- ink and paper
8vo. Publisher's black cloth, stamped in gilt; lightly rubbed. Original dust-jacket; light wear to extremities. In a quarter-morocco slipcase.
This was the first major Faulkner novel brought out by Random House, who promoted him more aggressively than had any of his previous publishers. In his enthusiasm in acquiring Faulkner, Bennett Cerf agreed to have the fold-out map printed in two colors and tipped into the rear of every copy of the first printing of 300 copies—which comprised the deluxe issue—at great expense. Faulkner, for his part, accepted “a number of editorial cuts and simplified punctuation”; and to clarify what would come to be regarded as one of his most difficult texts, he added a chronology and genealogy.
Faulkner began the novel in 1934, then entitled “Dark House.” By the summer he had “a mass of stuff,” but only one usable chapter, and had changed the title to Absalom, Absalom! to reflect the change of emphasis from Thomas Sutpen and his vengeful creation of his dynasty, to the relationship between Sutpen and his partially black son, Charles Bon. A descendant, Quentin Compson (of The Sound and the Fury), tries to tell the story of his Southern roots to his Canadian roommate at Harvard, while fighting his own demons, his incestuous desire for his sister. Other characters present the narrative from their own perspective and points in time, and embroil the reader not just in the story of Quentin’s lineage, but in the story of the rise and fall of the Old South. The book’s conception is difficult to reduce to a single sentence, though Faulkner would try, with varying degrees of seriousness and success. He told one friend it was the story “of a man who wanted a son through pride, and got too many of them and they destroyed him…” and when pitching the film rights he simply stated, “It’s about miscegenation.”