William Faulkner

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William Faulkner (1954)
Photo: Carl van Vechten
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William Cuthbert Faulkner [ ˈfɔ̯ːknɛə ] (born September 25, 1897 in New Albany , Union County , Mississippi , † July 6, 1962 in Byhalia , Mississippi; actually William Cuthbert Falkner ) was an American writer . Faulkner, who later received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950 for 1949, is considered the most important American novelist of the 20th century.

His complex oeuvre reflects, among other things, "the intellectual and cultural decline of the south and the growing influence of unscrupulous climbers after the civil war ", as well as the decadence of formerly respected southern families and the contrasts between white and black residents. Most of his novels and short stories are set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County , which was inspired by his real-life residence, Lafayette County . Faulkner is literary characterized by universal symbolism and sophisticated narrative techniques such as the stream of consciousness , which he picked up and independently processed by European novelists such as James Joyce , Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf .

It was only with the Nobel Prize for Literature that Faulkner achieved financial independence and general fame. He received the National Book Award in 1951 (for The Collected Stories of William Faulkner ) and 1955 (for Eine Legende ) and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1955 (for A Legend ) and posthumously in 1963 (for The Rogues ) . He was also awarded the O. Henry Prize for short stories twice, in 1939 for arsonists and in 1949 for an advertisement.



Faulkner's home in Oxford, Mississippi

Faulkner's great-grandfather, William Clark Falkner, was an important figure in Mississippi state history, having settled in Ripley , Mississippi, in 1845 . He was a Colonel in the Confederate Army and in 1861 set up the Second Mississippi Infantry Regiment, which he also commanded. Falkner founded a railway line and is the namesake of the small town of Falkner in nearby Tippah County . He wrote novels and other texts and is considered a model for the character of Colonel John Sartoris in several of Faulkner's texts. There is a memorial to Colonel Falkner in Ripley Cemetery today.

Faulkner's grandfather, John Wesley Thompson Falkner, was also influential. A lawyer, politician, businessman, and banker, he was a prominent citizen of Oxford, Mississippi . He had also inherited his father's railway line. His son, Murry Cuthbert Falkner, born in 1870, was a rather unsuccessful and not very communicative businessman. Murry Falkner ran, often with father's support, among other things, a mill for the production of oil from cotton seeds, a small ice cream factory, a wage-carriage and a hardware store . Eventually he found a job in the administration of the University of Mississippi at Oxford. Murry Falkner married Maud Butler. William was the first of the couple's four sons. From Faulkner's five years of age, the family lived in Oxford, which at the time had around 2,000 inhabitants, around half of whom were black. Oxford is the administrative seat of Lafayette County .

Literary work

William Faulkner in Toronto (1918)

Faulkner's mother encouraged reading so that as a child he read works by William Shakespeare , Joseph Conrad and Honoré de Balzac . At the age of 17 he left school without a degree. He got a job in his grandfather's bank and began to draw and write. His last name was mistakenly spelled Faulkner while working in an arms shop . From then on he used this name. When the US entered the First World War , he volunteered for the Air Force, but was turned down because he was only 1.67 meters tall. It was not until July 1918 that he was approved for training by the British Royal Air Force in Toronto, Canada , but was no longer used in the war. He then took some courses at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. He published drawings, poetry and prose in the university newspaper The Mississippian . In the fall of 1921 he worked for a bookseller in New York for several months . He then took over the management of the Post Office at the University of Mississippi, which he held until 1924.

In 1924 his first book appeared, The Marble Faun ( The Marble Faun ). In 1925 he lived in New Orleans for a few months , where he met the writer Sherwood Anderson , who encouraged him to write about his rural home. His first novel, Soldiers' Pay ( soldiers wage ), which is about war events, he finished in May 1925th Faulkner's shorter works were published regularly in a New Orleans magazine and later published in book form under the title New Orleans . In the same year he and his friend William Sprattling finished his work on the book Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles (roughly: Sherwood Anderson and other famous Creoles ). 41 artists are portrayed in the book, including Faulkner and Sprattling himself. Since Anderson's writing style is parodied in the book, Anderson then terminated the friendship with Faulkner.

In July 1925 Faulkner and Sprattling took a cargo ship to Italy. From there Faulkner traveled via Switzerland to France, where he stayed in Paris for a long time. In December 1925 he returned to the United States from the United Kingdom. His subsequent work is considered to be his weakest novel: Mosquitoes (mosquitoes), in which artists are again portrayed, appeared in 1927. In September 1927 Faulkner finished his first novel, set in Yoknapatawpha County , a poetic replica of Lafayette County. It was published in 1929 in a heavily abridged version under the title Sartoris . The long version only appeared in 1973 as Flags in the Dust (roughly: Flags in the Dust). The focus is on two returnees from the war and the topics of guilt, morals and the past.

From 1928 onwards, Faulkner wrote his four best-known novels and numerous short stories within four years. The novels and almost all of the short stories of the period are set in Yoknapatawpha County . In the late summer of 1928 Faulkner completed work on The Sound and the Fury ( Schall und Wahn ). Influenced by James Joyce , this novel was published by Cape & Smith in New York in 1929 . The criticism was mostly positive, but the initial print run of 1000 copies was only sold after a year and a half. In 1929 Faulkner married Estelle Oldham-Franklin, whom he had long admired and who had previously been married to another man. Married life was shaped by economic problems. They had to live in an apartment building, and Faulkner took a job as a supervisor in the university's heating plant.

In this work, a large part of his next novel, was As I Lay Dying ( When I was dying ), a book about a family that a dead body during a Mississippi transported -Hochwassers. It only took Faulkner seven weeks to complete the novel. The novel was published in 1930. income through some short stories like A Rose for Emily ( A Rose for Emily ) allowed the home to Faulkner's Rowan Oak to buy in Oxford, the Faulkner retained until his death. In May 1929 Faulkner completed the first version of the novel Sanctuary ( Die Freistatt ). The book was published in 1931 and deals with female sexuality and moral decay. The book, which was quite revealing for the time and is written in pulp fiction style, became a success and made Faulkner known in the UK and France. The Faulkners' first daughter, Alabama, was born in 1931 and died nine days later. In August 1932, the novel was published in Light in August ( Light in August ), he had begun without a fixed plan. It was Faulkner's first work to be translated into German.

In 1932 he signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and from then on wrote scripts for the Hollywood film industry . In 1933 Faulkner's daughter Jill was born. In addition to the scripts, he wrote other novels. In 1934 he began work on the novel Absalom, Absalom! which appeared in 1936. In 1935 the novel Pylon (turning mark) was published, which is set in the airfield environment and has a triangular relationship on the subject. Pylon was Faulkner's first novel by Random House , which also published all of his other books. In 1938 The Unvanquished was published , a cycle of six short stories that was a great success. In it, Faulkner tells the story of a white boy and his black friend. The following year, the double novel Wild Palms - The Old Man (Wilde Palmen - Der Strom) appeared. In 1940, The Hamlet , the first volume in the trilogy about the "upstart" Snopes, was published. The other parts appeared in 1957 and 1959, The Town (Die Stadt) and The Mansion (Das Haus). Faulkner was now living in Hollywood. He wrote, among other the screenplay for the film adaptations of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep ( The Big Sleep ) and Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not ( Have and Have Not ), both directed by Howard Hawks . Faulkner had an affair with his secretary Meta Carpenter.

In 1942 Faulkner published the volume of short stories Go Down, Moses (Das Vergewegee Erbe, later in German under the original title), which consisted of seven, partially rewritten, coherent stories. But he still had financial problems. In 1944 only Sanctuary was available in the USA . Faulkner applied to the US Army to fight in World War II, but was turned down. In 1946, Portable Faulkner was a compilation of earlier works. It wasn't until 1948 that another new book was published by him with the novel Intruder in the Dust . This was a success, and shortly after its release, the film was made in Faulkner's hometown of Oxford. The work of the film team greatly contributed to his popularity in Oxford - before that Faulkner had been rejected by many people in the southern states because of his books. In 1949 he began an affair with the much younger writer Joan Williams, whom he also served as a counselor and to whom Faulkner's numerous reflections on his work are due.

Nobel Prize

Faulkner's portable typewriter

In 1949 Faulkner was the favorite for the Nobel Prize for Literature , but a blocking minority of the jurors voted against him, so that the prize was not awarded for the time being. In the following year Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize retrospectively for 1949 with a unanimous vote. Faulkner went on a hunting trip and wrote a cancellation, as he shied away from the public associated with the award. It was difficult to change his mind. Jill Faulkner went with him.

The award was presented to him in Stockholm in December 1950, together with the 1950 award winner, Bertrand Russell . The award was given for Faulkner's "powerful and independent artistic contribution to America's new narrative literature". At the award ceremony, Faulkner said among other things: " I decline to accept the end of man ... One will not only endure, but prevail ..." ( Eng : "I refuse to believe in the end of mankind." .. Humanity will not only endure, but will win ... ”). The price is not for him as a person, but for his work. Faulkner donated part of his prize money to a foundation to support young authors, which still awards the PEN / Faulkner Award for Fiction to this day . Another part was bequeathed to a bank in Oxford to pay out scholarships for the schooling of black children.

After the Nobel Prize

In the years following the Nobel Prize, Faulkner became more communicative. His works showed a clearer moral message. The Requiem for a Nun (Requiem for a Nun), written as a drama , is the continuation of Freistatt and has human morality as its theme. A Fable (A Legend), completed in 1953 after a long time, is about French soldiers in World War I. In 1954 the book was published. 1957 and 1958 Faulkner was " Writer in Residence " at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville , where his daughter also lived. His last novel, The Reivers , he wrote in 1961 within a few weeks.

On June 17, 1962 Faulkner fell while on a riding excursion. On July 5th he was taken to a clinic and died the following day of a heart attack , which was attributed to a thrombosis as a result of the riding accident. He was buried in Saint Peter Cemetery, Oxford.

His wife Estelle Faulkner died in 1973. His daughter Jill Faulkner then sold Rowan Oak , in which a Faulkner Museum was established. She married and was called Jill Faulkner Summers from then on. She died in 2008.

Style and content

Faulkner's works are characterized by complex constructions, such as changing narrative perspectives and a non-chronological course of action. He uses the stream of consciousness technique . The sentences are often nested and show a careful, often unconventional observation of diction and speech rhythm. He combines these stylistic devices with an emotional, often ironic or tragicomically tinged depiction of the history of the south of the USA, which goes far back into the past - exemplified using the example of a county. Numerous of his fictional characters appear in different works, so that his novels and stories, which are set in Yoknapatawpha County , represent a dense description of this area, both in terms of the events depicted and the characters described therein, which is unique in world literature.


Faulkner was considered a difficult, not very communicative character. Flying was one of his interests. In addition, he often went on horseback riding and hunting trips and worked on his house. His alcohol consumption was high and he had to undergo numerous drug rehabs. However, he hardly drank during his creative period. He was skeptical about innovations. So he didn't buy a radio for a long time and hesitated to buy a car. He also rejected political innovations such as Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal . At the same time he was liberal on one of the central questions of the southern states, the question of the relationship between whites and blacks. He judged a possible integration of blacks with skepticism, but advocated full equality. After winning the Nobel Prize, he became more communicative and accounted for what he was doing more often.

Effect in the German-speaking area

Faulkner's works were not banned in Germany during the Nazi era . The translation Licht was published by Rowohlt Verlag in August 1935, and was enthusiastically received by Gottfried Benn . Before the war, Wendemarke (1936) and Absalom, Absalom! (1938). However, Faulkner only had a greater impact on the German readership in the post-war period: his work had a major impact on the work of Heinrich Böll , Alfred Andersch , Uwe Johnson's and Peter Handkes . In addition to editions in the Federal Republic of Germany and Switzerland , his work was also published in the GDR .


From 1939 Faulkner was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters .


Novels with first editions in English and German

  • Soldiers 'Pay (1926), German: Soldiers' Wages, Rowohlt (1958)
  • Mosquitoes (1927), German: Moskitos, Rowohlt (1960)
  • Sartoris (1929), German: Sartoris, Rowohlt (1961)
  • The Sound and the Fury (1929), German: Schall und Wahn, Scherz & Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1956)
  • As I Lay Dying (1930), German: When I was dying, Scherz & Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1961)
  • Sanctuary (1931), German: Die Freistatt, Artemis (1951)
  • Light in August (1932), German: Licht im August, Rowohlt (1935)
  • Pylon (1935), German: turning mark, Rowohlt (1936)
  • Absalom, Absalom! (1936), German: Absalom, Absalom !, Rowohlt (1938)
  • The Wild Palms / The Old Man or If I Forget Thee Jerusalem (1939), German: Wilde Palmen und Der Strom, Scherz & Goverts (1957)
  • The Hamlet (1940), German: Das Dorf, Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1957) - 1st part of the "Snopes Trilogy"
  • Intruder in the Dust (1948), German: Griff in den Staub, Scherz & Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1951)
  • Requiem for a Nun (1951), German: Requiem for a nun, Scherz & Goverts (1956)
  • A Fable (1954), German: A legend, Scherz & Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1955)
  • The Town (1957), German: Die Stadt, Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1958) - 2nd part of the "Snopes Trilogy"
  • The Mansion (1960), German: Das Haus, Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1960) - 3rd part of the "Snopes Trilogy"
  • The Reivers (1962), German: Die Spitzbuben, Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1963)
  • Flags in the Dust (1973)

Volumes of stories

  • Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles (1926)
  • Thesis 13 (1931) contained therein, among others: A rose for Emily , Dürrer September , That Evening Sun , Red Leaves
  • The Unvanquished (1938), German: The undefeated, Scherz & Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1954)
  • Go Down, Moses (1942), German partially: The discarded legacy, Scherz & Goverts (1964)
  • Collected Stories (1950), German: Stories in three volumes, Goverts (1962), therein a. a. contain Barn Burning (1939)

Volumes of poetry

  • The Marble Faun (1924)
  • A Green Bough (1933), German in a different combination: Ein green Zweig, Goverts / Fretz & Wasmuth (1957)

Further German-language first editions of short stories

  • Der Bär, Forum-Verlag (1955) / Insel (Leipzig 1969)
  • Victory in the Mountains, Langen-Müller (1956)
  • Hunting luck, ark (1956)
  • Scheckige Mustangs, Insel (Wiesbaden 1956 - Insel-Bücherei 623/1)
  • Evening Sun, Piper (1956)
  • New Orleans, Goverts (1962)
  • The Springer Attacks, Goverts (1963) / Volk und Welt (1972)
  • The great forest, Fretz & Wasmuth (1964)
  • Drought September and eight other stories, diogenes (1968)
  • The Wish Tree, Fretz & Wasmuth (1969)
  • Master Tales, Goverts (1970)
  • Collected stories, five volumes, diogenes (1972), also as arsonist / A rose for Emily / Red leaves / Victory in the mountains / Black music, diogenes (1978)
  • Drought September, People and World (1980)
  • Father Abraham, translated by Rudolf Hermstein, S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1987
  • The tree with the bitter figs, Diogenes (1980)
  • Franky and Johnny, Diogenes (1992)

more books

  • Letters, Diogenes (1980)

Working as a screenwriter

Film adaptations of Faulkner works

Faulkner did not describe himself as an enthusiastic moviegoer, but found words of praise for the films Griff in den Staub (1949) and Duell in den Wolken (1957).


  • William Faulkner. In: Heinz Ludwig Arnold (ed.): Kindlers Literatur Lexikon 3rd, completely revised edition. 18 vols. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2009, ISBN 978-3-476-04000-8 , vol. 5, pp. 402-417 [biogram, work article on Die Erzählungen von Peter Nicolaisen, work article on Sartoris , The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying ].
  • Joseph Blotner: Faulkner. A biography. Two volumes. Random House, New York 1974; Jackson 2005, ISBN 1-57806-732-4 .
  • Dietrich Jäger : The representation of the fight in Stephen Crane, Hemingway, Faulkner and Britting. In: Paul Gerhard Buchloh et al. (Ed.): American stories from Hawthorne to Salinger · Interpretations. Kiel Contributions to English and American Studies Volume 6. Karl Wachholtz, Neumünster 1968, pp. 112–154.
  • Ute Müller: William Faulkner and German Post-War Literature. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-8260-2970-4 .
  • Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner in personal testimonies and photo documents. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1981; 4th edition 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X .
  • Stephen B. Oates: William Faulkner. His life, his work. Diogenes, Zurich 1990; ibid. 1997, ISBN 3-257-22976-3 .
  • Carolyn Porter: William Faulkner. Lives and Legacies. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-531049-8 .
  • Sally Wolff-King: Talking about William Faulkner. Interviews with Jimmy Faulkner and Others. LSU Press, Baton Rouge 1996, ISBN 0-8071-2030-8 .

Web links

Commons : William Faulkner  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gero von Wilpert (Ed.): Lexicon of world literature . Vol. 1. dtv, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-423-59050-5 , p. 450.
  2. Marion Winkenbach, Annette Zwahr (editorial supervisor): The Brockhaus. Universal lexicon in 20 volumes. Vol. 5, FA Brockhaus AG, Leipzig 2007
  3. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 9f.
  4. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 10.
  5. Biography at olemiss.edu (English), accessed on August 27, 2012
  6. ^ University of Mississippi website , accessed February 1, 2011
  7. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 17
  8. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 32
  9. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 46
  10. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 50
  11. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 54
  12. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 101
  13. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 111
  14. Faulkner Nobel Prize Speech ( Memento from January 28, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  15. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 113
  16. ^ Obituary for Jill Faulkner Summers , accessed February 5, 2011
  17. Teaching material for The Sound and the Fury (English), accessed on February 2, 2011
  18. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 55
  19. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 108
  20. ^ Peter Nicolaisen: William Faulkner. With testimonials and photo documents . 4th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-50300-X , p. 117
  21. http://peter-handke.de/kosmos/interview/
  22. ^ Members: William Faulkner. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed February 10, 2019 .
  23. "Reaching into the Dust" at TCM
  24. ^ Trivia of the Internet Movie Database