The 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature was announced recently – along with the 2018 prize, which was skipped last year. The 2019 winner is Peter Handke, and the 2018 winner is Olga Tokarczuk – clicking their names will take you to a list of their works in our catalog. There’s a great deal of controversy surrounding the prize, which you can read more about in the New York Times.
But this is Throwback Thursday, so we’re looking into the past. 70 years ago, the Nobel Prize in Literature was given to novelist William Faulkner “for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel.” And since the Nobel Prize is not given for a specific work, I thought I would highlight what would have been his most recent novel when he received the prize in 1949.
Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner
“It was just noon that Sunday morning when the sheriff reached the jail with Lucas Beauchamp though the whole town (the whole county too for that matter) had known since the night before that Lucas had killed a white man.” So begins Intruder in the Dust, a novel with a plot that might put you in mind of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Lucas Beauchamp is black, the setting is the deep South, and he’s accused of shooting a white man in the back. He also doesn’t pretend to be inferior to the white folks around him. How, when he’s already in jail, can justice be done?
The novel explores the complex racial situation of 1940s Mississippi – and also the complexity of the society in general and the people who make it up. Remember to take it slow when you read Faulkner – his prose is long and winding, so enjoy it! Although the plot is very interesting, the best thing is how immersed you can become in the novel’s world – and what you can take from that experience, particularly about race and justice, into this one.
If you’ve ever dreamed of quitting your day job to become a writer, you could always pattern yourself after Faulkner. According to The American Scholar:
After William Faulkner dropped out of the University of Mississippi, his mentor got him a job as the university’s postmaster. Faulkner soon earned a reputation as “the damndest postmaster the world has ever seen,” possibly thanks to his habit of throwing out mail he deemed unimportant, reading during working hours, and spending the rest of his time on duty writing a book. His reply to a scathing review from the Mississippi post office inspector shows that the feeling was mutual: “I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
We have a lot of works by Faulker in our library system. In addition to his novels and short stories, there are audiobook versions of readings of his works, DVDs with movies based on his novels, and even collections of essays about his works! You can find a big list of these materials in the catalog by clicking here.
This Week in 1949: New York Times Bestsellers
#1 in Fiction: The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
#2. A Rage to Live by John O’Hara
#3. Mary by Sholem Asch
#4. Let Love Come Last by Taylor Caldwell (unavailable)
#5. The Way West by A.B. Guthrie, Jr.
#2 in Non-Fiction: The Waters of Siloe by Thomas Merton
#1. White Collar Zoo by Clare Barnes (unavailable)
#3. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
#4. Peace of Soul by Fulton J. Sheen
#5. The Mature Mind by Harry Allen Overstreet