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The Unvanquished Paperback – 8 Aug 1996
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From the Inside Flap
Set in Mississippi during the Civil War and Reconstruction, THE UNVANQUISHED focuses on the Sartoris family, who, with their code of personal responsibility and courage, stand for the best of the Old South's traditions. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Born in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi, William Faulkner was the son of a family proud of their prominent role in the history of the south. He grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, and left high school at fifteen to work in his grandfather's bank.
Rejected by the US military in 1915, he joined the Canadian flyers with the RAF, but was still in training when the war ended. Returning home, he studied at the University of Mississippi and visited Europe briefly in 1925.
His first poem was published in The New Republic in 1919. His first book of verse and early novels followed, but his major work began with the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929. As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and The Wild Palms (1939) are the key works of his great creative period leading up to Intruder in the Dust (1948). During the 1930s, he worked in Hollywood on film scripts, notably The Blue Lamp, co-written with Raymond Chandler.
William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 and the Pulitzer Prize for The Reivers just before his death in July 1962.
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Aside from French connections, the style and content in Faulkner's novels continues to dazzle, and "The Unvanquished" is no exception. The chapters are set during the Civil War, starting with the fall of Vicksburg, through the 10 year period of Reconstruction following the war. The setting is the familiar, to Faulkner readers, Yoknapatawpha County, in northwestern Mississippi. Although the occupation of the county by Union forces is depicted in the novel, and there are numerous killings in the book, there is not a single incident of a Northern or Southern soldier being killed there by the opposite side. (of course, "far off" deaths, such as Drusilla's fiancée at Shiloh are noted). There are numerous memorable scenes, from the night marching of recently freed black slaves to the "Jordan River,"( that borders of Magic Realism) to the generosity of a Union officer who played along with Granny's ruse, to the courage, and ultimate submission of Drusilla, who was forced back into her pre-war role by her female contemporaries, a la "Rosie the Riveter" after the Second World War.
The characterization of black-white relations in Faulkner novels has been, I'm sure, the subject of several PhD dissertations. While I found the relationship of Ringo and Bayard 10 years after the war somewhat implausible, much is redeemed by the actions of Loosh during the conflict. Faulkner no doubt digested the folk tales involving the South's continued defiance of the North, and this was reflected in the somewhat embroidered tale of the unlikely alliance of Ringo and Granny fooling those Union officers. What continues to astonish about Faulkner are the sometimes vertiginous twist and turns, such as the interaction between Bayard and Drusilla in "An Odor of Verbena," and the quick suspense involving the question of whether to tell his father, the indomitable Col. Sartoris, who has already begun to find solace in brandy.
Other reviewers say this novel is an excellent introduction to Faulkner, since it is more "straightforward," others say no. I'm divided on the question. I believe it is as good as any of the others, and has numerous unexplained complexities. It is a joy to read, and deserves the full 5-stars, as do all his others.
Finally, a thought for the present: Col. Sartoris, at times a rigid man of the past, viewing the world through a certain structure, had numerous books on his shelf, including Napoleon's "Maxims," and rather surprisingly, the Koran!
(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on June 24, 2009)
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