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Sanctuary

Sanctuary, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary: The Original Text, grand guignol

faulkner novel ‘the william

a novel by William Faulkner, first published in 1931, and, in what has become known as ‘the original text’, in 1981. Sanctuary, Faulkner's sixth novel in order of publication, though written before As I Lay Dying (1930), the fifth to appear, exists in two quite distinct versions. The novel, said by the author to be ‘the most horrific tale I could imagine’ and ‘deliberately conceived to make money’, was written in the early summer of 1929 and initially rejected by his publishers, Cape and Smith; some eighteen months later he thought it a ‘terrible’ novel, and, before the New York publication in 1931, undertook extensive revisions to the manuscript. Sanctuary: The Original Text (1981), edited by Noel Polk, restores the unrevised text of the novel.

Sanctuary is numbered among Faulkner's most violent novels and it contains many scenes of great dramatic and symbolic power as well as instances of his prodigious gift for comedy. It concerns a group of social misfits, chief among whom are Temple Drake, the daughter of a judge, and Popeye, a Memphis hoodlum, and the drama is played out against the background of the degenerating society of Frenchman's Bend in Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. The impotent Popeye's rape of Temple with a corncob, which he uses as his instrument of sexual conquest, is one of the most disturbing images in Faulkner's fiction. Moral authority is embodied in the character of the lawyer, Horace Benbow, who finds his idealism and his belief in human reason defeated by what one critic calls ‘the horrifying power of evil’ which the novel depicts. Critical opinion of Sanctuary remains deeply divided, some critics seeing it as little more than a commercially motivated exercise in grand guignol, others as a tragedy of almost classical proportions. Both William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country (1963), by Cleanth Brooks, and The Achievement of William Faulkner (1966), by Michael Millgate, contain intelligent assessments of the novel.

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