As others read us: American fiction abroad; William Faulkner, part one
This is the eighth and last of a series of programs untitled as others read us American fiction abroad produced and recorded by the Literary Society of the University of Massachusetts under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. During this hour we will hear a discussion of the foreign reputation of William Faulkner by Mr. Carvel Cullen's of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Mr rené Girardeau of Britain more. We will also hear Mr. Faulkner reading selections from his work. Moderator for this program will be Mrs Leon Baron of the Literary Society Mrs Baron. Thank you Mr. needed. William Faulkner was born in New Alvin in Mississippi in 1897 and was brought up in Oxford Mississippi a small town suggested in many ways of Jefferson the locale of many of the stories he's the author of An impressive list of distinguished works including the early soldiers paid the sound and the Fury As I Lay Dying
sanctuary might in August Absalom Absalom their And the recently published a fable. In 1950 you receive a Nobel Prize for Literature. Was did you write I understand that the interest of Europeans in Faulkner began rather early. Could you tell us a little about the history of this interest. Yes being of Huntsman myself I feel more competent to deal with the French response to follow but many people I guess with agree that this is not too serious. In addition since the French response to partner has been most enthusiastic in critical interest in Faulkner in France dates back to the first critical article of moist Quintal in 1931. Which was followed very quickly by two translations of short stories by Quintal. After this the main novels of Faulkner followed up in quick succession. One of the main points of interest
in France at this early stage was the violence in Falkner's work. In his preface to the French translation of sanctuary the French novelist Andre not all claims that sanctuary means the interaction or great tragedy into the detective story under a model of had good reason I think to be especially impressed with Faulkner because even before the Second World War he thought that the only valid expression of our time would be a tragic one but not all had to leave France and the West in order to look for that in China and elsewhere whereas Faulkner was able to find that tragedy in his own environment or to make that environment tragic. Another point which came a little bit later is the treatment of time in Faulkner beauty stanchest school. Consider is that a con a logical
time scientific time. Has not and has little to do with human time existential time and the existentialist novelist should break away with the patten of the conventional pattern of time this is what Faulkner does in his novels and jumble sucked into articles has congratulated Faulkner for doing so. Remember Souter however was critical of certain features of time in Falkner's novels as he knew them at the time. Especially the problem of the future in hard subject claims that the characters in Faulkner had no huge Sherry. They always look back at the past in a way they are similar to a person riding a convertible and looking back at the road which has already been traveled. Mr. Collins Why have Americans been reading Faulkner.
Well that's a very hard question to answer of course but. The dramatic thing in this connection is that for a number of years the floor of the Second World War though a number of Americans let him he was not at all receiving the attention that he has received since the Second World War. And I think it is possible to speculate a little about some of the reasons for this dramatic change in the perception of Faulkner and his reputation. I think one thing the critics and readers in the period when he was first writing a period after the second world war demanded that fiction be rather sociological and Faulkner didn't seem then to be sociological. And now as writers and readers and critics are a little less interested in sociological functions of the novel it seems to me and so they're discovering that they would have thought has been done for a long time the kind of thing that they're much interested in now this goes also for
a matter of time in one limited way this is the way the novel deals with events in. Naturalistic fiction which was dominant before the Second World War the convention was to go along pretty much a chronological order. Mr. Potter didn't do this so the critics and readers were puzzled and didn't like it now. They don't ask that a writer do this again. Mr. Barton is where it seemed to be doing what they will as they now want and even the works have been doing this all the time. Also in before the war there was a view that in this connection that his novels lacked structure and and the symbolic aspects of the novels went by well regarded or even by well understood and I think now they are. Better understood and this is why he has emerged as the outstanding novelist that he is far. Leaders at the moment. Did your art what effect the war have on Europeans response to Faulkner.
They want certain they had a great effect in the case of people like Marvel and so one can say that these people were to a certain extent profits as much as they foresaw the tragedy of our time. In the case of most people of course this tragedy was not foreseen and it's when a tragedy overtook the people that they understood. I mean they had a kinship with the type of experience. Faulkner describes his books which they hadn't felt before from people who had been in the war who had suffered the humiliation of the occupation. All had lived a life of adventure in the resistance movement the works of William Faulkner were much more helpful not only to would be writers but to the lay man who wanted to see his experience in words. These were much more helpful than many novelists of the French classical tradition whose rationalism seemed to have failed in a man like
Faulkner. They found precisely what they wanted they found. This experience of impotence in the face of the situation which is bigger than the individual is. And this of course might be. People might see that this is the pessimism of the post-war era. I would say yes but I would say that the rationalism the optimistic rationalism which was refused at the time was refused as far as optimism and we didn't mean anything anymore to these people. And Faulkner Faulkner didn't offer a solution. At least he offered a genuine expression that they stare and expression itself is the beginning of hope in the beginning a search for a solution or at least an effort to interpret the situation which is of course the most human attitude in front of what. Not always the Iraq problem remediable.
Mr. Faulkner has recorded especially for this program passages from the bear and light in August. There's light in August in any way demonstrate some of these points you gentlemen have been bringing out. I think so. Light in August is one of the most popular novels of Faulkner in France. Perhaps it comes next to sound in fury of sound and fury and popularity and I think that the most interesting character the point of view of violence in the study of time in light in August is your Christmas drew Christmas can be considered as an existentialist. Character in the novel. He cannot be interpreted in naturalistic terms. He's not a pure product of environment and he cannot be interpreted in idealistic terms as a man who is completely free from the vicissitudes of existence and who can model his life in the way he pleases. Joe Christmas has to be interpreted most in the terms of it of his environment and
his pride the pride of self which compels him in a way to assumes both wide thinking the thinking of the prejudiced white and Negro being an equal being which conflicts with white thinking and compels. Joe Christmas to destroy himself and Joe Christmas moves relentlessly toward the self-destruction European reduced John Christmas is especially interesting because he does not understand himself completely. And the writer does not explain him in a classical not home. The writer tells us everything he knows and apparently everything there is to know about his characters. And the existentialist novelist of course and contemporary French novelist would say that bass unfortunately has nothing to do with are really experienced especially in this day
and age where we all feel lost in our world. Mr. Collins Do you feel that there are any other points in life in August which are interesting to you. Yes I think so and it seems to me that in this matter of the structure of the novel that I spoke of a moment ago as being a point about which city critics and readers before the Second World War and since the Second World War I disagree there. One critic for example said in the 30s that light in August didn't have a unified structure because Joe Christmas a central character and Lena Grove a central character never meet an on naturalistic grounds this seemed to be bad as a matter of fact. Though the novel has many ways of being read and there's no one statement one can make as to what it's about certainly one feature of it would seem to many readers to be its treatment of
time with Joe Christmas as you said and it imbedded in the past trying to define itself trying to find out what it is. Heredity is and this burden a lady woman who wants to marry a man that wants to have a child wants him to go to college and she is thinking about the future and Lena Grove moves through the thing and in as one critic has pointed out in terms of the Keats own a Grecian Urn she moved to thing in a kind of eternal present and in this connection. It is part of the symbolic unity of the now I would say so I think that they shouldn't meet and readers I think are more aware of this sort of thing than they were before and then to a sociological aspect I mean this novel as a. A way to understand the South as a region or section of the South as a region. People don't make this demand any longer and watch least not as much strength as they used to and so this is freedom to read a novel in
other ways and I would assume and perhaps truer way they don't treat Joe Christmas rather more symbolically. Well a lot of them yeah a lot of people today are interested in the violence. Joe Christmas let's say but I don't think for the American reader the violence must be fought as fiction means quite what it seems to mean to Europeans my feeling about Europeans as I've seen them in classes is that in Europe and talk to many and read their comments they seem to be sort of doing Faulkner along with many other American novelist as a sort of rest from the over sophistication of a European writer and they feel here is a primitive thing in a turn for the violence to fodder for the by. And I think that Americans don't so much take this pill and after all we have Mickey Spillane if that's what we really want mind balances gratuitously this is not what to us via it's useful and I'll.
I think that the readers of Europe turned toward Faulkner because of its violence but I think that the critics who became interested in Faulkner would not confuse this violence with a primitiveness of Faulkner as an artist. It might happen in the case of center and informed readers of course and Faulkner being very popular and very fashionable in Europe today. Undoubtedly quite a few people who read his novels who are not quite prepared for the shock for the French critics and the would be writers I would see at the end of the war. Fog meant primarily a type of novel which could help them to express their own experiences during the war during the occupation in the resistance movement. And these people felt that the French. Classical tradition there precisely because of that this year and that rationalism didn't have much for them at that time. Mr. Faulkner has read the one of the Lina passages from Mike in August I wonder if we could hear that passage now as an instance of a non rational.
Well I don't know whether it's an instance of non-rational it's a it's the opening pages of an I want seems to me that it's a chance to see Mr. Faulkner writing a kind of style it is not so violent and also making a point. He's obviously quite a firm and he certainly at least envious of Lena Grohl for moving so untroubled through such scenes of trouble and she comes out in the end as she is in this passage we're going to hear on a very even keel sitting beside the road watching the wagon mount the hill toward hall. Leila thinks I have come from Alabama for peace all the way from Alabama all workin for peace thinking although I have not been fired a month on the road I'm already in Mississippi. Further from home than I have ever been before. I am not further from Doan's mill than I have been since I was 12 years old. She had
never even then to Doan's milk until after her father and mother died. Those six or eight times a year she went to town on Saturday in the wagon in a mail order dressed and how bad feet flat in the wagon bed and how huge wrapped in a piece of paper beside her on the seat. She would put on the shoes just before the wagon reached town actually got to be a big girl she would ask her father to stop the wagon at the edge of town and she would get down and walk. She would not tell her father why she wanted to walk in instead of riding. He felt that it was because of the smooth streets the sidewalks. But it was because she believed that people who saw her and who she passed on foot would believe that she lived in the town too. When she was 12 years old her father and mother died in the same summer in a log house of three rooms on the whole without screens in a room lighted by bugs swirled kerosene lamps. The naked floor won't move as all silver by the naked feet.
She was the youngest living child her mother died first she said. Take Calpol Luna did so then one day her father said You go to don't mill with the candy you get ready to go be ready when he comes. Then he died. McCann later the brother arrived in a way gone. They dared the father in a grove behind a country church one afternoon with a tiny headstone. The next morning he departed for ever. Though it is possible that he did not know this at the time in the wagon with McKinley for Doan's mill the wagon was borrowed and the brother had promised to return it by nightfall. There were perhaps five fan is that when we know a ride that has a track on a station and once a day a mixed train fled shrieking through it. The train could be stopped with a red flag but by ordinary It appeared out of the devastated hills with apparition like suddenness and waiting like a banshee afloat and passed that little less than Village night gotten beat on a broken stream.
The brother was 20 yes our senior. She hardly remembered him at all when she came to live with him. He lived in a four room unpainted house with his late one child ridden wife for almost half of every year the sister in law was either nine you know recovering. During this time Linda did all the housework and took care of the other children. Later she told us I reckon that's why I got one so quick self. She slept in a lean to room at the back of the house. It had a window which she learned to open and close again in the dark without making a sound. Even though they also slept in the lean to a room at first the oldest nephew. Then the two oldest then the three she had lived 8 years before she opened the window for the last time she had not opened it a dozen times harder before she discovered that she should never have opened it at all. She said to herself That's just bad luck. The sister in law told the brother then he remarked I change the shape which he should
have noticed some time before he was a hard man. Softness and gentleness and youth he was just 40 and almost everything else except a kind of stubborn and despairing fought a Q and A big carriage of his blood pride had been sweated out of him. He called the whole he accuse the right mad young bastard as a soul dust Cazenove was anyway what even fewer in number than families but he would not admit it. Though the man had departed six months ago she just repeated stubbornly. He's going to send for me. He said he would send for me. Unshakable sheeplike having drawn upon that reserve a patient said fast fidelity upon which the Lucas birches depend and trust even though they do not intend to be present when the need for it arises. Two weeks later she climbed again through the window. It was a little difficult this time. It had been this hard to do before I reckoned I would not be doing it now she thought she could have departed by the door by daylight. Nobody would have stopped off.
Perhaps she knew that but she chose to go by night and through the window. She carried a palm leaf fan and a small bundle tied neatly in a bandana handkerchief. It contained among other things thirty five cents and nickels and dimes. How huge Will a pair of his own brother had given to him. They were but slightly worn since into someone neither of them will shoot at all. When she felt the dust of the road beneath her feet you remove the shoes and carried them in her hand. He had been doing that now for almost four weeks behind the four week the avocation of fall is a peaceful corridor paved with unflagging and tranquil faith and people with kind of nameless faces and voices looks but I don't know I don't know of anybody by that name around here. This role it goes to Pocahontas. He might be that it's possible he has a wagon that's going to teach the way it would take you that fall that groaning now behind two hour long monotonous
succession of peaceful and I'm deviating changes from day to dark and dark today again through which he advanced an identical An anonymous and deliberate wagons as though through a succession of creek wheeled and lifted Avatar like something moving for heaven without progress across an earth. The wagon mounts the hill toward her. She passed it about a mile back down the road. It was standing beside the road the kneeled asleep in the traces their heads pointed in the direction in which she woke she saw it and she saw the two men spotted beside a body on the fence. She looked at the wagon and the men want a single glance all embracing swift innocent and profound. She did not stop there like to the men beyond the fence had not seen her even to look at the wagon. Like them. Neither did she look back. She went on out of sight walking slowly at the shoes unlaced about her ankle until she reached the top of the hill a mile beyond. Then she sat down on the ditch
bank with her feet in the shallow ditch and remove the shoes. After a while she began to hear the way going again. She heard for some time. Then it came into sight mounting the hill. The shop and brittle cracked and cloud of it's weathered and I'm greased wood and metal is slow interesting. A series of dry sluggish reports carrying for half a mile across the hot still pond once out of the August afternoon though the new plot in a steady and unflagging hypnosis the vehicle does not seem to progress. It seems to hang suspended in the middle distance for ever and for ever so infinitesimal is its progress like a shadow to get upon the mild registering of road so much as this so that in the watching of it that I lose it as sight and sense drowsily merge and blend like the road itself with all the peaceful and monotonous changes between darkness and day. Like already measured thread being rewound onto a spool. So that at last as though out of some trivial and unimportant region beyond even distance
the sound of it seemed to come slowing terrific and without meaning as though it will go traveling a half mile ahead of its own shape. That fall within my hearing before my seeing Lena thinks she thinks of myself as already moving riding again thinking. Then it would be as if I were riding for half a mile before I even got into the way before the wagon even got to where I was waiting and that when the wagon is empty of me again it will go on for half a mile with me still in it. She waits not even watching the wagon now. Sinking goes idle and swift and smooth filled with nameless constipated voices for the cause but if you say you tried in Pocahontas this road it goes to Springvale. You wait here there will be a wagon passing soon that will take us far as it goes. Make it and if he is going all the way to Jefferson I would be riding within hearing of looters but before you see. He would hear the way but he won't know. So that would be one within his hearing before his seed and then he would see me and he would
be excited and so that would be to within his seeing before his remembering I think you're all right Mr. Collins And this is the type of passages in talking a type of characters which have been rather neglected by European writers even though the experience of Lena gross might be considered an existentialist one in a positive term and I would say that in certain books like those of can he. The character of the of the stranger in his now holy Tashi for instance lives in the present as well as one that is Lena has over Cammy character in it that is she just is automatically in the present he's having to kind of prove that he's in the present and this led to this active shooting any arrogance of it whereas Lena is an evil in and she's just there and she doesn't she isn't thinking about how can I stay in the present she just is there. I think you're perfectly right
but I don't think however that in fact as Lena is really an answer to the problems which are posed in the novel because undoubtedly she comes she is before consciousness and her good fortune in a way is is one which cannot be shared by other characters and can be fully shared by the other which is why I say God envy her not to emulate. So we can we can see here that this would be Faulkner's humanism. But and I would say that European critics are interested in Faulkner primarily as an anti humanistic writer to a certain degree. Well not I think. I think they do considering this when I think they're wrong now the height our passage. I thought I was imbedded in a romantic conception of the past of a tradition. And he grows up in this novel and at the end he repudiates this and realizes that he had abandoned the present that he had sold out to his parishioners he had not given them what he wanted. He
had been selfish about this and he in his final passage the last words I asked say in a novel it seems to me he moves very much more toward maturity which And he is a thinking person which is not. But it's here this high tower so willingly if we think in slows that some knows it now but the vehicle itself is still on a way out. He sees the faces which surrounded him they were astonished much puzzled then outraised then feel as if they look beyond his wide Haddix and soul behind him and looking down upon him in his turn on the way out the sun and supreme face itself cold terrible because of its omniscient detachment. He knows that they see more than that that they see the trust of which he proved himself one bloody thing used now for His chastisement. It seems to him now that he talks to the faith perhaps accepted more than I could before. But is that criminal. Shall I be punished for that. Shall I be held responsible for that which was beyond my power. And they
phased it would not be accomplished that you accepted her you took her as a means toward your own selfish just as next not to be cold to Jefferson. Not from my end but for your own. Is that true he thinks could that have been true. He sees himself again as when the shame came he remembers that which he had sensed before was bone hiding it from his own thinking. He sees himself off as a soft fortitude and forbearance and dignity they can yet appear that he resigned his pulpit for models reasons. When at the very instant there was within him a leaping and triumphant surge of denial behind a face which had betrayed him believing itself safe behind a lifted him book. When the photographer pressed his bow he seems to write himself as a patient skillful playing his cards well making it appear that he was being driven uncomplaining into that which he did not even that admit had been his desire that before he entered the seminary. And still casting his sobs as though he was flinging rotten fruit before drove of hogs the nigger and Tom from his
father which he had continued to divide with the Memphis institution for allowing himself to be persecuted to be dragged from his bed at night and carried into the woods and beat mystics. He all the while bearing in his own town sight and hearing without shade. With that patient and full up his ego the martyr to add the behavior to how long the Lord until inside his house again and the door locked he lit the match with luck you said triumphantly. All that's done now that passed now that's bought and paid for now. But I was young then he thinks I too had to do not what I could what I knew. Thinking as running to heaven now he should know it sent it. Still the vehicle as alone a way of life is approaching and after all I have paid I have bought my gold even though I did pay for it with my life. And who can forbid me doing that. It is my man's privilege to destroy himself so long as he does not injure anyone else so long as he lives too and of himself. He stopped suddenly motionless on breathing that comes upon him a consternation which is about to be actual Haro. He is
aware of the sand now with the realisation of it he feels within himself a gathering. As though for some tremendous effort progress now is still progress. Yet it is now Interesting huge visual from the recent past like the already traversed edges of sand which cling to the turning point running back with a dry his. That before this shit alone you reveal to my wife my hunger my ego and some of her despair and shame and without his having thought of that all the seven seems to stand for spreading across his skull behind his eyes.
- William Faulkner, part one
- Producing Organization
- University of Massachusetts
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Episode Description
- William Faulkner. Faulkner himself speaks here, as do critics Rene Girard and Carvel Collins.
- Series Description
- This series analyzes European views of the works of American authors.
- Broadcast Date
- American literature--Europe--History and criticism.
- Media type
Guest: Faulkner, William, 1897-1962
Guest: Girard, Rene
Guest: Collins, Carvel, 1912-1990
Moderator: Barron, Leone
Producing Organization: University of Massachusetts
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-22-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “As others read us: American fiction abroad; William Faulkner, part one,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-q23r0j5q.
- MLA: “As others read us: American fiction abroad; William Faulkner, part one.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-q23r0j5q>.
- APA: As others read us: American fiction abroad; William Faulkner, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-q23r0j5q