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Requiem for a Nun (1951)

by William Faulkner

Series: Temple Drake (2)

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644336,406 (3.49)21
Drama. Fiction. Literature. Romance. HTML:

The sequel to Faulkner's most sensational novel Sanctuary, was written twenty years later but takes up the story of Temple Drake eight years after the events related in Sanctuary. Temple is now married to Gowan Stevens. The book begins when the death sentence is pronounced on the nurse Nancy for the murder of Temple and Gowan's child. In an attempt to save her, Temple goes to see the judge to confess her own guilt. Told partly in prose, partly in play form, Requiem for a Nun is a haunting exploration of the impact of the past on the present.

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Faulkner obviously could not leave Temple Drake as we last saw her in Sanctuary. There was more to her story and it must have haunted him, as it haunted me, for he returned to her twenty years later to put her soul under a microscope.

I, unlike so many, do not view Temple as an evil person. I view her as a damaged soul, someone who has been so marred by life that she can no longer function. She fails to understand, even herself, what makes her unable to feel emotion as others do, and she carries the blame within her for her obvious shortcomings. She is trapped forever in the moment of her life in which she gets into a car with a drunkard and leaves her life and self behind. Married to Gowan, she can never hope to escape that moment...for even his mere presence is a constant reminder.

To read this without first reading Sanctuary would certainly lessen the impact of the story, and in truth, I do not think you could sufficiently understand Temple without the background story that unfolds in Sanctuary. Faulkner is such a remarkable writer and his works are so layered, that I think I will still be thinking about these characters and dissecting them for some time.

The format used here is quite unique. There is a play, sandwiched within three sections of historical exposition of Jackson and Yoknapatawpha County. The history is riveting and it is unbelievable how much information and emotion Faulkner is able to convey in a these rather short sections.

I pondered the title. Faulkner does nothing haphazardly, so I’m absolutely sure there is some deep meaning to this choice. A requiem is a mass for the dead soul--and that is easy enough to equate to Temple. Her soul is undoubtedly dead. But, why a nun? Is she cloistered by her past, living apart from society, from secular life? She has no spiritual attachment to save her, nothing to worship that I can see. If anyone else has an idea about the title, I would love to hear your thoughts.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
530. Requiem for a Nun by William Faulkner (read 18 Jan 1958) I did no post-reading note but was suitably impressed by this book ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 23, 2013 |
Now this was strange: part novel and part play and part who knows what. Faulkner's always trying to push the envelope here. It follows Temple Drake after her appearance in Sanctuary, but it's not as exciting of a read. There are better Faulkner books out there. ( )
  BeaverMeyer | Jul 29, 2007 |
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“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
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Drama. Fiction. Literature. Romance. HTML:

The sequel to Faulkner's most sensational novel Sanctuary, was written twenty years later but takes up the story of Temple Drake eight years after the events related in Sanctuary. Temple is now married to Gowan Stevens. The book begins when the death sentence is pronounced on the nurse Nancy for the murder of Temple and Gowan's child. In an attempt to save her, Temple goes to see the judge to confess her own guilt. Told partly in prose, partly in play form, Requiem for a Nun is a haunting exploration of the impact of the past on the present.

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