William Faulkner

William Faulkner

A Life through Novels
André Bleikasten, foreword by Philip Weinstein, translated by Miriam Watchorn
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/01/2017
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-02284-4
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Writing to American poet Malcolm Cowley in 1949, William Faulkner expressed his wish to be known only through his books. He would go on to win the Nobel Prize for literature several months later, and when he died famous in 1962, his biographers immediately began to unveil and dissect the unhappy life of "the little man from Mississippi." Despite the many works published about Faulkner, his life and career, it still remains a mystery how a poet of minor symbolist poems rooted in the history of the Deep South became one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century. Here, renowned critic André Bleikasten revisits Faulkner’s biography through the author’s literary imagination. Weaving together correspondence and archival research with the graceful literary analysis for which he is known, Bleikasten presents a multi-strand account of Faulkner’s life in writing. By carefully keeping both the biographical and imaginative lives in hand, Bleikasten teases out threads that carry the reader through the major events in Faulkner’s life, emphasizing those circumstances that mattered most to his writing: the weight of his multi-generational family history in the South; the formation of his oppositional temperament provoked by a resistance to Southern bourgeois propriety; his creative and sexual restlessness and uncertainty; his lifelong struggle with finances and alcohol; his paradoxical escape to the bondages of Hollywood; and his final bent toward self-destruction. This is the story of the man who wrote timeless works and lived in and through his novels.

Author Bio

André Bleikasten (1933–2009) was Professor of American Literature at the University of Strasbourg, France and a prominent Faulkner scholar, internationally acclaimed for his study of Faulkner's early works in The Ink of Melancholy. He is also known for his studies of Philip Roth, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Connor.


“Untangling the mysteries of how a poet of minor symbolist poems rooted in the history of the Deep South became one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century, a renowned critic revisits Faulkner’s biography through the author’s literary imagination.”

“Few critics have written as magisterially about Faulkner's work as Bleikasten . . . this book monumentalizes a way of reading Faulkner to which all students and enthusiasts of his work continue to return with profit.”
 — John T. Matthews, editor of The New Cambridge Companion to William Faulkner

“Bleikasten’s book is the rarest of achievements: a meticulous literary analysis of Faulkner’s body of work, resting comfortably in a wide-ranging description of his life and times, written in accessible, fluid, and engaging prose. It offers what may well be our fullest account to date of what Bleikasten calls Faulkner’s 'energy for life' and 'will to write,' which together drove the destiny of one of the world’s greatest writers.”
 — Theresa Towner, author of The Cambridge Introduction to William Faulkner

“Bleikasten scants none of the life but is interested above all in the books. ”
 — New York Review of Books

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Table of Contents

Foreword / Philip Weinstein
Testimony and Acknowledgements / Aimée Bleikasten
Introduction / André Bleikasten
List of Abbreviations

1. F(a)ulkner, Mississippi
A little history, a little geography
Three fathers, two mothers
The attitudes of adolescence

2. Apprenticeships
Pan and Pierrot: the first masks
In New Orleans
The switch to prose

3. Birth of a Novelist
The first novel: Soldiers’ Pay
An American in Paris
Incomplete portrait of the artist as an artist: Elmer
A diversion: Mosquitoes

4. The First Flowering
The invention of Yoknapatawpha: Flags in the Dust
The most splendid failure: The Sound and the Fury
The most horrific story: Sanctuary
Mourning becomes the Bundrens: As I Lay Dying
Versions of the sun: Light in August

5. Mid-way
Scenes from married life
The Master of Rowan Oak
The first shadows
Back and forth to Hollywood

6. From Pylon to Go Down, Moses
The hell of fascination: Pylon
The novel as research: Absalom, Absalom!
Southern Tales: The Unvanquished
Fault lines, flux and floods: If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem
A comical pastoral: The Hamlet
Legacies: Go Down, Moses

7. The Dark Years
Under siege
Hollywood, again
Lucas' lesson: Intruder in the Dust
A conventional detective story: Knight's Gambit

8. Fame--At Last
The Nobel Prize
The public man
Setbacks, distress and other miseries
Requiem for a Nun: the education of Temple Drake
The Gospel according to Faulkner: A Fable

9. The End
The Virginia years
The Snopes, second and final instalment: The Town and The Mansion
The farewell smile: The Reivers
The rider unseated

Selected Bibliography
Index of Names
Index of Works

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