My photo
Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Chapel Hill, Boston, Istanbul, Calgary, Washington DC, Austin, Tunis, Warszawa and counting

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Requiem for a Nun

"The past is never dead. It's not even past." This might be a reminder to some Germans trying to leave Germany's pre-1949 history behind, or French ignoring the evils of colonialism, or in general anyone pretending their history doesn't matter anymore since it is (too far) in the past. yet, it is by William Faulkner as always talking about the South or more specifically his heroine's, Temple Drake, past. Requiem for a Nun (I feel like there aren't many of his books that I haven't read yet by now, and I am already looking forward to re-reading some of the ones I read a long time ago) is a bizarre novel (maybe something that Sartre would call anti-roman) in a play. Or a play in a novel. Faulkner tells the early story of Yoknapatawpha County in a novelized form, while telling us of a (white) mother's quest to liberate the (black) killer of her infant daughter her uncle(-in-law) serving as facilitator of this attempt. Faulkner aficionados will be familiar with most of the main characters (Temple Drake from Sanctuary, Gavin Stevens from all over the place, Gowan Stevens, but also the early population of Yoknapatawpha County, Sutpen, Compson, Ratcliffe (whose name will become Ratliff over time, Satroris...) and the combination of a historical novel and a modern play, one interrupting the other, makes for early incomprehension of the reader. I feel having read Sanctuary, already knowing Gavin Stevens and most of the characters from Yoknapatawpha's early days enabled me to appreciate the text much more than someone without this knowledge would have been able to.

What else can I say? I love Faulkner's writing, not merely because it is convoluted and takes forever to get to the point, not even because it twists and turns within one single sentence, maybe not even because his topics elicit a hard to understand pleasure in German middle class kid - what is my relation to the American South after all? what have I to do with racial relations from the early 19th to the middle of the 20th century - not just because his body of work has to be seen as one with interlinks between his novels and characters occurring constantly; no, his writing satisfies me through its intricacies, its long-winded sentences which seemingly never come to an end and which embody a Southern life style which move slowly, rejects outside influence and is willing to fight against it even when it might share the outside's intended goals. Read it, especially if you want to know why Jefferson is called Jefferson, I won't tell you.

No comments: