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William Faulkner published nearly twenty novels, two collections of poetry, and a novel-drama, as well as essays, newspaper articles, and illustrated stories. His early work has been collected and his University of Virginia lectures transcribed. As a screenwriter in Hollywood, he was listed in the credits of such films as The Big Sleep (1946), To Have and Have Not (1944), and Land of the Pharaohs (1955).

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William Faulkner is best known for his novels, particularly The Sound and the Fury (1929), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), and As I Lay Dying (1930), all of which have been translated widely. A Fable (1954) and The Reivers (1962) won Pulitzer Prizes, and A Fable and the Collected Short Stories won National Book Awards. Faulkner received the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1949.

Film versions have been made of several of his works: Sanctuary (1961), Intruder in the Dust (1949), The Sound and the Fury (1959), The Reivers (1969), and Pylon (1957; or Tarnished Angels). Others (Requiem for a Nun, 1951, and “Barn Burning”) have been filmed for television.

Such attention attests to the fact that Faulkner has been one of the most influential writers in the twentieth century—both in the United States, where his work suggested to an enormous generation of southern writers the valuable literary materials that could be derived from their own region, and in Europe, particularly in France. He has had a later, but also profound, effect on Latin American fiction, most noticeably in the work of Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, who seeks, as Faulkner did, to create a fictive history of a region and a people. Faulkner’s work has also been well received in Japan, which he visited as a cultural ambassador in 1955.

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William Faulkner (FAWK-nur) published two volumes of poetry and several volumes of short stories. Most of his best stories appear in Knight’s Gambit (1949), Collected Short Stories of William Faulkner (1950), and the posthumously published Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner (1979). His early journalistic and prose pieces have been collected and published, as have his interviews and a number of his letters. Also published are several interesting minor works, including a fairy tale, The Wishing Tree, and a romantic fable, Mayday. New Faulkner material is steadily seeing print, much of it in the annual Faulkner issue of Mississippi Quarterly. Scholars are continually making public more information on Faulkner’s screenwriting in Hollywood, where he collaborated on such major successes as To Have and Have Not (1945) and The Big Sleep (1946). Several of his works have been adapted for television and film; notably successful were the 1949 film adaptation of Intruder in the Dust and the 1969 adaptation of The Reivers.


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When William Faulkner received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949, he completed an emergence from comparative obscurity that had begun three years before. In 1946, when nearly all of Faulkner’s books were out of print, Malcolm Cowley published The Portable Faulkner. Cowley’s introduction and arrangement made clear “the scope and force and interdependence” of Faulkner’s oeuvre up to 1945.

Even in 1945, Faulkner was reasonably well known to the readers of popular magazines, his stories having appeared with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s and Ernest Hemingway’s in publications such as the Saturday Evening Post, Scribner’s Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, and The American Mercury. Despite his success in selling short stories and as a Hollywood screenwriter, Faulkner’s novels, except for the notorious Sanctuary, had little commercial success until after Cowley’s volume and the Nobel Prize. The notoriety of Sanctuary , which was widely reviewed as salacious, brought Faulkner to the attention of the...

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Critical Essays