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Light in August by William Faulkner
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Light in August (1932)

by William Faulkner

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,69883775 (4.01)1 / 475
Joe Christmas does not know whether he is black or white. Faulkner makes of Joe's tragedy a powerful indictment of racism; at the same time Joe's life is a study of the divided self and becomes a symbol of 20th century man. Light in August is the story of Lena Grove's search for the father of her unborn child, and features one of Faulkner's most memorable characters: Joe Christmas, a desperate drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.… (more)
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English (75)  Catalan (2)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
Any work by William Faulkner is going to be heady, confuse sometimes, and be filled with long, descriptive prose. Light in August, one of Faulkner’s earlier works in Yoknapatawpha county, Mississippi, is no exception. In it, he compares the plight of the American negro in the early-twentieth-century South to the sufferings of Jesus Christ while interweaving several points-of-view into a coherent tale.

Joe Christmas (whose initials suggest that he is a Christ figure) is a restless African American male living a few generations after slavery. He lacks a purpose and a stable societal structure around him. While Faulkner does not suggest that returning to slavery is a worthy option, he does portray Jim-Crow-era racism in a vivid light. Although Joe Christmas ends up committing crimes, the reader cannot help but feel sorry for him and empathize with his alienation from the society around him. It’s no wonder that a man such as he – despised by the whites around him and expected to be inferior (much like the Suffering Servant in Second Isaiah or Jesus in Roman Palestine) – would not respect societal rules.

This story is reputedly one of the best novels in twentieth-century English and is structured as stories told from different people around one central narrative. The stories of Lena Grove and the Reverend Gail Hightower serve as bookends that intertwine with a central story of listless Joe Christmas. Each chapter opens skillfully without obvious identification of the prime actors. In fact, usually, the reader takes several pages to identify who the main actors are. This tactic, while sometimes frustrating, builds intrigue and engages the reader’s analytic functions. One has to infer the context not by characterization but by the setting in which the characters are placed. Brilliant, I say.

My only substantive criticism of the work is that the last chapter seems weak and contrived. It serves a bookend to wrap up the stories of Hightower and Grove. While such a denouement is necessary to the story, it could have been made stronger by twisting the narrative more. Instead, it seems disjointed as compared to the rest of the book. I kept waiting for a point when there was on. It seemed like a literary add-on whereas by virtue of its placement at the end, it should have more “punch.”

Nonetheless, this work – especially the final sections – is vintage Faulkner. The descriptions (of course, bound in wild, untamed sentences) note observations that only Faulkner would sense. While the shifting, dark nature of the prose seems like it would adapt well to a movie, the enigmatic style of the prose and especially of the dialogue (so much Faulkner’s style) would be a wreck in spoken form. It still stands as a beautiful piece of writing. I spent much of this book attempting to parse the prose into smaller sentences that normal writers would write. This heavily intellectual and taxing process of reading makes Faulkner’s works fun. Again, Light in August is no exception. This writing particularly appeals to readers interested in a Christ-story that is mentally engaging, does not preach, and strikes a style opposite to Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. These words bring forth compassion for our fellows who are outcast while on their journey on earth.

( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 25, 2020 |
The master. ( )
  CLPowers | Dec 6, 2019 |
Beautifully written, but it felt like it began to ramble toward the end. Perhaps a bit too much into the thought processes of each individual character for my tastes. ( )
  slmr4242 | Oct 16, 2019 |
Read this for a summer reading discussion at work. I read a decent amount of genre fiction, mysteries, etc, so when I do read real literature it really knocks me out. Such greatness, but also such great work that goes into spending the time and effort to really dive into a work as complex as this!

Both read and listened to this book (more of the latter). What a great job by the narrator Will Patton. ( )
  BooksForDinner | Jun 29, 2018 |
Primer acercamiento a Faulkner y me deja con un gusto muy agradable. Narrativamente es el padre de muchos que vinieron después, sobre todo de los latinoamericanos del Boom. Personajes inolvidables y muy compejos emocional y psicológicmente, saltos temporales, historias aisladas que se van cruzando y poco a poco forman una trama brutal. Es una experiencia completa de lectura. Totalmente recomendado y un buen lugar para empezar con el autor. ( )
  andresborja42 | Mar 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (82 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Faulkner, WilliamAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coindreau, Maurice-EdgarTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fein, FranzÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frielinghaus, HelmutÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Höbel, SusanneÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoel, SigurdTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaila, KaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kristensen, Sven MøllerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sitting beside the road, watching the wagon mount the hill toward her, Lena thinks, 'I have come from Alabama: a fur piece.'
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Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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