book reviews

The Sound and the Fury

The Sound of the Fury, by William Faulkner was first published in 1929. I found my copy at a second hand book sale. I had once heard a quote in a movie that it is the most difficult book in the English language, so naturally  I bought it.

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The novel is racist and sexist (or at least, the characters are), but it is set in the American South a century ago (spanning 1910 – 1928) and reflects the place and time.

The book has four narrators, the three Compson brothers and then a fourth omnipresent narrator.  Benjy who is mentally handicapped, a difficult narrator to follow. Quentin who is depressed and could likely be classified as mentally ill.  Jason, who is the easiest of the Compson narrators to follow, is pretty much a-hole (given his family life and childhood it is somewhat understandable, but he would probably have been a a-hole otherwise anyway). Their sister Caddy, even though is is a very central character, is not a narrator. It is sexist, yes,  but it suits the novel and the voicelessness of her character.  As messed-up, incestuous and/or prejudiced the characters was I could relate to most of them, at least on some level..

The narrative can be confusing. Benjy and Quentin’s narratives jumps a lot between current events and memories. Stream-of-consciousness is often employed.  There are plenty of run-on sentences. The majority of the book is pretty much one run-on sentence.

Character names are confusing at times. For one, apart from the narrator Quentin there is also Quentin who is a next-generation Compson girl. Given the time-jumping narrative, I first thought Quentin was transgender or something, or a boy being raised as a girl, until I realised they were two different characters.

This is a complex portrait of human misery, despair, poverty, suffering and prejudice.  As frustrating as it can be, it is pretty well-crafted. I think The Sound and the Fury is worth the read and probably something you’d want to reread, even if it is just to make more sense of it.

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©lowercase v    2017

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