Faulkner’s novels deal explicitly with such controversial topics as rape, incest, masturbation, castration, adultery, impotence, and racism. Despite the fact that such topics are always peripheral to his primary concerns, his novels have been attacked continuously as being shocking and immoral. None of his works was ever subject to direct governmental censorship, but they have often been subjected to cultural censorship.
Boni and Liveright, publishers of Faulkner’s second novel, Mosquitos (1927), insisted on deleting passages that they felt verged on perversion. When Faulkner submitted the manuscript for Sanctuary (1931), which in part deals with the brutal rape of a young college student and her subsequent descent into sexual and moral depravity, to his new publishers, Cape and Smith, in June of 1929, Hal Smith wrote back saying “I can’t publish this. We’d both be in jail.” However, Smith eventually decided to take a chance on the book, so Sanctuary, Faulkner’s fifth novel, was published in 1931. Reviews of the book expressed both horror at its subject matter and admiration for its power. In the public mind Faulkner became associated with sadism, violence, and decadence. His own father was outraged by Sanctuary and sought to have it suppressed and withdrawn from the market. Ironically, Sanctuary was a great financial and popular success, made Faulkner a more widely respected artist, and lead to...
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