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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my favourite faulkner and the bible
O.K., so this is not exactly easy to read. At the beginning you have to constantly deduce who is narrating. But once you have learnt that the whole story of the Sutpen family is going to be told through a series of interviews between Quentin and several witnesses of the facts related, you can relax and really enjoy it. For me, one of the greatest wonders and sources of...
Published on 11 Aug 2003 by ex nihilo

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A difficult read
Like Faulkner's earlier and better known works (The Sound and The Fury, As I Lay Dying) this is a relatively simple story told by several narrators in different ways. In this case the story concerns a mysterious young man who buys a tract of land in rural Mississippi, builds himself a mansion, finds a wife in the nearest town, appears to have made himself a good life, but...
Published on 15 Jun 2012 by Phil O'Sofa


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my favourite faulkner and the bible, 11 Aug 2003
This review is from: Absalom, Absalom! (Vintage Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
O.K., so this is not exactly easy to read. At the beginning you have to constantly deduce who is narrating. But once you have learnt that the whole story of the Sutpen family is going to be told through a series of interviews between Quentin and several witnesses of the facts related, you can relax and really enjoy it. For me, one of the greatest wonders and sources of joy in this novel was to find the paralelisms between the story of the Sutpen family and that of king David of the Bible. And even though we know what is going to happen with Colonel Sutpen and his offspring (especially the one who stands for Absalom), Faulkner's chilling solution for the conlfict is inevitably amazing. Do I need to add that the paralelism does not only work at the level of the Sutpen family tragedy, but also with the historical setting --the heroic times of the American Civil War in the South?. One of the jewels of universal literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Faulkner's Best, 2 April 1999
By A Customer
As a Mississippi native, I fell in love with Faulkner at an earlier age than most. I have read many of his novels, specifically his best works during the thirties, and most of his short stories. Many acclaim the work of Sound and the Fury as his best piece; the accolades are well founded. Yet, Absalom, Absalom as an experiment in fictional writing is unparalleled in his Yoknapatawpha Tales. Also, it offers an interesting, if not sordid continuation to the saga that the Sound and the Fury began. It is a must read for serious lovers of American fiction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sutpen's Hundred, 6 Aug 2013
By 
Robin Friedman (Washington, D.C. United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Absalom, Absalom! (Vintage Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
An extraordinary novel, William Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!" (1936) tells the story of Thomas Sutpen and of the Old South and its aftermath. The book is set in northern Mississippi in Faulkner's fictitious Yoknapatawa County. Part of the story takes place in the small town of Jefferson, but the story centers on a large 100 square mile plantation 12 miles from the town, "Sutpen's Hundred" and on its owner and builder, Thomas Sutpen. The story has multiple voices, the most prominent of which is young Quentin Compson, 20, who narrates Sutpen's story to his college roommate, Shreve Mccannon, a Canadian, during a snowy night in 1910 in Harvard.

In the course of the book, the same story gets told many times, each time with more detail and by speakers with different perspectives. The manner of the unfolding, among many other things, makes the book difficult to read especially at first, as the reader is thrown unprepared into a complex, shadowy past world. There are three basic familial groups in the book: Thomas Sutpen's, the Coldfields,a small mercantile family in Jefferson, and the Compson's. Thomas Sutpen married a Coldfield daughter, Ellen, and the couple had two children, Judith and Henry. The Compson were friends of Sutpen's and narrate much of the story.

The story begins in 1833 when Sutpen arrives mysteriously, acquires land, and builds his large mansion. He remains an outsider to the town. The reader learns a good deal of his earlier life as the story unfolds. The story is dark, passionate and brooding, with themes centering around slavery, incest (resulting from the institution of slavery), and miscegenation. Before arriving in Mississippi, Charles Sutpen had married in Haiti and had a son, Charles, and cast them both aside. When Henry attends the University of Mississippi, Bon mysteriously befriends him and ultimately becomes engaged to Judith Sutpen. The story develops around this proposed marriage, both incestuous and across racial lines.

Sutpen's story is fused to a story of the old South before the Civil War and to the pride that led the South to engage in that disastrous, ruinous conflict. The reader sees the pre-bellum South, the Civil War South, and the defeated, conquered South following the War with a strange insight. The book has the feel of high tragedy. The author's attitude towards the South resists summarization. The Biblical title of the novel suggest that Faulkner sees the old South as David saw his son Absalom: dearly beloved but fatally flawed. Faulkner shows a society doomed by its dependence on slavery, while he shows love for its toughness, independence, and passion. At one point, one of the characters says in describing the Old South:

"Yes, for them: of that day and time, of a dead time; people too as we are and victims too as we are, but victims of a different circumstance, simpler and therefore, integer for integer, larger, more heroic and the figures therefore, integer for integer, larger, more heroic and the figures therefore more heroic too, not dwarfed and involved but distinct, uncomplex who had the gift of loving once or dying once instead of being diffused and scattered creatures drawn blindly limb from limb from a grab bag and assembled, author and victim too, of a thousand homicides and a thousand copulations and divorcements."

Quentin Compson and his Canadian friend Shreve offer differing perspectives on the South and on the tale.

"Absalom, Absalom!" is notoriously difficult to read. Part of the difficulty arises from the layers through which the story unfolds. But the larger difficulty lies in the baroque, bravura, and wordy writing style of this book with long, almost endless sentences, wandering clauses and digressions, and full vocabulary. Styles make books. In this case, the style is integrally tied to the story and the meaning that the author conveys of a distant, difficult world, that is opaque and hard to understand. The story and the world and life it shows can be seen only through a glass darkly. In coming to the book for the first time, I was frustrated together with many earlier readers. I think the best course is to persevere and not to linger overlong over the many obscurities and hard passages as the story unfolds. The book becomes more dramatic and accessible with the telling.

I was greatly moved by this book and by its portrayal of the South and of the Civil War. The novel tells of the human condition in ways that cannot be found in histories. "Absalom, Absalom!" belongs in the front rank of American novels. I am glad to have read the book at last.

Robin Friedman
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer Brilliance, 25 Feb 1999
By A Customer
Faulkner is an artist. I use present tense for, like the best artists, his work lives forever and in the work lives the man.
"Absalom, Absalom!" stands, perhaps, as Faulkner's crowning achievement. Headache-inducing at times, yes, but only because it requires the reader to use his mind at an unprecedented level. In this day of Stephen King and John Grisham, it is extraordinary and eye-opening to come across a writer of such talent and imagination, a twentieth century authors long-forgotten to many of today's readers, but, perhaps, on par with very few. Only Proust springs to mind as a companion on the hilltop.
What makes this book so frustrating is the very thing that makes it so succesful. His use of flashback without announcing it as flashback, his use of foreshadowing that appears to be simply the black mark a tree has made on the ground, thrown there by the sun through no fault of the tree, unless, of course, you consider the tree guilty for simply being there.
I consider "Absalom, Absalom!" to be not only Faulkner's greatest work (challenged, perhaps, given my mood fluctuations, by "The Sound and the Fury"), but one of the great works of this century. This book is not for everyone, though. Be prepared to read and re-read in able to come to grips with the full brilliance of this novel. It is not something to be skimmed through, but rather a fine wine to be tasted slowly and savored.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars doused with mimosa, 24 Mar 2013
By 
Samuel Romilly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Absalom, Absalom! (Vintage Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
To even begin to understand this novel you have to read it at least three times. This is a task and challenge but not a chore. It has a soporific quality, and the luxuriance of decay and decadence. On the first reading you are almost drugged by the heat and above all the smell of the old South,sweet and corrupting. This book constitutes the best introduction one could have for the post-bellum period in those states' history. The stench of slavery and its insidious influence on the lives of all who live there is incarnate in this fine novel, one of the classics of American literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Most diffucult but ultimately readable narratives, 27 Mar 2012
By 
H. Tee (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Absalom, Absalom! (Vintage Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
This is one of the top 100 books of world literature and as I'm working my way through them, I thought I'd give it a try - I have previously read "As I lay dying" by Faulkner but to be honest didn't like it too much. I think it's an agreed American classic written in 1936 (and compared to Melville and James - neither author I unfortunately like)

Anyway I found this book extremely difficult and hard going but let's do the basics: This is the story of Sutpen who acquires slaves and an estate in Mississippi in the 1850s - his goal is a male heir and along the way wealth and "standing". He marries Ellen Coldfield and has children Judith and Henry - job done you might think, but no: Henry goes to University and meets Charles Bon, who on meeting Judith may marry her. But wait Civil war starts and of course Sutpen joins the Confederates. But how and where did Sutpen get his money?, why does Sutpen not want Charles to marry Judith?, but conversely why does Henry want Charles to marry Judith?, but then why does Henry want Charles to marry Judith despite perhaps knowing what Sutpen knows?, why does Ellen's virgin sister dislike Sutpen?, do we seriously believe Sutpen has no other relationships before Ellen? Who'll die in the war, return and/or killed on their return. This is a tale centred around Quentin, who is the main character receiving, much like the reader, the broken narrative from certain cast members. The story is about ambition, racial/slave society, pride, incest?, loss (through war), illicit children, death and more death.

Faulkner's writing style uses different view points, times out of sequence and very long wordy sentences - tell me what is for example (44 words...) "that Presbyterian effluvium of lugubrious and vindictive anticipation"(... 61 words end of sentence)?. I found it very difficult to follow; who was who and when. I needed half way through to search the net for a study aid to get a grasp of the story only then could I enjoy it - I wish I'd known at the start as I would really recommend knowing the story first. I was also unaware that an octoroon is an `eighth' black and a quadroon a "quarter" black person, the n-word is used extensively.

In summary; it feels like a literary jigsaw without the box's picture, some pieces missing and perhaps the author has even deliberately cut off a few nodules. You get a strong flavour of slavery, the deep South and loathing. When I finished it only then did I discover at the end of the Vintage edition a full chronology and character list at the back of the book - which at least told me I wasn't going mad about the difficulty. I can recommend this challenging book and is probably another of those `best at the second reading' stories but don't expect it to be easy.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Fate, Slavery, the South, Pride, and Story-Telling, 19 July 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absalom, Absalom! (Vintage Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Review Summary: Absalom, Absalom! is a book that you can easily underestimate. Your persistence will be rewarded with pleasure if you are patient, and assume that something magnificent will appear that is different from what you expect. The story is a cross between a Greek tragedy, King Lear, and the oral tradition of story-telling. As such, it strikes the deepest chords of human connection and ambition. The primary settings are Mississippi and the West Indies from the Antebellum period through Reconstruction and into the early 20th century. The themes touch deeply on Southern tradition, slavery, and social class. This is a challenging book to read, and will appeal primarily to those who like difficult books that are full of allusions. For most, having read other Faulkner novels will make this one easier to access and understand. As I Lay Dying is a good precursor for this novel.
Reader Caution: A six-letter word beginning with "n" to describe people of Afro-American descent is used frequently in this book in ways that will offend many people. The use of the word is consistent with the beliefs and the historical moment of the characters who utter it, and does not reflect racist beliefs by the author.
Review: Absalom, Absalom! is certainly one of America's greatest tragic novels. Thomas Sutpen arrives in Jefferson, Mississippi in middle age with a burning desire to establish a magnificent plantation and a dynasty with a leading role in society. To accomplish this, all he has available is his passion, a French architect, some slaves from Haiti, and a huge tract of land that he has somehow swindled out of the Native Americans. From the mud, his dream rises. But his very determination to accomplish his dream causes counterforces to rise that drag his dream into the mud again.
The story is told in a most unusual fashion. Almost every major character's perspective is captured through the device of recounting prior conversations with other major characters. Most of the characters are missing major elements of the "why" of the story, so you need to keep adding the stories together to begin to understand what was happening beneath the surface. The book eventually relies on a conversation with a nonparticipant in the events to explore why they might have occurred, where no direct evidence is available. In this last regard, the book takes on a little of the mystery-solving tradition involving logic that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. This conversation-reporting story-telling device makes the book both remarkably recursive and potentially maddening. If you are like me, you will wonder at times what else could possibly be covered in the book. And then, Faulkner pulls new dimensions to his story out of the hat.
Faulkner's point is that we can almost always know "what" has happened in terms of major events, but without great investigation and thought we unlikely to ever understand the "why." You come to appreciate this point by seeing your understanding of Sutpen's life change as you learn more about him and the events that preceded his arrival in Jefferson. I ultimately came away intrigued and inspired by the book's structure. You could easily have the opposite reaction.
The book is a rich source of concepts and observations about the contradictions inherent in slavery and Southern notions of gentle behavior during the 18th and 19th centuries. You only find these contradictions as well laid out in Thomas Jefferson's writings and biographies.
After you read this book, you should be in a good position to ask yourself some basic questions about what you are trying to accomplish with your personal life and your work. Are your goals any more worthy than Sutpen's? What dangers are you exposed to as a result of having this focus? In what ways are you an innocent in your pursuits?
In seeking respect and esteem, remember to give it to others even more generously!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patience, the greatest virtue, 30 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This book -is- a difficult undertaking, but it's not meant to be that way. The key is patience. Some things aren't meant to be understood until maybe 200 pages after they're first mentioned. If you don't understand something when you first read it, don't think it's -your- fault, you're probably not meant to understand it just yet. This really is a fantastic book, different from any other book I've ever read. It totally changed my view on writing, and what quality writing is.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the 20th century's great artistic works, 24 Oct 1997
By A Customer
i am now a great fan of faulkners after having read at least 12 of his 17 novels and having re-read most of them but i assure you his greatest achievement is without doubt this read it for insight into faulkners complete view of the old south and relations between blacks and whites there in unforgettable prose and tight plotting with near perfect craftsmanship in narration one of my all time favourite books
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Break through the Southern Mythic Haze, 13 Aug 1998
By A Customer
Of all the ink spilled about the fall of the South, the new South, the nostalgia for the South etc., this is the one book that breaks through the haze and shows the how the myths linger and reproduce themselves instead of just reproducing or attempting to debunk them. Through Quentin and Rosa, we see a life which is never one's own, which is drenched in the received notions of time and place we are all burdened with. Makes a wonderfull companion to reading The Sound and the Fury and the perfect antitdote to Gone with the Wind et all.
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Absalom, Absalom! (Vintage Classics)
Absalom, Absalom! (Vintage Classics) by William Faulkner (Mass Market Paperback - 19 Jan 1995)
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