9781631491702 198

The Saddest Words

William Faulkner's Civil War


Michael Gorra (Author)

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Michael Gorra, one of America’s most preeminent literary critics, asks how we read William Faulkner in the twenty-first century.

Michael Gorra asks provocative questions in this historic portrait of William Faulkner and his world. He explores whether William Faulkner should still be read in this new century and asks what his works tell us about the legacy of slavery and the American Civil War, the central quarrel in America’s history.

Born in 1897 in Mississippi, Faulkner wrote such iconic novels as Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury, creating in Yoknapatawpha County the richest gallery of characters in American fiction, his achievements culminating in the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. But given his works’ echo of "Lost Cause" romanticism, his depiction of black characters and black speech, and his rendering of race relations in a largely unreconstructed South, Faulkner demands a sobering reevaluation. Interweaving biography, absorbing literary criticism and rich travelogue, The Saddest Words recontextualises Faulkner, revealing a civil war within him, while examining the most plangent cultural issues facing American literature today.


“Michael Gorra is one of the finest critical minds at work in literature today, and this masterly reassessment of William Faulkner could not be more timely. Faulkner is a central figure in American fiction and, indeed, in American history, a voice as resonant in today's troubled world as it was in his own time. Gorra asks hard questions about the novelist and the man, and is unflinching in answering them. This is a momentous and thrilling book.” — John Banville

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