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Faulkner’s The Unvanquished

November 11, 2013

When I was considerably younger, I read quite a few of Wm. Faulkner’s novels, and for a long time he was one of my two favorite fiction writers (the other being Aldous Huxley for entirely different reasons).  Recently I picked up Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, one of those I had not read before, and I finished it about an hour ago.  Faulkner’s prose is dense, and frequently beautiful.  One reads Faulkner as one exposes oneself to any great art, whether Shakespeare, Beethoven, W.M.S. Turner or the sculpture of Henry Moore.  It enriches one, and, I suspect, considerably increases the number of neural pathways between brain cells.
The Unvanquished takes place in the American south during and in the four or five years immediately after the Civil War.  There is language that may offend some, but it is the language as it was spoken at the time, I suspect, and is, therefore, appropriately used.  It is an exciting story, taking place, for the most part, during wartime, and the characters are drawn very well.  But it is Faulkner’s beautiful use of language that is the main thing, and near the very end there is one paragraph, that is, perhaps, two pages long, that is what made Faulkner one of the preeminent American prose writers.  It is beautiful, extremely moving and bears close attention.  This is not writing one glides over for the story (what happened then, what happened next), but rather one savors, lies in, holds very still and tries to imbibe.

Well, I recommend it.

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