0695 | The Sound and the Fury | William Faulkner


My my, you have to persevere with this one. Told from multiple viewpoints, what starts out as a completely fragmented narrative that is almost completely opaque gradually becomes more defined as the viewpoints are presented.

That said, no one should be harsh on you if you reach the end and still aren’t quite sure what just happened.In fact, Faulkner admitted as such at least obliquely when he added an appendix to the novel 16 years later which clarified some of the family history.

This is not a novel for anyone who likes a good yarn. For those, the only yarn they’ll enjoy is that which they use to construct their noose in a bid to end it all. Neither is this a novel for anyone who likes much of a plot. While there are parts that are plot driven and, once you understand it, the whole thing could arguably be framed that way, large parts of this seem to go absolutely nowhere at all.

This is a novel for anyone who appreciates writing in and of itself as a vehicle for communicating not just facts but also feelings, impressions, the workings of our minds. Most of us aren’t that type of reader and so need to either just go with the flow and take what meagre scraps we can or have some sort of help alongside.

I like to read books like this as a challenge to my narrow view of what ‘good’ literature should be and use them to push my boundaries. In that way, there was lots that I could take away positively from Sound. The latter sections were much easier to read and show that even if he can craft esoteric and boundary-breaking language, he can also craft narrative that carries you along.

I’ll admit that the first two sections in particular were hard going and that I was very lost and confused a lot of the time. But I felt like this was worth the effort even if only to make me realise what’s possible. I’m not biased against this type of writing; my favourite novel of all time is The Waves by Woolf, for example. That said, I prefer Woolf to Faulkner. Her writing has something mystical about it.

In summary, you should read this if you are serious about English literature. It was seminal and shows what can be done when the limits of narrative are challenged by someone who has the audacity to do so.

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