Faulkner and Southern History: A View from Germany

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Faulkner and Southern History: A View from Germany

by Peter Nicolaisen
Southern Cultures, Vol. 4, No. 4: The South in the World

"An account of one German novelist's struggle with his nation's past, and of Faulkner's resonance within German culture."

In the summer of 1961, Uwe Johnson, a young German writer whose first novel had appeared two years earlier, visited William Faulkner in Charlottesville, Virginia. He had tried Oxford, Mississippi, first, but had been directed north. Johnson had been an avid reader of Faulkner’s novels while a student at Leipzig University in the 1950s; there, he would read The Sound and the Fury to his friends in English, quickly translating into German the passages they did not understand. The young man had looked forward to meeting Faulkner for some time, but the visit was a bitter disappointment. Faulkner was not in a good mood and quickly slipped into one of his familiar poses. Who knows? Perhaps Johnson, who was quite tall, intimidated him, and Faulkner had never thought much of Germans anyway.