“…I could smell the curves of the river beyond the dusk and I saw the last light supine and tranquil upon the tide-flats like pieces of broken mirror, then beyond them lights began in the pale green air, trembling a little like butterflies hovering a long way off…”
Our friend, Bob who we met with his gorgeous wife, Wendy over a bottle or two of gin in Udaipur told us one of his favourite authors is William Faulkner. We could not doubt Bob – a lucid, literary and poetic fellow – so the Fates granted us the Faulkner challenge at Palolem (who knew beach bums had excellent tastes in books?)
The Sound and the Fury is recognized as Faulkner’s most brilliant and most challenging tome.
Similar to Ghosh’s The Glass Palace, The Sound and The Fury focuses on changing times and values. The mighty are laid low but cling onto their vestiges of past power and influence.
Set in The South after The Civil War and Reconstruction it revolves around the Compson family who exist in a past era of Southern gentility, courtly gentlemen, Honour, fainting belles of uncontested purity. Their world is delineated by class, race, and gender. They are self absorbed and ill-equipped to deal with the downturn of the world around them and their faded glory.
To add to the confusion Faulkner has three sets of characters with the same name.
The alcoholic fatalistic patriarch, Jason Compson shares his name with his cynical youngest son. The oldest son, Quentin, repository of old-time Southern morality shares his name with his flighty niece. The hypochondriacal matriarch’s brother, Maurie – another alcoholic and familial n’er-do-well for a time shares his name with the mentally-challenged son (who later is renamed Benji).
This confusion highlights that of what is “supposed to be” and “what is”.
The book is divided into four distinctive and vastly different parts. Benji’s narrative, Quentin’s, Jason’s and the omniscient narrator.
A prose Rashamon if you will.
Benji’s story is that of the title – that life is “a tale/ Told by an idiot full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.” Benji is mentally disabled and his story is a flowing stream-of-consciousness that is both lyrical and difficult. Past and present interweave.
Caddy, the sister/daughter is the main focus of all the characters and they are all affected by her fall from grace. She is naturally caring and free-spirited and gives her brothers, Quentin, Maurie/Benji and Jason the love their mother is incapable of giving to anyone. Caddy’s life is affected by the Compson environment from which she struggles to break free.
Her daughter, Quentin encounters the same suffocation as Caddy has and responds similarly.
Dilsey, the servant, is the glue that holds all the characters together and the Greek chorus of this overwhelming tragedy.
Miss Caroline/Mother lives in the past, with dashed hopes and resentment. She whines ad infinitum. Her favoured son is Jason, who is riddled with the resentment that life has not given him his due. Not bound by the honour of the past he takes what he believes he is owed by the family.
its hard to find a hiding place when you are the biggest Philistine since Goliath. This book made me totally lose face, faster than the Nazi opening the Ark of The Covenant in Raiders.
My darling wife loves a challenge (well, obviously, she married me after all) and lapped this stuff up with a spoon. I however, at the ripe old age of 60, yearn for light hearted confectionary, breezy commentaries, comedies and amusing diversions, this, ladies and gentlemen (and hangmen) of the jury, is no such thing.
A pack of unlikeable, tortured, moaning, confederates making evidently profound (but, for me, ultimately asinine) remarks about nothing in particular. Dysfunction, despair, toxicity, page after page of (admittedly beautifully written) drivel, PG Wodehouse this is not. The first 63 pages are an account from the perspective of an extremely troubled and severely retarded chap who spends most of his waking hours bellowing and weeping.
i had to stop, it made my head hurt.