Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Absalom, Absalom!” as Want to Read:
Absalom, Absalom!
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Absalom, Absalom!

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  39,814 ratings  ·  2,230 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, 316 pages
Published November 30th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1936)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Absalom, Absalom!, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Laduke Ely Yes, he is. Pretty sure Faulkner has a few more characters that appear and reappear throughout the Yoknapatawpha novels.
Derek It's irrelevant. Or, as Faulkner might have said, the fragmentary connection, the vague dusklike or crepuscular drift toward some stronger radiance fe…moreIt's irrelevant. Or, as Faulkner might have said, the fragmentary connection, the vague dusklike or crepuscular drift toward some stronger radiance felt if not seen, seen not felt, myopically blending seen, not-seen, and seen-not-seen, that oracular ocular liminal spatialitly blurred as through a glass not darkly but not clean -- and turning to the fire, not with the opacity of smoke but the smell of burning -- "yes, but no. No. Yes. Was yes was no no is yes is no yes no was."(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  39,814 ratings  ·  2,230 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Absalom, Absalom!
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 h
Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern

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 amou
Ahmad Sharabiani
(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.

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
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, tryi
Henry Avila
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of prose who love puzzles
Recommended to Lawyer by: Maxine Lustig
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 en
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
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
Vit Babenco
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All the human vices turn around an instinct of procreation...
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
Jul 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would marry this book if our proud nation didn't define marriage as being only between a man and a woman. ...more
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
"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 ha
Megan Baxter
Apr 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 singl ...more
Sep 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, aere-perennius
“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 prefe
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 25, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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
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 difficul ...more
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. ...more
J. Sebastian
Jun 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-classics
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
Jason Koivu
Nov 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels-english
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
May 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Maybe you have to know anybody awful well to love them but when you have hated somebody for forty-three years you will know them awful well so maybe it's better then maybe it's fine then because after forty-three years they can't any longer surprise you or make you either very contented or very mad

I go back and forth with this book. On the one hand it's a brilliant jigsaw puzzle of a book with unforgettable characters who climb out of the pages like a dream or nightmare more like. On the other h
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing

So, I am going to do something a little odd here which is more for the benefit of my thinking-through than anything else, so please feel free to ignore the following ramblings.

I intend to restrict myself to only writing criticisms of this novel which I have read twice now and unhesitatingly give the full-fathom-five stars.

Because I think there are lots of things which do not work here, or which fail to do what I think they are trying to do. And these are all things that I think Evelyn Scott, i
Kim Serene
Feb 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Sidharth Vardhan
"Tell about the South. What's it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all.”

Our social systems (in particular capitalism) are such that some qualities such as bravery, courage, hard work, physical strength, cunning, intelligence etc are rewarded while others the softer ones like compassion, kindness, honesty etc not only remain unrewarded but also come with a price for one of who possess them. In fact, only incentives, besides a clear conscience (wh
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faulkner
Well, one part of me is happy about this book, and one part is not. Firstly, this book is amazing, and almost a 5-star one, it has so interesting plot, and in the writing style, you can see Faulkner's genius. That said, lets move to the thing about 'Absalom' that I have a problem with. The problem is that it lacks Faulkner - yeah, dark, almost morbid descriptions are there, stream-of-consciusness is there, murky atmosphere is there, but it lacks true, true TSATF Faulkner. It is just one story on ...more
Manuel Antão
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1981
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

This Time Ancient: "Absalom, Absalom!" by William Faulkner

(Original Review, 1981-01-12)

It is sometimes uncomfortable reading things from other eras - for example I´m a big fan of William Faulkner who was in many ways ahead of the curve on race for his day - if the average KKK member had been more into modernist avant-garde fiction than I imagine they were, he´d probably be having crosses burned outside his house left right and centre -
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Saddest Words: William Faulkner's Civil War
  • Wise Blood
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Ulysses
  • The Recognitions
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
  • Gravity's Rainbow
  • JR
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Pale Fire
  • Underworld
  • An American Tragedy
  • The Adventures of Augie March
  • Blacks
  • To the Lighthouse
  • The Crying of Lot 49
  • A Place Like Mississippi: A Journey Through a Real and Imagined Literary Landscape
  • Ghost Dance
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Related Articles

  The United States of America is an awfully big place. Sensibly, we chopped it into states a long time ago. This simplifies...
454 likes · 156 comments
“If happy I can be I will, if suffer I must I can.” 204 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.” 162 likes
More quotes…