Brian Patrick's Reviews > Absalom, Absalom!

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
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Mar 25, 2012

really liked it

"I don't hate the South! I don't hate it!," cries Quentin Compson to himself in the final lines of this brilliant novel. Those who are familiar with The Sound and the Fury should recognize this character, the brooding and suicidal Quentin who is at odds both with his family and his heritage of being an Aristocratic male from Mississippi in the early 20th century. Quentin is one of my favorite characters from Yoknapatawpha precisely because I share this ambivalence toward the South. I have lived here all my life and know how frustrating and yet beautiful this region can be. I, too, have found myself saying how much I hate the South--the racisim (don't fool yourself, it's still around), the laziness, the narrow-mindedness--it's often more than I can take. Despite these feelings, I don't believe I will ever move away from here. There is something oddly beautiful and endearing about the South that is wonderfully captured in Absalom, Absalom!
This is not to say that the novel overlooks places for criticism because it certainly does not. I think that Faulkner shares the same repulsion/attraction to the South that Quentin echoes in the above lines.

When asked to describe the South, Quentin seemingly always tells some story of woe or grotesque to his fellow students at Harvard with the story of Thomas Sutpen being the one that usually fits the bill. In this story Faulkner, through Quentin, tells a mythic tale of a man trying to fight against his own perceived deficiencies that loosely follows a similar story from the Bible of Absalom leaving his fathers (King Solomon's) kingdom to start his own dynasty. What entails is a story akin to a Mahler symphony, an entire world created, criticized, and romanticized in the space of about 270 pages.

Questions of paternal relationships, race, blood, and reconstructions of the past are all considered here with no real definitive answers. So if you're not in the mood for ambiguity, this may not be the novel for you. In addition with Faulkner being Faulkner, this text has some fairly dense prose. For me, this is one of major flaws in the novel. From a craft point of view, Faulkner's prose is repetitive and verging on verbose. The numerous parenthetical interruptions make comprehension and interpretation so laborious. However, if you have the time to work through such convoluted sentences/paragraphs, the reward is worth the effort.
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