Absalom, Absalom!
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Absalom, Absalom!

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  23,986 ratings  ·  1,129 reviews
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 respectabl...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 30th 1991 by Vintage (first published 1936)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 03, 2013 Jeffrey Keeten rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Mike Sullivan
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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, while reading this book, of the plantation built by Thomas Sutpen called Sutpen's Hundred. 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...more
Tom
I like to think that Faulkner, were he alive, would've broken an empty bourbon bottle over the head of JRR Tolkien, and spit some tobacco juice on JK Rowling for their candy-ass prose and their contributions to increasing the laziness of readers everywhere. I further like to think that after he wrote,

". . . 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 st...more
Lucas
Sep 25, 2007 Lucas rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who has prepared themselves with at least 3 other faulkner books
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...more
Richard
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...more
Mike Puma

Maybe you cannot know when you first approach a novel to reread if it will live up to your recollection or sink like dead weight. Maybe it won’t do either—maybe it will just hover in that No Man’s Land between the title you added to your favorite list in 2010 and the one you plod through, ever so slowly, in 2012. Maybe, it will haunt you.

First time around, this one sailed—stream of consciousness, no problem—convoluted, page-long sentences, bring ‘em on. There’s a problem with multiple narrators?

...more
Mike
Absalom, Absalom!--William Faulkner's Novel of the Death of the Old South

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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 romant...more
Jason Koivu
An enigmatic, nameless nightmare crawls silently out of the southern swamps and declares itself gentry. With stark and horrible inevitability, it creates its legacy in the same image as the mud from which it came, black, masked, impenetrable, yet reaching into a horror-stricken and helpless community to entwine a bride like a leviathan of the Mississippi marsh, drawing her back into its antebellum lair, she not wholly unwillingly. Mystery and strength entice no matter how shadowy and undignified...more
Renato Magalhães Rocha
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...more
Nathan
I would marry this book if our proud nation didn't define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
AC
Rereading this was definitely the right decision. On a second reading, a book that had been knotty and confusing, became crystal clear -- perfectly constructed... as Faulkner proved actually to be holding all of the threads firmly within in his hands.

The book IS constructed like an onion, with Faulkner skillfully pulling apart layer by layer (-- all the passages about Quentin and Shreeve around the table are mere narrative interludes, intended merely to allow the reader to regather himself befo...more
Michael
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 st...more
Kim Serene
Feb 16, 2008 Kim Serene rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All people
Recommended to Kim by: Ivy
I say this based entirely on my own free will, I think this could be the best book ever.
Jill
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 vi...more
Kim

I usually don't find it so difficult to write about my reaction to a novel. But this one has defeated me. What a complex, layered work it is. I've sat in front of the computer for about an hour now, writing and deleting sentences, trying to analyse what I feel about it, and I can't quite find the words.

The narrative, which moves back and forward in time, concerns Thomas Sutpen, who arrives in Mississippi with a band of "wild" slaves to fulfill his obession to create a dynasty. He builds a large...more
Mariel
May 30, 2013 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: why do they live there?
Recommended to Mariel by: this was called light
Am I going to have to hear it all again he thought I am going to have to hear it all over again I am already hearing it all over again I am listening to it all over again I shall never have to listen to anything else but this again forever so apparently not only a man never outlives his father but not even his friends and acquaintances do.


Yes he could see it all again in his mind as if he were there in front of the grave plots the tombstone pillars rising out of the misty ground thoughts of if y...more
Jeffrey
William Faulkner's thesis through Absalom! Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury (novels that share characters and setting) goes something like this: The South fell because it was built on the blood and sweat (no tears from these men) of extremely ambitious men who lacked any compassion for others. Their utter disregard for others leads to theirs and ultimately the South's fall. Enter Thomas Sutpen in Absalom! Absalom!, the lowest of low characters ever created. He happily does things to relatives...more
Trevor
Look, I can't say I disliked it - it was beautifully well written - but so terribly difficult. So difficult to follow and to know just where one is. I kept forgetting who was talking and who they were talking about. There is so much back story - it seems to be all back story. So many characters all more or less the same. Everything is so complex and detailed. I became lost and then I gave up, I'm afraid.

I can see it is probably worth the effort - but also know it requires more effort than I can...more
matt
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremy
Holy shit! This is incredible. Faulkner's prose here is on a totally different level from anything else I've read by him. The huge sentences that make up Absalom Absalom are some of the densest, strangest and headiest things I've ever read. My eyes were literally watering at several points from the bizarre, fevered intensity that he uses to show the sad old south. And God, how sad it is, the entire Sutpen family tree (which takes work to sort out, but not nearly as much work as The Sound and the...more
Marcus
Wow! What a story. I was warned by numerous reviews that it wouldn't be easy--it wasn't. My approach to it was to read the Wikipedia summary and get the basic plot along with all the characters straight in my head before diving in. It worked out pretty well. Faulkner gives away most of the plot within the first 20 pages which has the great upside of rendering spoilers impotent. Knowing the basic plot I felt like I could sit back and enjoy the tale without being paranoid that I was missing someth...more
Matt
For me this book was both daunting and sublime in equal measure.

In Absalom, Absalom! Faulkner engages the reader in a dizzying display of literary chess. The first two chapters of this book (and the chapters are often quite long) border on being barely comprehensible, perhaps somewhat similar to a conversation between strangers that one might eavesdrop upon in public. Just as one is starting to feel some sense of readerly footing with the text or else give up on the book entirely, Faulkner will...more
Stephen M
Half the time I couldn't figure out what the hell was happening. I continually got lost in those monstrous sentences. Nonetheless, Faulkner is still a god in my book. The way he plays with memory, story, and the nature of truth, is really amazing. I'm probably going to read Light in August after this.
Nicole~
O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.

The title for this novel is taken from the Old Testament of the Bible. The story of King David and Absalom is about a son who rebels against his father and a brother who forcibly commits incest with his sister. Absalom!undertakes these same themes.
Thomas Sutpen's deepest desire to be a great patriarchal figure at the head of a powerful dynasty stems from a humiliating experience as a teenager, whe...more
Jack Lindgren
One of my all time favorite novels, probably because I enjoy bragging about its difficulty. Absalom, Absalom! is a great baptism by fire if you want to get into Faulkner. Of his major works (As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, Go Down Moses, Light in August, and a few others), Absalom! has to be the most difficult, but if you start here and can get through it, even the most difficult passages of The Sound and the Fury will be a breeze. Think Ulysses in terms of how confused you're going to b...more
Peter
Feb 12, 2009 Peter added it
The dominant characteristic of this novel is its stream of consciousness prose. It wrestles you into submission, and your choice is either to fight back (and it’s a fight) and sort your way through it or to put the book back on the shelf.

Out of a sense of obligation, I pressed on. But I don’t think I’m likely to do so again.

To give Faulkner his due, Absalom, Absalom! is heralded for championing all kinds of new ground, but before engaging the novelty of out-of-order storytelling (the Pulp Ficti...more
Blythe
Sep 27, 2007 Blythe rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: masochists
So one semester in college I was forced to take a Faulkner class - as an elective, mind you - because all the other classes I needed were taken and I had to have a certain number of credits to keep my scholarship.

I don't hate everything Faulkner wrote. I even enjoy some of it. This book made me detest him for the week or two it took to suffer through it.

Apparently one of the notes Faulkner's editor sent him after reading this was something to the effect of, "This is a period. You should use them...more
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 08, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2012)
This is my third time to read a William Faulkner's book. The first one was As I Lay Dying (4 stars) and the second one was The Sound and the Fury (4 stars). There I read about Quentin Compson and now he is in this book again as the primary narrator. If I remember it right, Quentin is the most intelligent Compson and he went to Harvard and later committed suicide.

Absalom, Absalom! is the story of Thomas Sutpen the white patriarch owner of a 100 square mile plantation called Sutpen's Hundred. He i...more
Brian
Dec 22, 2007 Brian rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one who wants a casual read
Shelves: stalled
The first sentence just kills it for me. And I quote:

"From a little after two oclock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office beacause her father had called it that — a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller...more
Jonathan
Apr 02, 2009 Jonathan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: serious readers
Shelves: classics
Although Faulkner has produced more than a few works considered to have achieved masterpiece status, to my mind Absalom, Absalom stands out among the rest. As usual, Faulkner's deft grasp of human nature is spot on, but it is his brilliant layering of the narrative which elevates this book into truly rarefied air.

Faulkner presents for us the story of Thomas Sutpen, who, born into poverty and spurned by the wealthy, sets about through hard work and an iron will to establish himself at the head...more
Brad
This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets indicate some additional information for the sake of readability). It is one of my lost reviews.

Until I went into class and passionately held my position that the important story of Absalom Absalom was not Sutpen's tale, I thought I hated this novel a...more
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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 based in his native state of Mississippi. Though his work was published as earl...more
More about William Faulkner...
The Sound and the Fury As I Lay Dying Light in August A Rose for Emily Go Down, Moses

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“If happy I can be I will, if suffer I must I can.” 106 likes
“You get born and you try this and you don't know why only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they don't know why either except that the strings are all in one another's way like five or six people all trying to make a rug on the same loom only each one wants to weave his own pattern into the rug; and it can't matter, you know that, or the Ones that set up the loom would have arranged things a little better, and yet it must matter because you keep on trying or having to keep on trying and then all of a sudden it's all over.” 100 likes
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