American short story writer, novelist, best known for his Yoknapatawpha cycle, a comédie humaine of the American South, which started in 1929 with SARTORIS / FLAGS IN THE DUST and completed with THE MANSION in 1959. Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. Faulkner's style is not very easy - in this he has much connections to European literary modernism. His sentences are long and hypnotic, sometimes he withholds important details or refers to people or events that the reader will not learn about until much later.
"The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is worth any number of old ladies." (from Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, 1959)
William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, as the oldest of four sons of Murray Charles Faulkner and Maud (Butler) Faulkner. While he was still a child, the family settled in Oxford in north-central Mississippi. Faulkner lived most of his life in the town. About the age of 13, he began to write poetry. He dropped out of high school before graduating and worked briefly in his grandfather's bank.
After being rejected from the army because he was too short, Faulkner enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and had basic training in Toronto. He served with the RAF in World War I but did not see any action. This did not stop him later telling that he was shot down in France. After the war he studied literature at the University of Mississippi for a short time. In 1920 he left the university without taking a degree and moved to New York City, working as a clerk in a bookstore. Then he returned to Oxford where he supported himself as a postmaster at the University of Mississippi. Faulkner was fired for reading on the job. He drifted to New Orleans, where Sherwood Anderson encouraged him to write fiction rather than poetry.
Faulkner's first book, THE MARBLE FAUN, a collection of poems, appeared in 1924, but did not gain success. In 1926 he published SOLDIER'S PAY, a novel centering on the return of a soldier, who has been physically and psychologically disabled in WW I. It was followed by MOSQUITOES, a satirical portrait of Bohemian life, artist and intellectuals, in New Orleans. The early works of Faulkner bear witness to his reading of Keats, Tennyson, Swinburne, and the literature of the 1890s.
In 1929 Faulkner wrote Sartoris, the first of fifteen novels set in Yoknapatawpha County, a fictional region of Mississippi. The book was later reissued entitled FLAGS IN THE DUST (1973). The Yoknapatawpha novels spanned the decades of economic decline from the American Civil War through the Depression. Racism, class division, family as both life force and curse, are the recurring themes along with recurring characters and places. Faulkner used various writing styles. The narrative varies from the traditional storytelling (LIGHT IN AUGUST) to series of snapshots (AS I LAY DYING) or collage (THE SOUND AND THE FURY). ABSALOM, ABSALOM!, generally considered Faulkner's masterpiece, operates through a range of voices, all trying to unravel the mysteries of Thomas Sutpen's violent life.