william falkner


William Falkner (he added a “u” when he started to publish) was born on 25th September 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi into a distinguished southern family. At the age of four he moved to the nearby town of Oxford, in Lafayette County, where he lived for most of the rest of his life. He joined the Canadian and then the Royal Air Force in 1918, but was not involved in any war action. After spending two years at the University of Mississippi he started working as a journalist. He was encouraged by Sherwood Anderson into trying fiction and wrote his first novel, Soldiers’ Pay in 1926. From then on he continued producing novels and screenwriting (sceneggiature) for Hollywood in the 1930s. In 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature and died of a heart attack at the age of 64. Many of his short stories and novels are set in the fictional locality of Yoknapatawpha County, based on Lafayette County, where he lived. Falkner was influenced by the history of his family and his region, Mississippi, marked his sense of humour, his intense characterization of southern characters, his sense of the tragic position of blacks and whites. He saw the South doomed (destinato alla rovina) by its immoral exploitation of land and man. Faulkner’s novels are experimental: he used interior monologues, stream of consciousness techniques, dislocation of narrative time and long, involved sentences to convey the idea of the richness, complexity and ambiguity of life. He stated that “The long sentence is an attempt to get a man’s past and possibly his future into the instant in which he does something”. Among his best works set in the southern states of North America are Sartoris (1929), the first of the series about the decline of aristocratic families; The Sound and the Fury (1929), about the decay (decadenza) of the old aristocracy; Sanctuary (1931), a sensationalist “pulp fiction-styled” collection of stories, based on the themes of evil and corruption in Gothic tones; Absalom, Absalom! (1936), about the rise and fall of a poor man; Intruder in the Dust (1948), about the trial of Lucas Beauchamp, a black farmer accused of murdering a white man and a collection of crime fiction, Knight’s Gambit (1949), that feature (descrivono) Gavin Stevens an attorney (avvocato) in Yoknapatawpha County. His volumes of poetry include The Marble Faun (1924) and A Green Bough (1933). His best cinema movie adaptations are The Big Sleep based on Raymond Chandler’s novel and To Have and Have Not based on Ernest Hemingway’s work. Faulkner himself was fictionalized in Joel and Ethan Coen ‘s film Barton Fink (1991) about a young New York City playwright (scrittore di teatro) who is hired to write scripts (a cui viene affidata la scrittura di sceneggiature) for a film studio in Hollywood. Some aspects of the author are represented in the characters played by both John Mahoney and John Turturro.

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