth does, that is all to him. Mr. Sutpen is tired of poverty nothing can stand between his goal of riches even if a few get hurt... Somehow buying (stealing) a hundred square miles of Indian land "Sutpen's Hundred," his plantation. Having a few slaves he builds a large mansion but no furniture or windows money has gone, years later he does have and marries Ellen Coldfield , daughter of his only friend Goodhue Coldfield a small shop owner. Love match it is not, he wants respectability she a big house to run and impress the town, still there are secrets never talked about by decent people. Born to the unhappy couple are Henry and younger sister by two years Judith, crimes are committed by this family. Henry attends the new University of Mississippi at Oxford, later to be called ironically Ole Miss and meets Charles Bon, a few years older from New Orleans, becomes his best friend, nonetheless he is connected somehow to him. Taking Charles back home to Jefferson, he soon becomes unofficially engaged to Judith. This makes the mother Ellen ecstatic , Thomas her father isn't...why? The future couple strangely are quite calm, there must be a reason. But first war begins a glorious adventure for the young, cheers, congratulations naturally Henry and Charles join and battle together... disillusionment succeeded it. The old patriarch Thomas is made a Colonel in the rebel army too, fighting very bravely he never lacked courage not one of his many sins... The book will bore some, even irritate others but there is no denying its magnificence for those willing to read this.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews841 followers
October 18, 2015
Absalom, Absalom!--William Faulkner's Novel of the Death of the Old South

Considered by many Faulkner scholars to be his masterpiece, Absalom, Absalom! was read by goodreads group "On the Southern Literary Trail" in April, 2012.


And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! Second Samuel, 18:33, King James Version

Interestingly enough, Absalom, Absalom! and Gone with the Wind were both published in 1936. Both were novels of the Old South. However, while Margaret Mitchell chose to romanticize that society, William Faulkner removed any element of fanciful romance from the story revolving around the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen, a man with a design to found a patriarchal dynasty, but who lost everything in his attempt to do.

Faulkner originally titled his novel, "Dark House," but as he wrote his complex story adopted the story of King David and his son Absalom as a more appropriate fit with the figure of Thomas Sutpen and his family. This was a novel that Faulkner struggled with through false starts, interruptions with his work as a screenwriter for Howard Hawks, and the death of his younger brother Dean who died in a plane crash in 1935. Further, his initial submissions to his publisher were returned to him as being confusing and incapable of being understood.

Faulkner's premise for Sutpen's story is no one person is capable of knowing what truth is. History is an amalgam of documentation, memory, and the telling of it. One lawyer colleague of mine has as his motto, "Perception is reality." For the reader of "Absalom, Absalom!" it is quite similar to being a member of a jury, listening to the testimony of multiple witnesses, weighing their demeanor, their testimony, their biases and prejudices, viewing the exhibits, and ultimately, as a group determining what is the truth of the case tried before them.

Faulkner had his characters and story in mind. His problem was how to tell the story of Thomas Sutpen and the lives of his children which occurred in the past by characters in the ostensible present of the novel. Among his working papers was a flow chart showing the sources of information and the basis of how his characters knew what they did. At the top was Thomas Sutpen, originally named Charles. From Sutpen, a line flowed to Rosa Colfield, who would be Sutpen's sister-in-law. Another line flowed to the right to General Compson, his only apparent friend, to his son Quentin Compson II. In the center at the bottom of the working page is Quentin Compson III, whom we originally meet in The Sound and the Fury. Quentin is linked to Sutpen by his direct connection to Rosa Colfield who tells the story from her perspective, and from information passed down to him by his grandfather and father. Quentin emerges as the central thread from whom we learn the "evidence" of the case of Thomas Sutpen. Then, in a masterstroke of structure, Faulkner provides the reader with Quentin's Harvard roommate, Shreve McCannon, an outsider, a Canadian, who provides questions and his own interpretation of the information Quentin provides him.

In essence, Faulkner's structure is much akin to eating an artichoke, peeling the delicate leaves from it, nipping the tender flesh from the base of the leaves, until we reach the unveiled heart, the ultimate delicacy, or in literary terms, what the reader discerns to be the truth.

Thomas Sutpen appears in Jefferson, Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, in 1833. He is a mystery. He is a man without a past, without a lineage. Nor is he forthcoming about where he has come from, or the source of his wealth that allows him to purchase one hundred square miles of land from Old Chickasaw Chief Ikkemotubbe. With him, Sutpen has a band of wild negro slaves who speak in a language unknown to the inhabitant's of Jefferson. Sutpen also carries with him a French architect who will design and direct the building of Sutpen's big house.

This information is provided by Rosa Colfield, the sister of Ellen, whom Sutpen courts in peremptory fashion. Referring to Sutpen as man-horse-demon, Rosa reveals her biases and prejudices against Sutpen. For it develops that prior to her death, Ellen had put the responsibility of protecting her children, Judith and Henry, when she is no longer alive. Sutpen will curtly propose to Rosa to become his second wife, but she will leave after being insulted by Sutpen for reasons that will be made considerably later in the novel.

Not only is reading "Absalom" a bit like dining on an artichoke, it is also very much like peeling an onion, layer after layer. Through Grandfather and Father Compson we learn that Sutpen had come from the mountains of western Virginia, from a poverty stricken family. Sutpen is turned away from a Tidewater Virginian's front door by a slave. This rejection will deepen Sutpen's desire to be as rich as any man. Sutpen becomes an overseer on a Haitian plantation. He puts down a slave revolt. He is awarded for bravery by being given the plantation owner's daughter in marriage. However, he puts her aside upon discovering that her complexion is not the result of a Spanish mother, but a black descendant. Not only does Sutpen put her aside, but his son by her. The thought of a marriage of miscegenation does not fit in with Sutpen's design to be landed gentry in Northern Mississippi.

Sutpen's downfall is foreshadowed by the appearance of Charles Bon, enrolled as a student in law at the infant College, Oxford. Bon becomes fast friends with Henry, who idolizes the elegant older man from New Orleans. That Bon meets Judith during a visit to Sutpen's plantation is inevitable. Sutpen's wife, Ellen, considers Bon to be Judith's future husband. However, it would appear that Bon has more desire for Henry than Judith. The homoerotic electricity of the relationship is palpable, though neither man ever indicates the occurrence of a sexual act.

The coming Civil war prevents resolution of Bon's relationship with Judith. Henry and Bon join the University Grays formed at Oxford and head to war, with the belief that all the South held that defeat was impossible. Sutpen also went to war as a General. His bravery is never at question. However, as a result of a talk with Henry regarding Bon, Henry repudiates his position as heir to the Sutpen holdings. Nevertheless, although he say he does not believe what his father has told him about Bon, which is never directly revealed to the reader, Henry hope that the war will resolve the issue of Bon's marriage to Judith. Perhaps the war will remove one or both of them, making any confrontation unnecessary. But it does not.

Is Charles Bon the son of Thomas Sutpen? How will Henry resolve the propriety of Bon's marriage to Judith since the war left them both survivors? And what of Thomas Sutpen's fate? What will come of Sutpen's One Hundred when it becomes part of a conquered nation? What secrets do Thomas Sutpen's house still hold that Rosa Colfield demands that Quentin ride with her to that dark house before he leaves the South to become a student at Harvard?

"Absalom, Absalom!" is Faulkner's pivotal novel of the death of the Old South. In it he leaves no doubt that he considered slavery to be the institution that condemned it and destroyed it. Shreve McCannon, the outsider, the neutral observer, the Canadian, astutely observes that the descendants of those that once held no freedom would rule the hemisphere.

Faulkner's opinion of "Absalom, Absalom!" was, "I think it's the best novel yet written by an American." Random House, headed by Bennet Cerf, was excited by the novel, stating on the jacket that it was Faulkner's most "important and ambitious contribution to American literature." The novel was released October 26, 1936.

Typical of literary criticism of the time, Faulkner remained their favorite whipping boy. Clifton Fadiman, writing for The New Yorker/ said the novel was consistently boring, that he didn't know why Faulkner wrote it, and that he didn't understand it. Harold Strauss, writing for the New York Times said that "its unreadable prose should be left to those who like puzzles." Faulkner's Early Literary Reputation In America by O.B. Emerson, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan (1984)

What the critics of the 1930s did not recognize was that Faulkner had discovered modernist techniques already used by Woolf, Conrad, Kafka, and Joyce. Today, typical analysis of "Absalom" is that its sole competitors in contemporary American literature are Dreiser's An American Tragedy and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. William Faulkner: American Writer: A Biography, Frederick R. Karl, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, New York, New York, 1989, page 582.

I'd say Karl is right. And as for prose for people who like puzzles, think of peeling all those leaves off that artichoke. That succulent heart, dipped into drawn butter is worth the work.

Profile Image for Renato.
36 reviews142 followers
December 16, 2015
Starting to read Absalom, Absalom! might feel, at first, like walking into your friends having an important conversation but, because you missed the first half of it, you can’t tell whom it’s about and why they sound so absorbed by it - and they’re so concentrated that they can’t and won’t listen to you requesting that they please start over. All you can do is try to make sense of the clues and signs you’re able to grasp and try to figure out for yourself - at least for the time being - bits of the narrative. Of course, you could also excuse yourself and give them some privacy - but you’d be missing out on a great book.

Like the making of a pearl: mollusks depositing calcium carbonate in concentric layers, as a defense mechanism, against a potentially threatening irritant (such as a parasite inside the shell, or even a grain of sand in rare cases), isolating it from their mantle folds. That’s how I like to imagine William Faulkner wrote this novel: he idealized the plot and his characters, and then realized something tragic would have to happen to them that would be their demise - the threatening irritant: a crime - and instead of telling his tale conventionally, he slowly protected and isolated it with layers and layers of different perspectives from various unreliable narrators. In how many different ways can the same story be told? Can each one of these (co)exist on their own?

There are mainly four people - Rosa Coldfield, father and son Jason and Quentin Compson and Shreve McCannon, the latter’s roommate - in this quest of trying to understand and ultimately make sense of what they’ve heard about the events that took place over the course of a century, as the fates of the Sutpen, Coldfield and Bon families are encapsulated from the 1800’s until the early 1900’s.

Each one of these four voices - which at some point are all narrators of the story - have some knowledge of what happened in certain periods of time. Part of that knowledge, though, is pure guessing or interpretations based on their own points of view, and so it’s up to us - who are reading a story from someone who’s heard of a story from others - to be careful as to what we can assume as fact or merely personal conclusion. While Miss Rosa, who's emotionally involved and was a living part of the tragedy, fuels her narrative with sentimentality and bias, Mr. Compson relies on a hear-and-say account, since he’s heard it all from his own father; Quentin and Shreve approach the subject more objectively - in black and white, ironically one might say considering this particular book -, just summarizing all the information they’d obtained from several sources, while still trying to attribute what were the underlying reasons in all of the character’s actions.

The novel’s plot is basically about the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen, a poor white man who has a project for his life since he was a teenager: to have a big mansion, a family and heirs to carry out his name. Arriving in Jefferson, Mississippi, he is able to obtain some land and through the course of a few years, builds up his sumptuous mansion. The next step is to find a wife: Ellen Coldfield, a local woman, whom he marries and gives him two children: Henry and Judith. It all seems to be working accordingly to his plans until Henry, who’s now in the University, brings home for Christmas his fellow student and best friend Charles Bon, whom Ellen Coldfield hopes will marry her daughter. The simple possibility of this wedding brings drastic consequences to the lives of the three families, and only through analyzing their past we can begin to comprehend why an unexpected killing took place and how that altered Sutpen’s schemes and how he felt he would have to try again.

Completing the merits of the book, Faulkner gives us beautiful and interesting analogies, long Proustian sentences and uses a lot of visual elements to portray the character’s feelings, and he’s still able to assign unique ways in which all of his storytellers can express themselves and stand on their own as singular voices. Not in all passages appears to be an obvious narrator, but through paying attention to detail and getting acquainted with their manners, it’ll be easier to identify whose voice it is you hear.

Rating: while the story is in fact very interesting and keeps you curious until the end to find out what really happened to the families involved and begging for a reliable narrator who will just lay out all the cards for you, the innovations in style and the narratives Faulkner employed here are what really grabbed my attention and impressed me the most. I found Absalom, Absalom! so well crafted and written that I just couldn’t help but wonder more than a couple of times “how did he ever idealized something like this?” For that: 5 stars, no less.
Profile Image for Richard.
Author 4 books443 followers
February 10, 2017
Have you ever looked at one of Picasso's abstract females? You know the ones I mean. The woman has a head in which the prominently jutting nose splits the face into two sections with violently contrasting colours. Other body parts, hugely disproportionate, seem to bulge and dangle everywhere. You contemplate it for a while, shake your perfectly symmetrical head, put your elegantly tapered fingers pensively to your shapely chin, and think, "There's a human being in there somewhere. I can see all the body parts. But why does it look so incredibly bizarre?"

Well, that's sort of how I felt reading this novel. If I had to sum it up in one phrase it would be: Convoluted, convoluted!

Mind you, I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from trying this. I'm told by those in the nose know that it's much better on a second reading. If I went back to the Picasso, maybe all those skewed arms and legs and, well, you know, other things would shift around and suddenly look like a regular human being. And if I go back to the Faulkner, maybe all those characters, fragments, flashbacks, rehashings, and long drawn out italicized monologues will shift around and suddenly make sense like a regular novel.

I don't know, though, whether I'll ever go back. But that's just me.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
October 21, 2021
I think every reader of Faulkner has a moment like this:




Wait … what?? Did I miss something?

(Goes back a couple of pages)




What?? No, I didn’t miss anything but what in the hell is he talking about???

A more experienced reader will know to be patient, observant and what is immediately read as a mystery will make sense further along in the book.


Considered by many scholars to be his masterpiece, Absalom, Absalom!, his 1936 publication, as does most of his best writing, challenges the reading skill of his reader. Telling the story of Thomas Sutpen, an early settlor in Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, the magic of the book is in the way the story is told, with multiple chroniclers of Sutpen’s history and with the various storytellers varying the story told and even commenting upon each other’s narration.

Quentin Compson (who we met in Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury), Quentin’s father, his grandfather (a contemporary of Sutpen’s) and Quentin’s aunt, as well as Quentin’s Harvard roommate Shreve, all join in on the tale of how Sutpen, born into poverty in Western Virginia in the 1820s, made his way from the West Indies to Jefferson, to found a sprawling plantation and a short lived dynasty.

Most notable here is Faulkner’s exploration of the relationship between truth and myth. Behind the several narrators to this tale of the Sutpen family is Faulkner himself, guiding the tales told and in doing so reveals to us the reader of all the stories the myriad and tangled streams of truth and speculation. There are first person accounts, secondhand news, hearsay and wild assumption. All this leading to the cold morning in Massachusetts where Quentin, himself not long for this world, struggles with his own feelings for the South he knows and the South in which he was made to believe. A careful reader will then, perhaps, re-examine his own rationale for belief and in a more universal sense, reevaluate ideas about truth and the veracity of legend. There is the truth, the truth we can know and the truth someone wants us to believe. Faulkner’s revelation about miscegenation exposes the absurdity of racism.

Absolutely one of his best if not his finest work.

Profile Image for s.penkevich.
964 reviews6,810 followers
April 28, 2021
A favorite in college days and can be summed up as your weird roommate a few beers deep insisting “so everything ended up fucking terrible and it was a horrible disaster but I want to impress upon you that I want to believe they meant well?” Also cool uses of punctuation.
74 reviews27 followers
July 7, 2007
I would marry this book if our proud nation didn't define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
March 27, 2017
Ένα παραμύθι με Διονυσιακό πνεύμα και ακαθόριστο προορισμό.
Τόσο ακαθόριστο, πολύπλοκο και πυκνό στο πέρασμα του που στην αρχή δημιουργεί δέος και μετά σε τρομάζει.
Είναι μια καθαρά αρχαιοελληνική τραγωδία τοποθετημένη στην καρδιά του Αμερικανικού νότου με το πέρασμα του εμφυλίου.
Οι πρωταγωνιστές ουσιώδεις και ασυμβίβαστοι συνειδησιακά,υποφέρουν,βασανίζονται,ταπεινώνονται και κρίνονται μέσα σε απανωτές εκρήξεις ορθολογισμού.

Αυτά τα πλάσματα για τα οποία γράφει με διφορούμενη μαεστρία ο συγγραφέας υπερβαίνουν την κοινή αντίληψη.

Ίσως μέσα σε αυτή την επιβλητική εναλλαγή λυρισμού και αφήγησης να έχασα την κρισιμότητα και την μεγαλοπρέπεια των πράξεων τους και δεν κατάφερα να τους προσεγγίσω πλήρως.
Δεν τους άφησα απο απροσεξία ίσως,να ακουμπήσουν την καρδιά μου. Να με κυριεύσουν, να με συνεπάρουν. Μου γύρισαν την πλάτη εντοπίζοντας μου μια προσληπτική ανικανότητα για τα ανείπωτα.

Αντιλήφθηκα μια εναρμόνιση στοιχείων που παραπέμπουν στην ένωση λογικής και συναισθήματος.

Ένιωσα την συνύπαρξη-μέσα σε ψυχές που καθόριζαν τη δημιουργία- πόνου,πάθους,πολιτισμού και πρωτόγονης φύσης. Το θαύμα της αρχαιότητας. Το μεγαλειώδες δράμα τους. Ως εκεί.

Οι πράξεις τους απόλυτα οριακές ανάμεσα στην ονειροπόληση και την πραγματικότητα, ειναι εξαντλητικές,φοβερές και επικίνδυνες. Ματαιόδοξες. Ανάλγητες.
Αιωρούνται χορεύοντας με Διονυσιακό οίστρο ανάμεσα στο καλό και το κακό. Στην αρετή και την ευτέλεια. Στο φως και το σκοτάδι. Φαίνονται οικίες και ανθρώπινες κοινές πράξεις μα δεν είναι...Έχουν κίνητρα γενετήσια κρυφά και τρομακτικά.
Δρομολογημένα στον μοναδικό προορισμό τους. Την τραγωδία. Την αντιστράτευση της παρόρμησης.

Ο αναγνώστης δεν θα νιώσει οίκτο ούτε συμπόνοια. Το δράμα που υπερβαίνει τους πρωταγωνιστές είναι η κατάληξη της εμπειρίας που διάλεξαν να ζήσουν.
Το αξίζουν... Το υπερασπίζονται. Το διαχειρίζονται. Ίσως και να οδηγούνται στην πύρινη κάθαρση οικειοθελώς.

Συνομωτούν με το μοιραίο. Γεννούν τον μυστικισμό. Εμποδίζουν τη λογική και εκπορθούν τη φαντασία μας που μένει απροστάτευτη σε κάθε λογής επίθεση.

Ο Φώκνερ ορμάει. Δαγκώνει. Αιφνιδιάζει και αποτελειώνει το θύμα του με δηλητηριώδεις λογοτεχνικές και εξαντλητικές διαδικασίες.
Γράφει μια πυκνή λογοτεχνική αγωνία και την ταράζει εναλλακτικά απο υπαρξιακή εξάντληση και επιδιωκόμενη απορία.

Ω! Αβεσσαλώμ Αβεσσαλώμ γιατί να σε διαβάσω νηφάλια; ( ρητορική ερώτηση ).

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Άπειρους ασπασμούς!
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews532 followers
June 6, 2020
"You can't understand it. You would have to be born there."
Absalom, Absalom!, Quentin Compson (referencing the South)
[revised 5/9/17]

The story of Thomas Sutpen, a poor white man born into poverty in West Virginia who arrives in north Mississippi in 1830 with a few slaves and a French architect. He buys 100 square miles of land from a Native American tribe which he calls the "Sutpen Hundred" and builds a gaudy mansion. He plans to become rich and create a family dynasty. By the early 1860s, he has a son Henry and a daughter Judith. Henry strikes up a close friendship with Charles Bon, a guy 10 years his senior, while attending the University of Mississippi. Upon bringing him home, Henry and Judith begin the quiet cha-cha and become engaged before Henry and Charles go off to join the Confederate Army and fight in the Civil War.

Private Sutpen's commanding officer, Colonel Angus

Sutpen discovers that Charles is his son born from an earlier marriage in the French West Indies to the plantation owner's daughter, who he abandons after learning that she was a Creole (mixed race). He tells Judith she cannot marry Charles because he's her half-brother and is part black.

Best not to give away any more, other than to say the novel details the sordid rise and fall of the bizarre and mad Sutpen family and, allegorically, the South, and also that the title refers to King David's beloved third son Absalom who rebelled against the Kingdom of Israel and was killed by David's commander Joab.
"...surely there is something in madness, even the demoniac, which Satan flees, aghast at his own handiwork, and which God looks on in pity..." Absalom, Absalom!
The complex, fractured narrative makes for a tough read. The story is told in flashbacks, mostly by Quentin Compson to his Harvard roomie, and through the narratives of Rosa Coldfield of her knowledge and remembrances of the events and of Quentin's dad and granddad. The onion is gradually peeled by the disclosure of events, in a non-chronological order and according to the biases and attitudes of the narrators, such that the reader reconstructs the truth through different narrators. For example, Miss Coldfield was the sister-in-law of Sutpen, and despised him, so her memory is slanted and her digressions unbearably long. In fact, this novel contains, at least at one time according to Guinness Book of World Records, the "Longest Sentence in Literature," a sentence 1,288 words long. Moreover, I had a really difficult time suspending my disbelief that Miss Rosa Coldfield or Quentin had a lexicon along the lines of a philosophy professor at Harvard.

A panel of Southern lit scholars and writers voted this the best Southern novel of all time (Oxford Am., 8/27/09). I cannot disagree; when I read it a few years back I was lost for about half the novel, at a time when I didn't have the time to look up half the words in Webster's which would take up a month reading a 320 page novel. I can give you a better idea if I ever have time to read it again.
Profile Image for amin akbari.
301 reviews128 followers
January 31, 2022
به نام او

اثری دیگر از خالق شاهکارهایی چون خشم و هیاهو و گور به گور
ویلیام فاکنر برای من نویسنده بسیار بزرگیست تا به اندازه ای که اگر بخواهم پس از دو غول روس تالستوی و داستایفسکی نویسنده دیگری را انتخاب کنم بی تردید اوست.

دنیایی که فاکنر میسازد پیچیده است در عین ساده بودن. پیچیدگی داستانهای او درونی ست درون شخصیتهاست نه موقعیتها موقعیتها آنچنان پیچیده نیست ولی مواجهه افراد (شخصیتهایی که اغلب عجیب هستند) با آن سبب پیچیده تر شدن داستان میشود به همین خاطر شخصیت سازی های او کم نظیر است و این همان چیزی ست که او به خوبی از داستایفسکی آموخته است.

و اما آبشالوم آبشالوم، این رمان بار دیگر مرا در موقعیت ایالت افسانه ای فاکنر یوکتاپاتافا قرار داد و بار دیگر مرا با آدمهای عجیب و غریب و موقعیتهای بغرنج روبرو کرد. نیازی که هرچند وقت یکبار خوش دارم بر خود تحمیل کنم همان کاری که با داستانهای داستایفسکی میکنم هرچند وقت یکبار دوست دارم آزار ببینم اذیت شوم و در چنین موقعیتهایی قرار بگیرم. باری ولی آنچنان که آن دو شاهکار یاد شده برای من لذت بخش بودند آبشالو آبشالوم نبود. به نظرم پیچیدگی فرم آنچنان که باید توجیه داستانی نداشت حداقل به اندازه ای که در شاهکاری چون خشم و هیاهو دارد گویا فاکنر هرچه که سالخورد میشود بیشتر به صناعت رو میآورد و کمی به تکنیکها و فنون خود غره شده و کمتر حواسش به این هست که اصلا ضرورت دارد که در اینجا داستان را بپیچانم یا خیر، بگذریم

در آخر اینکه صالح حسینی مترجم محبوب من نیست ولی نمیتوانم اعتراف نکنم که ترجمه اش از این کتاب بسیار خوب بود و از آن لذت بردم :)
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews664 followers
May 19, 2014
Its incredibly tempting to start this review with one long run-on sentence, with plenty of punctuation, but no periods, and particularly not apostrophes when youre dealing with words like "dont," but I find refraining from apostrophes incredibly difficult and everything I've written just looks wrong (but this is a hypnotic writing style after you've - dammit! - read it for a while, and to me, sounds like a horse's - I give up! - gallop, although I did find it slightly irritating that every single narrator (there are at least four) has exactly the same long sentences and cadence, which does seem to strain credulity, yet once you get sucked into the writing, it's hard to extricate yourself.)

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,731 followers
March 31, 2017
“That is the substance of remembering—sense, sight, smell: the muscles with which we see and hear and feel not mind, not thought: there is no such thing as memory: the brain recalls just what the muscles grope for: no more, no less; and its resultant sum is usually incorrect and false and worthy only of the name of dream.”
― William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!


As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury are probably more important, and perhaps more influential overall. However, as novels, I prefer Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!. In many ways this novel, for me, belongs next to Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Great Gatsby, and a handful of other as some of the greatest written art America has ever produced. It captures, without over-doing it, issues of race, class, the American Dream, the South, family, memory, etc., all packed inside a nearly perfect novel that slowly unwinds and unwraps through multiple, unreliable narrators. I will need to come back to this review. I may also need to come back to this novel. It is that good.
36 reviews10 followers
September 25, 2007
I was nearly stammering when I finished it. It is a text so thick, so full of beauty that to describe it at all is daunting.

first of all, Faulkner is always doing things like this:
“He was a barracks filled with stubborn back-looking ghosts still recovering, even forty-three years afterward, from the fever which had cured the disease, waking from the fever without even knowing that it had been the fever itself which they had fought against and not the sickness, looking with stubborn recalcitrance backward beyond the fever and into the disease with actual regret, weak from the fever yet free of the disease and not even aware that the freedom was that of impotence.”

He keeps doing THAT. It isn't even a great example, as I don't have the book (borrowed to read) on hand to find a really knock-you-down passage.

Alright, review, gather your facilities!

This narrative is relentless, it is a constantly roiling spiral, one that keeps picking up and dropping off details and elements as it grows wider. There is a submission to the narrative that must occur, similar, but much more difficult, to the submission required to get through the opening 50-60 pages of As I Lay Dying, except that this one takes about 200 pages to settle in fully, and instead of confusion, every moment of the reading is stunning and engaging up until that point, then after crossing into the rhythm and cadence and gaining fuller comprehension you are suddenly frightfully stuck with Quentin in the devastating heart of the South and Sutpen and Quentin and Caddy and the war and so many other pieces of this mosaic, this vast terrible mosaic Faulkner is finally able to fully articulate.

Sutpen is the disease, he holds himself up as a mirror to his contemporaries without conscience, they in turn are disgusted by him, his nudity, his wild niggers, his windowless mansion, yet they are fascinated by him, Sutpen is kept close, nearly from the start in one capacity or another to his southern gentlemen counterparts.

Yet, this is a love story, as Salinger wrote in Franny and Zooey "pure and complicated" And in a sense I think that is the most important part, that these multi-page sentences, the spiraling plot, the description and re-description and re-description again of the very air surrounding the events of the story are the closest I have ever seen to being wholly purely, truly, complicated. It's as if his layering and re-layering and re-re-layering and his endlessly unfolding and stacking metaphors are the ONLY way for Quentin, and for us, the readers, to understand the South, and to understand Quentin's desperate self-loathing and destructiveness, and Caddy, and Henry and Bon and Judith and etc...

Then elements of the story that connect with the lineage of Agamemnon are also fascinating and incredible, and I don't really understand most of them, so I recommend coming in better prepared then I was.

I would only recommend this to someone who has read at least 3 other faulkners - I did As I lay Dying, Sound and the Fury Unvanquished then this one. I think Sound and the Fury is necessary BEFORE Absalom. I will be going on to read the rest now...god help me.
Profile Image for Jill.
31 reviews12 followers
May 25, 2007
i feel like i'm supposed to give this a higher rating, and maybe the next time i read it i will. it was a dense and thorny thicket, and i flogged myself through it with the conviction that it must be good for me, since it's faulkner, and faulkner is good for us -- and while i still believe that it was good for me i can't claim that i loved it. i read more out of a sense of obligation than desire, which is not usually the most productive motivation to read a novel. sentence for sentence, it is virtuosic. really, utterly astonishing: there were moments of breathlessness, i must confess. what he does with language is stunning. the core story, a family tragedy designed to epitomize the degradation and fall of the american south, is examined from multiple angles, retold from multiple perspectives as the novel unfolds, but it's cryptic and complicated in a way that shut me out ... i guess the problem is that i had a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. the characters are of mythic proportion who speak in epic gothic faulknerian prose, and theirs is a tragedy of incest, miscegenation, bone-deep racism, desecration, and the structure is nonlinear and intricate ... and it was hard to sustain committed interest. i stuck with it for the sentences and gleaned a sense of the story. honestly, somewhere toward the middle, i had to read an online plot summary to string it together. one day, when i'm smarter, i'll read it again.
Profile Image for Sandra.
923 reviews264 followers
December 8, 2015
Come si fa a commentarlo? Avevo letto Luce d’agosto, epico, grandioso, biblico. Molto meno ostico rispetto ad “ Assalonne, Assalonne!”, un romanzo che obbliga a non distrarti, a fare la massima attenzione ai salti temporali che portano a spasso avanti e indietro nel tempo, che ti costringe a leggere senza prendere respiro i periodi lunghissimi inframezzati di incisi e di parentesi su parentesi, con una scrittura ricchissima, lirica, vorticosa, che avvolge il lettore come il cobra viene incantato dal fachiro, ed ogni volta torni indietro a rileggere, ogni volta cerchi di individuare chi sia il narratore, di chi sia il punto di vista da cui la storia è narrata, e poi ti ritrovi a rileggere dello stesso personaggio e delle medesime vicende che già lo scrittore aveva anticipato pagine prima…. Insomma,è stata una grandissima fatica leggerlo, compensata dalla stupenda sensazione alla fine, quella di aver letto un capolavoro.
Alla fine è chiaro: è il sangue l’elemento che lega ogni personaggio della saga dei Sutpen, il sangue malato che si trasmette geneticamente a partire da Tomas Sutpen, capostitpite venuto dalle montagne della Virginia da una misera famiglia di origini anglo-scozzesi ed arriva nel Mississippi con un solo scopo, creare una stirpe che riproduca il suo sangue immacolato. Attraverso le vicende di Tomas Sutpen, su cui incombe un senso di tragica fatalità, e della sua famiglia, dei figli Henry e Judith, dell’enigmatico Charles Bon, che solo nel finale si scoprirà come uno dei personaggi più tragici, quello che mi ha ricordato il Joe Christmas di Luce d’agosto, nel cui sangue i diversi geni che lo compongono trasportano anche una ridda di emozioni contrastanti, viviamo le passioni palpitanti e violente di personaggi che si stagliano indimenticabili, quali i protagonisti della tragedia greca, destinati alla sconfitta, perché il sangue che scorre nelle vene della stirpe dei Sutpen è un sangue guasto, ormai putrefatto, dissoltosi così come si è dissolto il vecchio mondo, quello del Sud degli Stati Uniti, dopo la tragica guerra di secessione.
Un libro sterminato, non catalogabile, di cui si può egualmente dire “bellissimo” come “ma chi me l’ha fatto fare”; senza dubbio un’opera d’arte grandiosa.
Profile Image for Alan.
470 reviews212 followers
June 23, 2021
“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses a moment of experience from which to look ahead.” Graham Greene’s opening line for his book The End of the Affair kept circling around in my head as I read Absalom, Absalom!. Not just the arbitrary selection of a point along the linear momentum of a story, but also the arbitrary selection of point of view. Point of view, which may make or break a narrative, depending on the reader’s willingness to buy in. Absalom, Absalom! has point of view in abundance. I don’t believe any are inherently wrong. I am certain that none are entirely right.

Throughout this book walks a devilish driving force – a spinning, gyrating ball of mass and energy. This is Thomas Sutpen, the main character of the story. He has his own gravitational pull. He is (very much by design) right out of the Old Testament. He carries about him an aura of mystery and exclusivity so grand that wanting to know his entire life story is a natural, almost immediate response. Is he the eligible bachelor? Or is he the intruder upon the bucolic ways of the South? He comes, bringing with him very little by way of clothes and money. He has his sight set on something, and that may be a marriage, some property, a reputation, some vague idea of posterity, who knows. Well, I say who knows, but the answer to that is given differently by those who speak throughout the book. There it is, point of view. We hear about Sutpen from Rosa Coldfield, Shreve (my fellow compatriot, a child of snow and blizzards), Jason Compson, and Quentin Thompson. The latter two here are the very same characters we have come to know intimately from The Sound and the Fury. Everyone seems to have something to say, something that adds to the grand narrative of what Sutpen was about as a man, as we are recollecting his life in the past. Oh, and the omniscient voice drops in here and there to guide us along the way.

It would be very easy to read the Books of Samuel and come back, trying to place the characters of David, Tamar, Amnon, and Absalom in the characters on display in Absalom, Absalom!. If you, like me, have nothing more than a passing familiarity with most of the books in the Bible, I would keep it that way for the first read of Absalom, Absalom!. Reading the Books later and thinking about the story, potentially even coming back for a second read (I will be doing this a few times in the future), will only make you more awe-struck at the sheer magnitude of Faulkner’s accomplishments. He has managed to construct a 2x2 grid, framing a very particular tragedy around a very particular family, but in doing so, he has pored over every possible angle, every square inch, every detail, until that tragedy has thoroughly seeped through your skin and your soul, until you have become one with it and realized that it is alive in us all.

Allow me to set the picture before I rattle off some thoughts, and there are very many of them as one reads a book like this – one without many nods to punctuation. It is almost impossible to get the image of a plantation out of your head – this is what Sutpen’s Hundred is: a gargantuan, bigger-than-life estate built on the backs of slaves.

Faulknerian Plantation

It is here that Sutpen thinks – or maybe doesn’t think – to himself that he is beginning to understand the provincial nature of those he knows around him – those who may or may not accept him, those who hold him as an outsider at times and an insider at others, those who share that stare when he comes across – he thinks about the provincial nature of what makes him Thomas Sutpen, because by God, he feels himself responsible for taking a look at his views on determinism versus fatalism (that battle that may not seem like a battle but the young’uns will call the battle nonetheless, the battle that is more gossamer than hemp to the ones who have had the chance to look into it, have had the willpower to want to look into it, to spend time with it, to pry it apart, to become one with it, all the while questioning the integrity of their philosophical thoughts and the constructions of the structures around their lives, thinking about whether it is a set path when you come out of the womb, when you learn how to talk, walk, laugh, cry, run, play, grow, fall in love, live, endure, maintain, die, whether it is determined that one action leads to another in a pre-destined fashion, based on the rungs of the ladder of time that stretch into the past, but without a fate, without what you would call destiny, or whether it is known that you will talk when your mother smiles at you, walk when you decide you want to get to the toy that you threw across the room and crawling just won’t cut it anymore, laugh when you see your brother slip and fall, and you are laughing before you realize it and he is laughing at you laughing and the scene is beautiful because it is a scene paralyzed and suspended in time and maybe you will look back on it in the future when he has passed and all you have are the memories, but before then you are crying because you have stubbed a toe, you are running because that is what it feels like to have the wind play its harmonies across your eardrums, you play with whatever you are given, transcending the mere moving and throwing from the crib of times past, you grow and fall in love with it being practically known that you will have 3 kids, 2 of whom you will love with more than every single cell of your body, but the third will rebel, the third will be against you, the third will threaten to destroy the very thing you have called your life in front of your very eyes, so that love becomes a concept you fight over and fight about with and without yourself, and one day when you are starting to realize that you have got a hang of this circus and know its ultimate destination you drop – this is fatalism); fatalism is something Sutpen does not believe, perhaps, but he knows that determinism is a thing he has to believe. Agamemnon and Clytemnestra and a thousand other such characters from the mind of Aeschylus fly figure-eights around the scene, as it is apparent that antiquity drips down the walls and pillars of Sutpen’s Hundred or a thousand other such plantations across the deep South, the same South that built what it had off the back of racism and slavery, with many that opposed but many that were on the extreme opposite side of opposition, and just as many but doubled, tripled, for the number of those that showed a passive (if not entirely nonexistent) resistance toward that vile idea of owning another human being, reasoning to themselves that they were at least against it, they were at least willing to free their slaves if they worked for it, they were at least willing to forgo every third handing out of a beating, because they knew what it meant for them to experience pain, or so they thought. As Absalom discovers the deeds of David, he takes actions that those in the South may not have, because those in the South felt the weight of a moment and repeated it in a set of cycles, the progeny of which ended up who-knows-where, but still part of a greater repeating of a set of cycles that are doomed to be repeated until time stops and we are six feet under. And Sutpen knows that all of this may happen with the look of a woman, and it can be doomed with the look of a man.

Read this book.
Profile Image for Dream.M.
505 reviews90 followers
June 15, 2022
چون ریویوو ای که نوشتم خیلی طولانیه و ممکنه تا انتها خونده نشه، پس همین ابتدا مراسم قدردانی رو به جا میارم.
این رمان شگفت انگیز رو توی همخوانی با گروه حرامیان (آرمان، سپهر ، سعید و خودم) خوندیم که تبدیل به بهترین بهترین، آموزنده ترین و مفید ترین همخوانی های عمرم شد. از همگی شون ممنونم که کلی بمن آموختند و تحملم کردند.
در ادامه، از سعید عزیز، دوست خیییلی خوبم تشکر میکنم که زمانی که فهمید چقدر فاکنر رو دوست دارم، این کتاب محشر رو بهم هدیه داد.
تمام قلب های سرخ دنیا تقدیم دوستای من که بهترینند.

حالا اگه حوصله دارید ریویوو من درباره کتاب رو هم بخونید.

"آبشالوم آبشالوم" لقب دشوار ترین رمان فاکنر رو یدک میکشه و احتمالا برای کسی که در فاکنر خوانی بی تجربه ست و می خواد با این رمان شروع کنه، این غیر قابل خواندن ترین کتاب در جهان خواهد بود. با این حال میتونم قول بدم اگر کسی کمی صبر و تمرین داشته باشه، در آخر متوجه می شه که چرا بسیاری از منتقدان این رمان رو بزرگترین اثر فاکنر می دونن.

🔴 آبشالوم آبشالوم درباره چیست؟
همه چیز از این سوال ساده شروع شد: "جنوب چجور جاییه؟"
وقتی شریو (پسر کانادایی) این سوال رو از همکلاسی دانگاهیش کوئنتین ( اهل می سی سی پی) پرسید؛ هیچوقت فکرشم نمی کرد درگیر داستان تاریک و پیچیده زندگی سه نسل از خانواده ای عجیب و نفرین زده توی جنوب آمریکا بشه. کوئنتین برای توصیف جنوب چاره ای نداشت جز اینکه درباره تمام پیشینه تاریک اون منطقه، نفرین ابدی که دامنگیر ساکنان اونجاست، جنگ، و نژادپرستی که با خون مردم مخلوط شده، صحبت کنه. و داستان "خانه تاریک" خانواده ساتپن ، چیزی بود که همه این عناصر رو یکجا برای عرضه داشت.
شروع خواندن آبشالوم، آبشالوم! دقیقا مثل اینه که وسط یک مکالمه مهم که بین دوستاتون جریان داره سر میرسید، اما چون نیمه اول اون مکالمه رو از دست دادید، نمی تونید بفهمید ماجرا درباره چیه و چرا اون‌ها آنقدر جذب داستان شدن. از طرفی هم دوستاتون آنقدر روی مکالمه شون متمرکز ان که نمی تونن و نمی خوان به شما گوش بدن و داستان رو از نو شروع کنن. حالا تنها کاری که شما می تونید انجام بدید اینه که سعی کنید سرنخ ها و نشانه هایی رو که ازین به بعد پیدا می کنید کنار هم بچینید و سعی کنيد بخش هایی از روایت رو کشف کنید. البته، شما می تونید بیخیال گفتگوی جذاب اونا بشید و خودتون رو کنار بکشید؛ اما در این صورت شک نکنید که لذت خوندن یک کتاب عالی رو از دست میدید.
🔴چه چیزی خواندن آبشالوم آبشالوم را دشوار می‌ کند؟

از بین تمام دشواری‌ها، سبک فاکنر یکی از موانع اصلی خواننده ایه که با دیکشنری فاکنری آشنا نیست. جملات بسيار بسیار بسیار طولانی�� شاعرانگی غریب زبان، جریان سیلان ذهن، بازی های زمانی پیچیده، داستان های تو در تو، روایت های بینامتنی، ارجاعات متعدد به اسطوره ها و کتاب مقدس و داستان های مشهور؛ از ویژگی های سبک فاکنر هستند؛ که ممکنه در ابتدا برای خواننده تازه کار دافعه ایجاد کنه.
دشواری دیگه تشخیص اینه که چه شخصیتی داره کدوم جنبه از داستان رو روایت می کنه. به علت تعدد راوی و اینکه اصولا توی هیچ فصلی، جز فصل اول، نویسنده اشاره مستقیمی به هویت راوی نکرده؛ گیج شدن خواننده دور از انتظار نیست.
چیز دیگه ای که توی این رمان خواننده رو خیلی گیج می‌کنه اینه که اغلب در مورد یک شخص خیلی قبل از اینکه وارد داستان بشه صحبت می شه. به عنوان مثال، یک شخصیت معمولاً خیلی قبل از اینکه واقعاً توی داستان شناخته بشه به سادگی به عنوان «او» بهش ارجاع می‌شه، و بسیاری از اطلاعات کوچیک درباره اش به طور تصادفی تعریف می شه، طوری که انگار خواننده کل داستان رو میدونه.
خب! هنوز تموم نشده. سخت ترین قسمتش مونده. میخوام بهتون بگم دشوار ترین قسمت خوندن این رمان اینه که بتونی تشخیص بدی چه مقدار از طرح توسط راویان مختلف ارائه شده و چقدر از داستان ناگفته مونده و باید توسط خود خواننده به صورت تخیلی بازآفرینی بشه. 
(اینجا با اجازه باید با یک مثال ساده به تفاوت طرح و داستان اشاره کنم. ببینید اول اینکه داستان بزرگتر از طرح داستان هستش. مثلا توی درام‌ یونانی که بر اساس اسطوره‌های باستانیه، تماشاگر کل داستان یا اسطوره رو می‌دونه، اما به تماشای تاتر میره تا ببینه نمایش‌نامه‌نویس چطور بر جنبه‌های خاصی از اسطوره تأکید می‌کنه. در نتیجه، صحنه‌ها یا اپیزودهایی که در رابطه با هم ارائه می‌شن، طرح داستان رو تشکیل می‌دن، در حالی که داستان می‌تونه شامل مواردی باشه که خارج از روایت داستان قرار داره.)
خوندن این رمان به طور مداوم، میتونه برای کسی که هسته اصلی داستان رو نفهمیده خسته کننده باشه و کسانی که به معما علاقه ندارند اون رو یک کتاب غیر قابل خوندن تلقی کنند.

🔴چه چیزی خواندن آبشالوم آبشالوم را جذاب می کند؟

از نظر من، زیباترین و خاص ترین بخش کتاب، زبان شاعرانه فاکنر هستش. فاکنر عمدتا زبان رو در خدمت اندیشه بکار میگیره و در این راه، بنا به اقتضای شخصیتی که میخواد کاوش اش کنه، ساختار مرسوم زبان رو در هم میشکنه و جملات خیلی نامتعارف‌ خلق می‌کنه. توی فصل اول این رمان، بخصوص شاهد اوج این ساختار شکنی، نبوغ فاکنر و هنرنمایی اون هستیم؛ و میبینیم جایی که شاعرانگی با جملات طولانی ظاهرا بی انتها درهم آمیخته شده، حاصلش میتونه هم زمان به شکل متناقضی خوندن رمان رو دشوار یا فوق العاده جذاب کنه.
جاذبه دیگه کتاب اسپویل شدنشه. فاکنر در فصل اول مهم ترین رویدادهای کل داستان، حقایق اساسی و کل طرح رو اسپویل کرده و در فصل‌های بعدی فقط تغییرات ظریفی از این داستان بزرگ که در این فصل گفته شده ارائه میکنه. این شجاعانه ترین کاریه که یک نویسنده رمان میتونه انجام بده. چون با این لو دادن طرح، در تمام بازگویی های بعدی، عنصر غافلگیری حذف شده و حالا چی برای سرپا نگه داشتن داستان باقی مونده؟ باید خودتون ببینید.
جذابیت بعدی روشیه که فاکنر خواننده رو به درون داستان می کشه و اون رو وادار به پذیرشش می کنه‌. اون با همون روش اسپویل کردن طرح کلی، این تصور رو به خواننده القا میکنه که داستان رو به خوبی مردم شهر جفرسون (محل وقوع داستان)، می‌دونه. و بعد هربار با فاش شدن بخشی از راز ها، اون همونقدر از داستان رو میشنوه که شخصیت های رمان می‌شنوند؛ و همونطور که شخصیت ها وارد داستان میشند، اونم وارد ماجرا شده و بنابراین با این روش، با شخصیت ها یکی میشه.
هنوز مونده! جذابیت های این رمان تموم نشدنی ان. فاکنر توی این رمان از تکنیک های مدرنیستی استفاده کرده که قبلاً توسط وولف، کنراد، کافکا و جویس استفاده شده بودند. یکی از این تکنیک ها جریان سیال ذهنه که باعث پیچیدگی داستان هم میشه. از تکنیک های دیگه استفاده از عناصر گوتیک و گروتسک، و وارد کردن شخصیت‌های زیاد و متنوع به داستانه، که اون رو چالش برانگیز و غیر کلاسیک می‌کنه.
در نهایت، خوشبختانه فاکنر خودش میدونسته داره چه رمان چالش برانگیزی مینویسه و قراره نحوه روایتش پدر خواننده رو دربیاره. بنابراین اومده برای کمک، در پایان رمان یک گاهشمار وقایع مرکزی، و شجره نامه خلاصه ای از شخصیت ها رو قرار داده تا به کمک اون تا حدی خواندن و درک رمان آسونتر بشه.

🔴حرف آخر
پیشنهاد این کتاب به دیگران، خیلی کار ریسکی عه. من خودم عاشق این کتاب شدم و میتونم لذتش رو تنها با خوندن کتاب "مرشد و مارگریتا" و پیتزا پپرونی مقایسه کنم. ولی با این وجود بخونیدش لطفا و یکجایی توی برنامه تون قرارش بدید.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,537 followers
September 20, 2013
This book was a difficult but rewarding read. One reward is I can now begin to understand what everyone thinks they mean when they call another novel “Faulknerian”. I had some taste from short stories assigned in a college lit class, and even with that small dose I felt the temptation to use Cliff Notes to help understand his rich Southern Gothic brew. But I am more receptive now to appreciate a tale chock full of allusions, twisted motivations, and revelations about the sins of racism, class struggle, and the binding ties of family. I marvel at putting a foot into a sentence like stepping onto thin ice fearful of drowning in rivers of past and future, sentences that can bind you like quicksand, open a door to the Garden of Eden or Armageddon, or work like a magic loom to form a tapestry out of threads drawn from many sources.

Very soon in the narrative, the reader gets the skeleton of the saga of family called Sutpen full of mysterious tragedies. The reader’s quest through the rest of the book is to achieve some kind of understanding of what and why these events have happened. Your avatar on this journey is a cipher of a character named Quentin from a point in time 60 plus years later. He has little interest in the story at first, but he gets hooked on the mysteries as he learns of his grandfather’s involvement with the Sutpen patriarch and slowly gets different versions and pieces of the puzzle from a few key characters involved with the tale.

A man named Thomas Sutpen arrives in a rural Mississippi town in the 1830s with a wagon full of “wild” slaves, somehow wangles 100 square miles of land out of some Indians, and spends several years in isolation building a mansion. Through marriage with a local woman and some credit gained from a businessman, he makes a family and a successful plantation. When his son Henry is at college in nearby Oxford, he brings an aristocratic friend home on holiday, a New Orleans man named Charles Bon. The mother targets him for marriage to the daughter, Judith. Sutpen opposes the marriage, and a dispute with Henry over the issue leads to Henry running away for several years. The Civil War intervenes. When Henry and Charles return after the war with marriage still in the plans, some dispute leads to Henry killing Charles. Henry’s fleeing as a criminal effectively ruins Sutpen’s dream of a dynasty.

For quite awhile, it feels like wading through molasses to get an angle on the truth about Sutpen, who gets tagged as an “ogre” or “demon” be some contributors to his story. Looking backward through so much time at a self-made man who shared so little about himself, so much of what we get as a reader is projection, speculation, and conflicting judgments from biased narrators. I am so used to narrative in either in past or present tense, but I have never lived through a whole book so filled with subjunctive and pluperfect tense, so much “should of”, “could of”, “would of” (and plenty of “must have” to boot). It worked some magic on me, drawing me into contributing to the storytelling, proving that history and memory are construction. Even a letter from someone’s direct experience can feel imbued with threads of Shakespearean tragedy, mythic proportions, poetic overlays, and quantum uncertainty and can push the English language into flights and forms never imagined before. Here Rosa Coldfield recounts her reactions upon arriving on the scene where Bon has been killed, realizing she had dreams of love for him herself:

How I ran, fled, up the stairs and found no grieving widowed bride but Judith standing before the closed door to that chamber …and if there had been grief or anguish she had put them away… I stopped in running’s midstride again though my body, blind unsentient barrow of deluded clay and breath, still advanced. …That’s what I found. Perhaps it’s what I expected, knew …Perhaps I couldn’t even have wanted more than that, couldn’t have accepted less, who even at nineteen must have known that living is one constant and perpetual instant when the arras-veil before what-is-to-be hangs docile and even glad to the lightest naked thrust if we had dared, were brave enough (not wise enough: no wisdom needed here) to make the rending gash. Or perhaps it is no lack of courage either: not cowardice which will not face that sickness somewhere at the prime foundation of this factual scheme from which the prisoner soul, miasmal-distillant, wroils ever upward sunward, tugs its tenuous prisoner arteries and veins and prisoning in turn that spark, that dream which, as the globy and complete instant of its freedom mirrors and repeats (repeats? creates, reduces to a fragile evanescent iridescent sphere) all of space and time and massy earth, relicts the seething and anonymous miasmal mass which in all the years of time has taught itself no boon of death but only how to recreate, renew, and dies, is gone, vanished: nothing—but is that true wisdom which can comprehend that there is a might-have-been which is more true than truth, from which the dreamer, waking, says not ‘Did I but dream?’ but rather says, indicts high heaven’s very self with:’Why did I wake since waking I shall never sleep again?’
Once there was—Do you mark how the wisteria, sun-impacted on this wall here, distills and penetrates this room as though (light-unimpeded) by secret and attritive progress from mote to mote of obscurity’s myriad components? That is the substance of remembering—sense, sight, smell: the muscles with which we see and hear and feel—not mind, not thought: there is no such thing as memory: the brain recalls just what the muscles grope for: no more, no less: and its resultant sum is usually incorrect and false and worthy only of the name of dream.

It is now clear to me that no one else can be Faulknerian. However, a few pervasive themes that he worked with can conjoin in others’ work (e.g. Cormac McCarthy) which can evoke the application of such a label:
--"The past is never dead. It's not even past" (from “Requiem for a Nun”)
--“The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children” (from Exodus)
--Everything is connected
--The rich are not really any better off than the poor
--A person’s life can be like a myth, and the memories of those who intersect such a life can diverge and yet be as true or real as the events in that life
--There is evil without God and the devil
--Free will may involve accepting fate, but you likely will have trouble recognizing it
--The burden of slavery and aristocracy of the South is a hard row to hoe

I had enough of a challenge over persuading myself I should read this book to press it on other readers. You may surprise yourself with unexpected pleasures if you take up such a challenge yourself.
Profile Image for Arman.
284 reviews199 followers
June 14, 2022
ريويوی قبلی کوبیده و ریویوی جدیدی که ذیل مي بينيد، نوشته شد... امیدوارم بهتر شده باشد، بعد از گذشت چهار پنج سالی.

اقاقیای پیچی که آقای فاکنر کاشت، یا چرا روایت رمان "ابشالوم ابشالوم" چنین پیچیده است؟

اقاقیای پیچ یا ویستریا، درختی‌ست با ساقه‌های رونده‌ای که در هم می‌پیچند، بر روی نمای عمارت‌ پهن شده، از آن بالا می‌روند و تمامی نمای ساختمان را با گل‌های زیبا و شهوت‌آلودشان می‌پوشانند.
و این ویستریا که چندین بار در اوایل روایت به هوشمندی بدان اشاره می‌شود، مابه ازایی بیرونی برای روایت فاکنر است؛ روایتی با شاخه‌هایی پر از عطش برای خزِش، که با بی‌قراری و وحشی خود را بالا می‌کشند بر سطحِ عمارتی/جنوبی/داستانی که فاکنر/شخصیت‌هاش با مصالحی فراموش شده، نکبت‌زده و نفرین شده استوارش ساخته‌اند، و قرار است شاخه‌های انبوه ویستریا/روايت، تمامی سطح این عمارت/جنوب/سرگذشت و ساکنین‌ش را بپوشاند تا منِ خواننده/شریو و کوئنتین، در نگاه/خوانش/شنودِ اول با زشتی و سياهی‌اش چشم در چشم نشویم، و پیش از درگیر شدن با آن، با بیزاری پسش نزنیم.

خطوط روایی فاکنر نیز همچون شاخه‌های ویستریا چنان در هم تنیده‌‌اند، و این شاخه‌ها آن چونان از میان یکدیگر، از زیر و زبَرِ هم گذشته‌اند که به دشواری می‌توان رد و مسیرِ هر کدام‌شان را در میان این هزاتوی سبز و در هم پيچنده دنبال کرد؛ باید از نگریستن به منظره‌ی افسون‌کننده‌ی گل‌های سرشار از گرمای شهوت‌آلودش در تابستان جنوب بگذری، شاخه‌ها را و گره‌ها را به دقت و با ممارست از هم جدا کنی، با چشم، تا سرانجام برسی به آنجا که همگی‌شان وصل شده‌اند، به تنه‌ی اصلی‌شان. اما مگر داستان/درخت، چیزی غیر از تک‌تکِ این شاخه‌ها و گره‌ها و گل‌هاست؟

روایتِ فاکنر –جدای از مضمون غنی و آکنده‌ی آن، که به گل‌های غنی از شهد و بوی ویستریا می‌ماند- اتفاقاً در ستایشِ داستانگویی‌ست، در ستایشِ همین پیچ و تاب‌هایی است که به سادگی خط داستانی‌ش و جزئیاتِ آن را در اختیارت نمی‌گذارند، و باید کمی آستین‌ها را بالا بزنی، و برگذشته از مستیِ عطرناک و چشم نوازِ درخت/روایت، در عرق‌ریزانِ راوی‌های فاکنر، شریکِ جستجو و سبک و سنگين کردن‌های روایت‌ها بشوی، و بهره‌ات را ببری از این درخت تنومند و سرشار از شیره‌ی زندگی.

گامی به آنسوی‌ زیباشناسیِ روایت/ویستریا، یا فاکنرِ مدرنیسم:

حالا ببینیم که آیا پیاده‌سازیِ این شکل پیچیده از روایت در ابشالوم ابشالوم، فقط یک بندبازیِ صرف، و ادا و اطواری متظاهرانه در فرم روایی داستان است؟
نویسنده‌ی مدرنیست باور دارد که از آنجا که روایتِ هر راوی، نسب�� متفاوتی با واقعیت دارد، نمی‌توان آن را با قاطعیت پذیرفت و باید این روایت را تنها صورتی و قطعه‌ای از پازل واقعیت دانست؛ بنابراین برای اینکه یک داستان یا یک واقعه را تعریف کند، یا بایستی این عدم قطعیت داستانش را بپذیرد و این ویژگی را به گونه‌ای در روایتش منعکس کند، یا اینکه تلاش کند تا با تعریف کردنِ داستان از زاویه‌دیدهای مختلف و با کمکِ راوی‌هایی گوناگون، همچون نقاشی کوبیست، به تصویری موزائیک‌گون و منکسر از اصلِ داستان برسد.

در اینجا هم از آنجا که با داستانی تاریخی در گذشته‌ای نزدیک (با ۵۰ سال فاصله زمانی) مواجه هستیم، و بسیاری از وقایع به فراموشی سپرده شده‌اند، و یا به واسطه‌ی روحیه‌ی محافظه‌کارانه‌ی جنوبی به رازهایی مگو مبدل گرديده‌اند، بنابراین طبیعی‌ست که یک نفر راوی – که اتفاقاً به خاطر دوستی یا دشمنی احتمالی با شخصیت‌های داستان، بالقوه‌گیِ تحریفِ وقایع را دارد – نتواند از پسِ روایتِ تمام و کمال و البته قابل اطمینانی از داستان بر بیاید. پس فاکنر ناگزیر است از متوسل شدن به راوی‌هایی مختلف با جبهه‌گیری‌ها و انگیزه‌هایی متفاوت برای پنهانکاری‌ها، داوری‌ها و تأکیدهاشان بر بخش های خاصی از داستان.
بدین روی، روایت فاکنر از داستانِ خانواده‌ی ساتپن‌ها، مجموعه‌ای‌ست از روایت‌هایی تو در تو که آکنده از حدسیات و حاشیه‌روی‌ها و قضاوت‌های راوی‌هاشان می‌باشند – و اتفاقاً براساس همین ویژگی‌های هر روایت است که می‌توان و بایسته است که انگیزه‌ی راوی‌ از جهتگیری‌ها‌ش و نسبتش با شخصیت‌های داستان را ترسیم کرد؛ در واقع، هر روایت در کنار روایتگریِ داستانِ ساتپن ها، در حال ترسیم تصویری از خود راوی‌اش نیز می‌باشد.

ساتپن و داود، ابشالوم و "چه جوانانی...":

در داستان‌های عهد عتیق، داود جوانکی‌ست چوپان‌زاده و البته جویای نام که سموئیل را به کناری می‌زند و پادشاهی خودش را بر بنی اسرائیل و سرزمین یهود بنا می‌کند؛ و آنگاه که خود را بر مسند قدرت و جلال می‌بیند، با طغیان پسرش، ابشالوم، این جوان یاغی، و ناگزیریِ قتل غیرمستقیم وی مواجه می‌شود، و بدین گونه است که خاندانش و پادشاهی‌اش را قرینِ نفرین و شئامت می‌سازد.
در ابشالوم ابشالوم هم با مردی/زمین‌داری سراسر حرص و طمع مواجه هستیم که هیچ چیزی نمی‌تواند او را از علَم کردن عمارت و خاندانی/کشتگاهی از آن خود باز دارد، جز زادگانش.

جنوبِ فاکنر جنوبی‌ست آستانه‌ای؛ جنوب/عمارتی در آستانه‌ی فرو ریختن که بر پایه‌ی اخلاقیات و قواعدی شوم و نژادپرستانه و سراسر تحقیر بنا شده است و برپاکنندگانش با همان جاه طلبی و غرورِ همیشگی‌شان می‌پندارند همواره مستدام و مانا خواهد ماند؛ اما با برملا شدنِ یادگارهایی از گذشته‌ی تاریک‌شان (بون) و عصیانِ فرزندان جوان و یاغی‌ به ناگاه این عمارت فرو می‌ریزد و تنها خاطره‌ای محو/تنه‌ی خشکیده‌ای/عمارتی متروک از آن در جنوب بر جای می‌ماند، و تنها وارثانش، یا پیرمردهای محتذر هستند یا نیمه‌دیوانگانی که گماشته شده‌اند تا کهنه میراثِ شوم را به کام آتش بسپارند.
در واقع، ابشالوم ابشالوم، روایتِ جوانانی‌ست که خود داغِ شئامتِ اعمالِ پدرانشان را بر پیشانی ��ارند و به عبث می‌کوشند تا این میراث خونین و ننگین را نادیده بگیرند و در عصیانی خود ویرانگرانه به جنگِ میراث پدران‌شان/جنوب و نظام اخلاقی‌ آن‌ها بروند؛ اما سرانجام ناگزیر می‌شوند که سرنوشت خود را به دستِ قضا و قدر، جنگ خانمان برانداز و نفرینِ سرزمین/خانوادگی‌شان بسپارند.
در حالی که جنوبِ رمان «بر باد رفته» - که همزمان با این کتاب چاپ شده است - ، جنوبی‌ست که «اسکارلت»های جوان و پُر شور باید یک تنه آن را از میان ویرانه‌های جنگ بیرون بکشند و بسازند و آبادش کنند، جنوبی که «ابشالوم ابشالوم» ترسیمش می‌کند، «از ۱۸۶۵ [پایان جنگ] مرده بود و باشندگانش هم اشباحِ پُرچانه‌ی اهانت دیده‌ی گُه گیجه گرفته بودند»(ص 17)؛ خطه‌ای که خاک سترونش، تحملِ رویش و بالندگی و باروریِ ترکه‌های سبز و جوانِ ویستریاها را ندارد و آن‌ها محتومِ به خشکیدگی هستند، و حتی ساتپن کهنه کار و مغرور هم از پس آبادانی و رونق بخشیدن بدان بر نمی‌آید.... چرا که خاک جنوب و مردمانش، نفرین شده‌اند؛ نفرينی به درازای تاریخ استعماریِ آن.

پ ن: سراسر لذت و شادمانی از همراه شدنم با رویا، سپهر و سعید.
Profile Image for Aprile.
123 reviews80 followers
December 14, 2017
Ho quarantatré anni e questo è il miglior libro che abbia mai letto

vorranno venirmi, forse, le parole per esprimere tanto godimento alla lettura e stupore per tanto godimento...

1936, W.F., Mississippi 1897-1962, Nobel 1949

Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
552 reviews165 followers
February 11, 2022
It's listed as 385 pages here but it ought to say twice that what with all the backing up and re-reading I had to do.

5 stars. I can't do it justice, the story of "this man of whom it was said that he not only went out to meet his troubles, he sometimes went out and manufactured them." (105) It is magnificent, a triumph of style that pushes the written word to new artistic heights, and it's an emotional powerhouse to boot. Serious readers in search of literature in peak form: this is an absolute must.
Profile Image for Lisa (NY).
1,547 reviews602 followers
September 5, 2021
Some novels are worth the effort and patience. At first, the dense blocks of text in Absalom, Absalom! felt overwhelming. Faulkner's paragraphs and sometimes his sentences stretch to over a page or two. I tried listening to it, but had to keep rewinding. And the italics in the novel are helpful signals. For me, the best way to experience this novel was to read the text while listening to Grover Gardner's excellent narration. This novel became a deep and immersive experience. It was more difficult for me to settle into its rhythm than Faulkner's other novels, but once I did, I was a captive reader. When read aloud, the sentences, which often halt and start over in a different direction, make perfect sense. People do talk this way.

The novel is about Thomas Sutpen and his climb to wealth and power. Over the course of the novel, the extreme extent of his immoral grand "design" is revealed. Faulkner is an amazing storyteller and I was riveted. Like Shreve and Quentin, two of the narrators, I often found myself in the story. I was at Sutpen's plantation house, new and glimmering, then later decaying and shrunken. I was in Miss Rosa's darkened study swirling with dust motes and smelling of wisteria.

The story is told many times, distilled through various characters and their misperceptions. Clues are dropped, facts left out, I thought one thing was happening and then discovered it was something else the next time it was told. The experience of reading is layered and ever shifting. So yes, difficult --- but worth every bit of sweat and effort. A masterpiece!
Profile Image for J. Sebastian.
68 reviews60 followers
June 6, 2021
Absalom! Absalom! ~ William Faulkner
What hours, William Cuthbert, what hours lost and days, in crucible of what Faulknerian tedium plunged, didst thou my soul involute and unequilibrate in Yoknapatawpha swampland mudcaked with wild fighting niggers for proof gainst the mosquito to raise what palatial mansion wherein what curse may fall––of Indian, or of Heaven––or rumoured spanish gold conceal––what though with sunbeams scattering wistaria-scented dustmotes in dark hot Coldfield house takes the tale its start, maelstrom of dustmotes gathering, taking form, assuming shapes as wrinkled female flesh of old virgin chattered on invoking ghosts of antebellum that evoked did then emerge, escape, proceed assuming their reality material and their swaggering or floating motion as by an impulse of words that reverberating strike the air conveying ripples over surface as a stone cast into dark lake primeval deep where lies the heart shall do, until in course of time the ever flowing ripples of words reach shore finding other mouths to strike of other tellers and take new life swirling now imbued in pungent cigar smoke, and ever in wistaria, through which in evening the fireflies did play, or in pipesmoke in college room of cold snow-mantled Harvard campus, what hours unregenerate, and now forever haunted? Are they alive, or have I died?

The book is a hard read at first, and I shall describe why, but stick with it, because it’s undoubtedly a literary masterpiece. I have been so moved by it, that now I am going back to re-read it again, immediately! The book is emotionally tough, just like a Greek tragedy, but it’s closer to home, because the characters are more like us, given that it takes place in 19th to early 20th century America, than the figures of Greek tragedy can be. It is said to be the greatest novel that has ever come out of the South, and was published in the same year as the much better known Gone with the Wind. Though Absalom! Absalom! is less known, it is Faulkner who has a Nobel Prize.

What makes Faulkner hard, and what to do about it.
1. He switches from one narrator to another without warning or revealing the name; it is sometimes hard to tell who’s speaking. Pay attention, when you figure it out, don't forget. These changes in narrator usually happen at the chapter breaks.

2. It is similarly hard to know which character is referred to by pronouns, and who Faulkner means when he refers to someone without name, but as (e.g, the daughter, the wife, the man, the aunt, etc.) It will be a great help in reading if you learn quickly the relation between the characters as they emerge and remember it. In order to help you there is at the very back of the book a Genealogy, by frequent reference to which you will keep track of the characters and how they are related. Slowing down to figure this out is worth it, and will pay off in greater speed of reading later.

3. The modular design of the whole: the story is revealed in pieces that are out of chronological sequence, and there are many things alluded to initially that will not make sense until the reader starts putting the pieces together later. Faulkner does this masterfully and creates suspense and a feeling of impending doom in his rearrangement of the story. There is a Chronology in the back, that places events in order. The chronology contains some spoilers, and you probably don't need to refer to it, but reading it at the end will help to tie everything together.

4. Long long sentences with many parentheticals, interrupted syntax, uncommon diction. They are gorgeous, but do not always reveal their meaning easily. Sometimes it is easier to read it faster. I read a great deal of the book aloud to myself, and rushing through the sentences. It makes more sense. Sometimes, after any parenthetical expressions, you may have to glance back to see what the main point of the sentence was, but not often.

5. High register literary vocabulary, for the student of language this and #4 are beautiful things. You will learn beautiful words! :-)

6. Is it a gerund, or an adjective, or an adverb? Is it a noun or an adjective? Especially with words that end in -ing this was a challenge to me.

7. A Faulknerian sentence often conceals its meaning, which resides therein as if enshrouded in a mist. I sometimes have to sit and contemplate until I can see what is hidden. With contemplation of the sentence the mist begins to dissipate. This same quality of slow and measured revelation is operative in the story as a whole as well, in that the mist is ever there, though gradually lifting as one reads on towards the end.

The Modern Library edition that I rescued from a dumpster years ago includes a beautifully written introduction, that prepares the reader to enjoy the book and begins as follows:

From the Introduction, by Harvey Breit
"To his contemporaries what was not primarily acceptable in Dostoyevsky was his subject matter; his style, though agitated, was relatively straightforward, his language natural, even homely and down at the heel. With Faulkner it is the other way, with a complication. His subject matter is more perverse, or more consistently perverse, than Dostoyevsky’s, but it is the new Nobel Prize winner’s style and language that primarily make the general reader and some critics regard him with distrust. The style is oblique, involuted, circumambient; the language is spectacular, a conglomerate; and both the vision and the words are directed (driven would be more exact) by an honesty that is uncompromising and difficult.

"It is no good to deny or belittle this complexity, this failure in Faulkner to be acceptable. It is no good merely to say the reader must co-operate. What must be reckoned with is Faulkner’s total genius, the ponderous sum of its multiple rich parts, the whole consort dancing together. What must be reckoned with is Faulkner’s scrupulous, brooding sensibility; his inventiveness (baroque, jigsawed, melodramatic, continuous); his panoramic vision and his microscopic sight; his tenacious searchings and his dramatic insights; his story-teller’s instinct for circling in, like one of his own bird dogs, on the quarry; his hallucinated language (with its Elizabethan grandeur and its colloquial exactness). Though these may raise barriers, they make Faulkner one of the original and powerful writers of our time. “It is the beautiful bird that gets caged,” a Chinese proverb has it. In Faulkner, when the cage is unlocked, the bird’s flight is unique and breathtaking.

"The beautiful is dear. It is precisely the task of the critic dealing with Faulkner to show that the difficulties are not spurious, and that the dearness, the expense, is justified by the experience of beauty. It has always seemed to me that to open The Sound and the Fury with the chiaroscuro Benjy section was the very opposite of an arbitrary arrangement. Having without warning to pursue the idiot Benjy down his nights and days is alienating, constitutes blindfolding that forces you to move tactilely rather than visually. But this immersion prepares, teaches, sharpens, attunes, so that when the parts begin to fall into place, when the Compson family’s decline and fall begin to crystallize, you are already familiar with the language and texture of tragedy.

“Obviously, this process of initiation does not hold only for Faulkner; it holds for Donne and Joyce and El Greco. It holds for Beethoven’s 131 C Sharp Minor Quartet, which sounds when first heard like a bitter, alien and unattractive language, but which when learned is the beautiful bird released. This initiation and subsequent reward hold particularly for Absalom! Absalom!, a narrative, a legend, an incantation that at the beginning, and for a good way further, seems only to permit grudging passage through its intersecting mazes; that yet, at every turn, affords an awesome and marvelous view, and at whose end there is offered the satisfaction of having witnessed and understood and participated in a dark history and human drama.”

I love Harvey Breit's metaphor of the cage unlocked, the Faulknerian sentence understood, and the flight of the bird, that breathtaking moment that the meaning has emerged before your sight. He (Bright) is also accurate when he compares the texture of the novel to a symphony, for there are recurring motifs and melodies throughout. I can’t believe someone had thrown these books into the garbage, and how wonderful that I had discovered them! :-)
Profile Image for Ted.
515 reviews744 followers
September 1, 2017
The most difficult novel by Faulkner that I've read. Loved it anyway. Or maybe loved it because of that? Whatever. I'll be reading it again sometime, should be interesting to how I react to it half a century or so after the first read.
Profile Image for Nickolas the Kid.
313 reviews70 followers
July 15, 2017
Ποιος χαρακτηρισμός ταιριάζει περισσότερο σε αυτό το βιβλίο;;; … Αριστούργημα; Κομψοτέχνημα; Μαγικό; Υπέροχο; Ανυπέρβλητο;
Μάλλον όλα τα παραπάνω μαζί και ίσως κάτι ακόμα… Ο Φώκνερ μέσα από έναν μονοκόμματο και μακρόσυρτο τρόπο γραφής ( σαν να προσπαθεί να χωρέσει όλο τον κόσμο σε μια πρόταση) μας δίνει την ιστορία του Τόμας Σάτπεν και της καταραμένης γενιάς του…

Η ιστορία του Σάτπεν και των γόνων του παρουσιάζεται μέσα από το οπτικό πρίσμα διαφόρων αφηγητών, οι οποίοι με τον έναν ή τον άλλον τρόπο συνδέονται με την οικογένεια και τον βίο των μελών της. Ο Φώκνερ μας αποδεικνύει πως καμια ιστορία δεν μπορεί να ειπωθεί μόνο με έναν τρόπο. Μέσα από τον δαιδαλώδη τρόπο γραφής και τους μονολόγους των αφηγητών ο αναγνώστης χάνεται ανάμεσα στα γεγονότα και ο Φώκνερ απαιτεί την απόλυτη προσήλωσή μας. Ο Κουέντιν και ο συμφοιτητής του Σρηβ προσπαθούν να συμπληρώσουν το ημιτελές παζλ των διαφόρων αφηγητών και ο συγγραφέας με μια ευφυέστατη αφηγηματική σύλληψη μας βάζει μέσα στην ίδια την ιστορία και μας φέρνει όσο πιο κοντά γίνεται στον καταραμένο Σάπτεν…

Κατά τα άλλα ο Φώκνερ φαίνεται πως έχει επηρεαστεί βαθύτατα από το αρχαίο δράμα, παρόλο που ο τίτλος του παραπέμπει σε βιβλικά πρόσωπα και μυθοπλασίες. Ο φιλόδοξος Σάτπεν διαπράττει ύβρη και βέβαια μετά από αυτό ο ίδιος και η γενιά του θα δεχτούν την τιμωρία. Όπως ακριβώς στο αρχαίο δράμα (Οιδίπους, Αγαμέμνων κλπ κλπ). Ο τραγικός ήρωας θα κερδίσει τα πάντα αλλά και θα χάσει τα πάντα… Θα ανέβει στο ζενίθ και θα καταλήξει στο ναδίρ αποδεικνύοντας πως κανένας δεν γλυτώνει από την νέμεση που ακολουθεί την ύβρη.. .

Αν και η όλη ιστορία εκτυλίσσεται την εποχή του εμφυλίου πολέμου της Αμερικής, ο Φώκνερ δεν φαίνεται να εστιάζει στον ίδιο τον πόλεμο αλλά στις συνθήκες που επικρατούσαν στις ΗΠΑ πριν, κατά την διάρκεια και μετά το τέλος αυτού. Οι φυλετικές διακρίσεις και η καταγωγή των ηρώων παίζουν καταλυτικό ρόλο στην εξέλιξη της ιστορίας. Καθώς η ιστορία προχωράει βλέπουμε την αγάπη των Νοτίων για τον τόπο τους αλλά και την προσκόλληση τους σε ένα «λανθάνοντα» ρατσισμό ο οποίος τους κρατάει πίσω και αποτρέπει κάθε εξέλιξη αυτών (χαρακτηριστική η μελλοντολογία του Σρηβ για την καθολική και παγκόσμια επικράτηση της μαύρης φυλής)…

ΥΓ1: Το βιβλίο το αγάπησα ακόμη περισσότερο μιας και οι ρίζες του έργου βρίσκονται στην γοτθική λογοτεχνία. Η άνοδος και η πτώση του οίκου των Σάτπεν, το «φάντασμα» του σπιτιού, το σκοτεινό οίκημα είναι χαρακτηριστικά της γοτθικής γραφής… Επίσης ένα ακόμα χαρακτηριστικό είναι οι αμαρτίες (απληστία, ρατσισμός, εκδίκηση) που βασανίζουν και κατατρέχουν τους χαρακτήρες της ιστορίας.. Η αρχική ονομασία του βιβλίου σύμφωνα με τον Φώκνερ, θα ήταν «Ο σκοτεινός Οίκος»…

ΥΓ2: Η συνανάγνωση στην ΛτΒ ήταν απολαυστική!!!!!! Μια από τις καλύτερες που έχω πάρει μέρος!!! Προσωπικά θεωρώ ότι ήταν ο βασικός λόγος που κατάφερα να περάσω μέσα από τα δύσβατα μονοπάτια αυτού του βιβλίου…

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