To my literary generation in particular, the one that emerged in the 1990s in Cuba, the great narrators of that century in Latin America (Carpentier, Borges, Rulfo, García Márquez, Juan Carlos Onetti, Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes…) were the most endearing teachers, and we were sometimes unacorry that a teacher before them, the American William Faulkner (Nobel Prize in Literature 1949), had sown professorship in the soul of the creations of these essentials.
William Faulkner (New Albany, Mississippi 1897–Byhalia, Missisipi 1962) was the author of a group of truly memorable novels, including The Rumble and Fury (considered his summit work), While Agonizing, The Wild Palms, August Light, Absalom, Absalom! and Descends, Moses, among others widely applauded evenly by critics and the public, a double luck that, according to the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, occurs in the case of Faulkner and Colombia’s García Márquez…, but in not many more authors.
The South American faulkner draws, like the one drawn by Erskine Caldwell, Harper Lee and Carson Mc Cullers, among others, is tough. Very hard. It is the part of the large slave plantations, the loser of the Civil War, the cradle of the Ku Klux Klan and the lynching of blacks. It’s the land that’ll set it on fire forever. On this part of the United States, Faulkner himself said in The Rumble and Fury: “He does not escape the South, one does not heal from his past.”
They say that Faulkner, creator of an imaginary county called Yoknapatawpha, which would serve as a model for the subsequent creation of Juan Rulfo’s Comala, Juan Carlos Onetti’s Santamaría and El Gabo’s Macondo, although he had out-of-the-box skills to invent creatures, narrative views and truly renewing scenarios within literature, he did not appear to be a man of a broad culture , which brought him as a legacy that, when it came to giving a lecture, the stage became a battlefield from which he almost never emerged victorious.
Instead, others claim that, from his teens, he was a voracious reader of authors such as Shakespeare, Russian novelists, Elizabethan poets and the Bible, from where he knew how to draw more than one interpretation when it came to opening himself to the depths of the human soul and gifting pieces as striking in that regard as Absalom, Absalom! And descend, Moses.
He, like thousands of authors, would not let his literary imagination pass indifferent to the most famous narrative text of all, from which writers and writers major and minor, believers and non-believers, consecrated and beginners have drawn copious juice.
In this sense, it would be worth mentioning the Peruvian writer Joe Ilgimae: “For more than three hundred or four hundred years, the Bible has very much determined the historical and social identity of the West. Consequently, the book has provided humanity with feasible instruments for quotation, phrasing and remembrance.”
The Bible: an inexhaustible source of literary inspiration
Absalom, Absalom! (1936) takes its name from Samuel 19.5, which features a phrase from King David (“Absalom my son, my son Absalom”), bitterly pronounced after learning the news of his son’s violent death at joab’s hands during a fierce battle.
In Absalom, Absalom!, located in the context of the American South, this biblical story will be reinterpreted from the dynasty founded by Thomas Stupen, an egocentric character, thief, exploiter and slave, who makes a considerable fortune, but cannot prevent his own family from bursting with hatred against his person. As the Spanish writer José Luis Alvarado referred to it: “Absalón, Absalón! it’s a nightmare that reads like a nightmare.”
In Descended, Moses (1942), a novel that can also be read as a set of “independent” accounts, the references taken from the Holy Scriptures, especially from the Old Testament, will be more extensive, as Faulkner subtly reinterprets biblical characters such as Adam and Eve, Sau and Jacob, the prophet Moses and Isaac. and accommodates them, with other names and other existential dramas, in the brutal space of Yoknapatawpha’s inhospite and cursed geography, where virginAl Eden ends up becoming a real nightmare starring beings devoid of all scruples.
“Faulkner’s characters,” the writer J. J. Landero has seen, “comment, analyze, question, interpret, misrepresent, and translate the Bible. In short: they incorporate the Bible into the book and, at the same time, much of the narrative is structured around the most outstanding events in the history of Christianity. The accounts, in addition to an allegorical meaning, rise above a complex reciprocal relationship with the text to which they refer. Some of the characters reinterpret biblical passages and analyze the meaning of them as they become aware of the implications that Christianity has for their lives.”
With regard to the same author, a man of Protestant education rayana in Puritanism, Ilgimae makes this un simplistic detail clear: “William Faulkner’s position in front of the Bible is well known. The author of The Wild Palm Trees used to say that, to get in tune before writing, he always re-read some pages of the Old Testament.”
Both in the first case and in the second, in While Agonizing or in the story Smoke, the self-destructive capacity that a family can achieve, are the main dish of the Faulknerian proposal.
The Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina said that many writers have come to the pages of El Quixote to take from Cervantes’ masterpiece not a few references to season his works. So what to say about the Bible?
From the Confessions, by Augustine of Hippo (iv-v centuries), or perhaps from previous years, through the Divine Comedy, by Dante, The Lost Paradise, by John Milton, to such well-known authors as Shakespeare (it is claimed that she translated several Psalms), Sr. Juana Inés de la Cruz, Leon Tolstoy, Virginia Wolf, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Virgilio Piñera, Emmanuel Carrere, José , Amor Oz, J.M. Coetzee, Fanny Rubio, Eduardo Mendoza…, until forming a simply endless list, the pages of the Bible have beat strongly or in deafness in the events that narrate, poetize or dramatize thousands of authors, of convinced faith or doubtful or no faith, including, of course, that extraordinary author, master of great authors, named William Faulkner.
Surely now, in times of obligatory gathering, it would be not bad to stop, at least, before the superb pages of this pair of works of a master of our masters. It would be worth the try. It’s really worth it.