am 25. Juli 2002
Eine Rest-Familie verspricht Mutter Addie Bundren, sie nach ihrem Tod zu "ihren Leuten" zurückzubringen. Eine wahnwitzige Odyssee mit einem stinkenden Leichnam, einem gebrochenen Bein, einer schwangeren Tochter auf der Jagd nach einer Abtreibung, einem schwachsinnigen Sohn, der den Sarg (und das Gesicht der Mutter) anbohrt, damit "sie atmen kann", herzzerreißend schöne Passagen des Sohnes Darl, der, weil er "anders" ist, in die Irrenanstalt eingewiesen wird, und der kaltherzige Sohn Jewel, der das liebste, was er hat, aufgeben muß, um das Versprechen zu halten. Das Versprechen an eine Mutter, deren nackter Haß zu dieser verspäteten Rache an ihrem Mann und ihren Kindern führt. Ein Lachen, das dem Leser im Halse steckenbleibt, oder Mitleid, das zugleich sehr lustig ist. Auch diese Ambivalenz macht das Buch einfach toll.
Faulkner's great accomplishment in this novel is to use the most modern fiction techniques to create a timeless allegory that we would probably not accept in a different style. His other great achievement is to leave so much space in the story for us to participate in adding meaning. You have to pay attention to even notice what is going on, and then you can provide a variety of interpretations. This novel will never be the same for any two readers. It is a stunning accomplishment, as a result.
The story begins as Addie Bundren lays dying, fanned by her daughter, while her son makes her coffin. With her husband and five children, we make her acquaintance by learning about their actions and characters. Only once does she have a role as a narrator, and then, quite late in the story.
Her husband, Anse, has promised her that he will bury her with her family. Because of tremendous rains, the river has risen, knocking out bridges and making passage difficult. Despite this, the family perserveres in taking her unembalmed body to the intended burial site. Along the way, there are many mishaps and the family is burdened in many ways by keeping this promise. As the burial comes closer, new elements of the story are exposed and develop that totally recast what you have thought was going on. On the very last page (don't read it first!) is such a plot reversal as only a short story writer would normally have dared.
The story is a difficult one to read. So read this book when you have time to pay close attention and study the text word by word. Let me explain the difficulties you will encounter. First, the voices in the book use a Southern patois that will be unfamiliar to most. This is the language of the rural poor in the 1930s, which few have heard. Second, the exposition is mostly through thoughts, often expressed in fragmentary form, rather than through action and a smooth narrative. Third, the narration is a partial mosaic of impressions of the characters, jumping back and forth in 2-4 page segments. Their perceptions are partial, and even more partially expressed. Objectivity is shunned by Faulkner. Fourth, Faulkner wants you to fill in the gaps, and the best way to do that is to expose the gaps slowly. Only after 3 or 4 narrations by characters will the gaps begin to emerge in a way you can grasp them. Then, you still have to interpret them.
Few readers will miss the references to Moses and his search for the promised land, and the Christian parable of the Pilgrim's Progress. What is unstated is the connection to reading. Many poor Southern people of that time were taught to read with The Pilgrim's Progress as a primer. That experience helped to shape a perception and a sensibility that would influence their actions, and thus, this tale. That connection creates a wonderful series of circles here that build on one another.
At bottom though, it is clear from this book that there are secrets of the heart that are never exposed in public. When we come close to dying (our own or someone else's), these secrets begin to rise closer to the surface where we (and sometimes others) can see them.
Faulkner has one quirk in the book that I urge you to look for. While he is often conveying the thoughts of uneducated people, he will drop in magnificent phrases that are worthy of Shakespeare. He wants you to know that he is a learned man, hiding behind his humble bards. That pride creates flaws in the book, but flaws that are a delight to the reader, nevertheless. In fact, he takes this one step further by employing many of Shakespeare's favorite techniques from foreshadowing through nature's fury through using fools.
After you have read this book, I encourage you to consider what secret desires, actions, fears, and thoughts you have which you keep buried even from yourself. Then consider the potential benefits of making these known, before you lay dying.
Also, whenever things seem confused, consider how others may be perceiving what is going on. Like Vardeman, they too may think their mother is a fish. Accept their view of reality, and communicate in terms of that perception if you want to make contact. Otherwise, you will be alone even in the middle of your family, as the Bundrens were in As I Lay Dying.
Enjoy this American masterpiece! I think you'll find it irresistible and moving.
am 27. Mai 2010
Faulker ist ein guter Erzähler, sonst wäre diese Geschichte kaum zu ertragen.
Vor Jahrzehnten entfloh Addie ihrem verhaßten Beruf als Lehrerin, indem sie den erstbesten Mann heiratete, der um sie warb: den Bauern Anse Bundren. In der Ehe findet sie die Überzeugung ihres Vaters bestätigt, das Leben sei nur eine Vorbereitung auf den Tod und so will sie wie ihr Vater in der Stadt Jefferson begraben werden. Anse verspricht es ihr, und nach Addies Tod - mit dem die Haupthandlung des Romans einsetzt - besteht er auf der Erfüllung dieses Versprechens um jeden Preis, wohl weniger aus irgendwelchen Gefühlen seiner verstorbenen Frau gegenüber als aus dem Wunsch heraus, stolz mit der Einhaltung seines gegebenen Wortes prahlen zu können sowie aus zwei ganz persönlichen Gründen, nach Jefferson zu fahren.
Anse ist ein selbstsüchtiger, träger, unschlüssiger Mann voller Selbstmitleid und von jener Art Hilflosigkeit, die es bestens versteht, alle weniger egoistischen Mitmenschen schamlos auszunutzen und deren Hilfe noch zu erschweren.
Es sind die drei tatkräftigen älteren Söhne (der jüngste ist noch zu klein, um nützlich zu sein), denen es trotz widriger Umstände (Sommerhitze, in der die Leiche der Mutter im Sarg verwest, Überschwemmungen nach Unwettern, die Brücken unpassierbar machen und zu zeitraubenden Umwegen führen) gelingt, den Maultierwagen mit dem Sarg in die Stadt und die Mutter dort in ein Grab zu bringen. Anse steht, wenn es nicht um seinen eigenen Vorteil geht, nur klagend abseits.
Cash, der älteste Sohn, bricht ein Bein, als das Maultiergespann in einer Furt von den Fluten mitgerissen wird, und wird aufgrund zu später und schlechter Versorgung ein Krüppel bleiben. Darl, der zweitälteste, wird in Jefferson der Polizei übergeben und in eine Irrenanstalt gebracht - er hat eine Scheune angezündet, um den Sarg mit den Überresten seiner Mutter darin verbrennen zu lassen, wohl um dem würdelosen Zug mit einem stinkenden Leichnam, über dem Raubvögel kreisen, ein Ende zu machen. Jewel wird vom Vater praktisch gezwungen, sein Pferd, für dessen Erwerb er lange hart gearbeitet hat, im Tausch für ein neues Maultiergespann (das erste ertrank im Fluss) aufzugeben, und die schwangere Tochter findet in den heimlich aufgesuchten Drogerien nicht nur kein Mittel gegen ihren Zustand, das Geld von ihrem Liebhaber für ein derartiges Mittel wird ihr von ihrem Vater abgenommen (der zuvor schon seinen Sohn Cash bestahl). Addie, die wohl nie eine liebevolle Frau und Mutter war, hat durch ihre Forderung ihre Familie auf einen Horrortrip geschickt. Nur Anse geht aus ihm unberührt und unverändert hervor - mit einem neuen Gebiss und einer neuen Frau.
Der Roman wird kapitelweise einigermaßen chronologisch jeweils aus Sicht einer anderen Person - hauptsächlich der Kinder - erzählt. So wird vieles erst nach und nach und im Rückblick verständlich, manches bleibt ganz unklar, was irritiert. Die Bundrens sind keine Menschen, die große Gefühle zeigen, aber die enorme psychische und physische Belastung, denen die fünf Kinder Addies ausgesetzt sind, wird deutlich spürbar.
am 22. April 2000
Since I liked The Sound and the Fury so much, I decided to give this book, regarded as "Faulkner's other masterpiece," a try. While I didn't like it as much as I liked The Sound and the Fury, I really enjoyed this book, also. Faulkner further experiments with style by splitting the narrative duties between fifteen separate narrators throughout the course of the story. Throughout fifty-nine chapters, these narrators each tell their own stream-of-consciousness rendition of the story. This book contains Vardaman's famous "My mother is a fish" chapter. The story itself, that of the Bundren family's journey to bury their mother, Addie, in Jefferson, Missisippi, is darkly humorous. I still have a mental picture in my head of the Bundren family wagon entering Jefferson, encircled by buzzards, and of the townspeople covering their noses so they don't have to bear the stench of Addie's dead body. This book also explores several other themes, such as religious hypocrisy. I especially enjoy how the reader sees the story unfolding from so many different viewpoints. Highly recommended.
am 15. Mai 2000
I just got thru reading As I Lay Dying for a college class. As I have read no other Faulkner, I cannot compare this with his other works. Although it takes time to get adjusted to it, the novel itself is grand, a tour de force as Faulkner called it. The family experiences Addie's loss.
Each character is fully realized, and every last one of them (in the family, anyway) is insane. Jewel is constantly cursing and using violence to express his love and anger. This is in direct relationship with his mother, because she did so with him. The very thing that defines him is when he calls his horse "You sweet son of a b----". That he how he relates to the world. He is a very angry young man, and cannot express himself properly without resorting to foul language.
Darl is a very interesting character. Although you may not catch it less you are paying attention, he has a telepathic ability, to read into people's mind. He is very perceptive. So perceptive, in fact, that in one chapter in the first part he describes what is happening at the house as Addie Bundren dies, and he and Jewel are away from the house selling materials. His relationship with Addie is strained at best. She loves Jewel best. In manner of speech, Addie and Darl are closest, being very poetic in speech.
Cash is 28/29 and Vardaman's age isn't given. He is a little boy. Cash makes the casket for his mother. Vardaman becomes very confused during the duration of the novel, because he catches a fish in the beginning. The fish dies and they eat it (this is a correlation of the family being like buzzards during the journey). One chapter consists of a single sentence. "My mother is a fish". It is also foreshadowing of one of the more comic events in the novel. Darl says of Jewel, whose relationship with his horse is based after his relationship with his mother, that his mother is a horse, speaking metaphorically. Vardaman takes that literally also. If Jewel's mother can be a horse, he insists his mother can be a fish.
Tull is the only sane one in the story, and he is not a member of the family. He is a neighbour who is helping with the family. Cora, his wife, serves God in a cliche way, and is generally niave. Brother Whitaker, without revealing too much of the plot, is important. Anse, the father, is hilarious. He says he cannot sweat because of some illness he got when he was 20. He won't do a damn thing. He won't be "beholden" to any man, which he says all the time. But he really doesn't want to do anything, and wants others to do it for him.
Dewey Dell is a very simple creature. She gets pregnant, and wants to have an abortion. She doesn't understand morality. Her intellect pales in comparison to Darl's; however, they have a psychic link together. Someone like this God would not judge harshly, because she does not have understanding.
Addie Bundren in the single most important character in the novel. Her chapter is a little past the center of the novel. The reason, one interpretation goes, is that Addie is like the spoke of a wheel, where the spoke is in the center, and everything is connected to it and comes out of it. She is a very hateful person. Although very poetic, she hates words, thinking them meaningless.
Sex to the Bundren family is not governed by morality (or at least they don't think it is). My teacher likened it to barnyard sex: animals are not governed by morality, and they just have sex. This is much the approach of this family, although of course they are wrong. Man is above animals, and morality governs this matter. Dewey Dell, of which much of the imagery associated with her is sexual, is very simple and knows nothing of sexual morality. Her name suggests her simpleton sexuality. Dewey Dell means "Moist Valley". Not to much of a stretch of an imagination to know what that means. She gets pregnant by Lafe. Dewey Dell is such of limited intelligence that she goes to the pharmacy at the end of the novel to get an abortion. The soda jerk tells her to come back, and then he has sex with her. She curses afterward, saying that won't cure anything. Darl and Cash masturbated while growing up. Addie is still lonely even though she has sexual relations with her husband, so goes elsewhere to find it. (Her children were there to cure her loneliness. An important lesson is lurking here: sex and children are two of the most precious gifts from God: they are exactly that - gifts. One must know Christ to have a truly fulfilled life).
Dark humour is very prevalent thruout the entire novel. Everything from Addie making her water trip to Anse getting those teeth to them dragging the body, stinking up everything, the novel is hilarious. Anse says he owes it to Addie to take her there, saying he won't disgrace her. Yet the whole journey is disgraceful. It is one of the funniest books in a dark sense that I have read in a long time. To speak to much of this would ruin some of the moments; but rest assured, if you properly imagine the events, it should strike you quite funny.
In conclusion, Faulkner has created a portrait dysfunctional family. He said he wrote this, and knew if he never picked up a pen again he would live or die (reputation wise) by this book. (Quote paraphrased) He also does his stream of conscious and multiple narrators, making this foray notable because of it. Each is fully drawn, with excellent psychological realism. The characterization is excellent. Read it.
am 5. Januar 1999
I had tried reading this book a couple of times after reading The Sound and the Fury (which I loved), but never managed to get very far. I recently tried again and made it all the way through, and I'm glad I did. The first half of the book is a little slow, but my advice is to stick with it, because it gets better. I'm going to go back and read this one again; this is really the kind of book that rewards multiple readings, since your liable to miss something the first time through. I think The Sound and the Fury is a better book, but both are worth reading.
As much as I like Faulkner, his books are not for everyone. He has an affinity for stream-of-consciousness -- an affinity I do not share -- that I suppose was more avant garde in Faulkner's day, but which may tend to annoy the modern reader. Faulkner's real genius, though, is his subtlety; he brings you gradually toward a greater understanding of the characters without beating you over the head. Figuring out for yourself what's going on is more rewarding than if Faulkner had just come out and told you.
If Twain's writing is like water, then Faulkner's is like port wine: the first taste may cause you to gag and spit, but if you can manage to finish the whole thing, you may discover something that will bring you a lifetime of enjoyment.
am 17. Juli 2000
"As I Lay Dying" is a meditation of sorts on what human existence means. Now, this sounds like a lofty and intricate philosophical discussion, but it's not. Faulkner uses the stream-of-consciousness technique to tell the story of Addie Bundren's final journey to the grave through the eyes and hearts of a dozen or so characters, including Addie herself.
What we're meant to see here, I think, is how tenuous our very sense of existence really is and how it is shaped by the events of our lives. Pay particular attention to Dewey Dell's constant thoughts about being and not being -- what actually exists and what she does not want to exist, namely the illegitimate child she is carrying in her womb. This theme is also a stark feature of Addie's one chapter, presumably narrated on her death bed, although it does not occur until well near the end of the book, leading the reader to wonder whether we are hearing her tale of bitterness and emotional disconnectionn from beyond the grave.
The chapters told through the eyes of Darl, the strange second son of Anse and Addie, are key not only to the book's plot, but to its theme. The family and neighbors suspect Darl is somewhat mad. He seems, however, to be almost psychic and extremely sensitive to the flow of events around him. Darl is a seer for whom time -- past, present and future -- is a seamless whole. Darl's chapters are by far the most poetic in the book and the most intricate for readers to navigate. It's well worth the effort.
In the end, the Bundren family's epic struggle to get Addie's body to the town cemetery where her own family is buried turns out to be a tragi-comic tale of how the Bundrens begin their own disintegration as a family. As Addie's corpse rots in its handmade coffin -- handmade by eldest son Cash and disfigured by youngest son Vardaman, who drills holes in the lid and into Addie's face -- the absence of her existence allows the Bundrens to implode.
There are two clues to what lies at the center of this novel (there are probably many, many others -- these two were the ones that stood out starkly to me). First, in her solitary chapter, Addie quotes her father: "the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time." Second, note that at several points in the novel, people greet one another: "The Lord giveth." We never hear the antiphony, "And the Lord taketh away." The Lord of "As I Lay Dying" gives both good and bad. It's up to humans to make what they will of what they are given.
This book is probably a bit too much for high schoolers. Undergrads will enjoy it, as will graduate students. Adult readers shouldn't be scared away by Faulkner's reputation for writing stuff that, quite frankly, is difficult to read. It's not, but it does require you to read it at its own pace. Take the novel on those terms -- linger over the free-flowing stream of thoughts and dash through the more straightforward chapters that advance the plot and deepen the characterization. If you are willing to do this, you'll find "As I Lay Dying" a gem that draws you back time after time.
am 13. November 2012
The Norton critical edition of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is great for students of American literature. The novel itself constantly employs tragedy and farce which results in a very sombre and violent tonality. The additional material is all one may need to write a paper on the novel. This edition is highly recommendable.
am 4. März 2000
So much has been said about this wonderful book, but I'll repeat one thing: It is very good.
According to legend, it took Faulkner a mere 6 weeks to write this book. Imagine what he'd have come up with if he spent more time on it? "Absolom, Abolom!" no doubt.
I am one of those folks that believes Faulkner to be the second coming of Christ. Actually, I tend to like Faulkner a lot more than Christ, as his words are more powerful any day of the week. At the very least they seem to contain more truth.
So read this book, and let me know what you think. It is possible that I am just some idiot who likes to make bold statements, but it is also possible that I am an astute reader that can, on occasion, spot a masterpiece. Listening to me is a gamble, but in this case it is one worth taking.
am 7. Mai 2000
I rarely can sit and read a book all the way through. There are few exceptions to this, but for the most part, reading a book is a process that takes many sittings for me. And in a way, I like it that way, because it gives the book a chance to soak in my brain, as opposed to a quick dunk in the pool. Perhaps the reason I like John Irving so much is that his books are so long they take many sittings to get through; and all the while you think about the characters, and you wonder what will happen to them, and in the same way your own life fascinates you as it unfolds, so do long books, where each time you pick it up something new happens.
But, because it was due the next day, last week I read William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" all in one night. And it wasn't that difficult to do. In middle school I had to read "The Sea Wolf" by Jack London all in one day, and that was a tedious experience I shall never forget. But "As I lay Dying" was really easy to read. The chapters were so short and the words so simple that I flew through that book and even had somewhat of a good night's sleep afterwards.
The book itself is fascinating. Each chapter is a psychological portrait, poetic in language, and rich in imagery. Through very few words, Faulkner sears these characters into your brain, and the events that happen to them are secondary to who they are. And towards the end, as the plot twists and turns, the narration skips past it until you have to piece things together for yourself. Which makes it that much better. I really enjoyed "As I Lay Dying" and I'm looking forward to reading 'Light in August" in a few weeks.