American writer William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, in 1897. Much of his early work was poetry, but he became famous for his novels set in the American South, frequently in his fabricated Yoknapatawpha County. His controversial 1931 novel Sanctuary was turned into two films, 1933’s The Story of Temple Drake as well as a later 1961 project.
As a teenager, Faulkner enjoyed writing, reading and poetry; aged 12 he began intentionally mimicking Scottish romantics, specifically Robert Burns, and English romantics like A. C. Swinburne. However school bored him and he dropped out, working in carpentry and sporadically as a clerk at his grandfather?s bank.
During this time, Faulkner met Estelle Oldham, who immediately stole his heart. The two dated for a while, but another man, named Cornell Franklin, proposed to her before Faulkner did. Estelle took the proposal lightheartedly, partly because Franklin had just been commissioned as a major in the Hawaiian Territorial Forces and was leaving soon to report for duty. Estelle hoped it would dissolve naturally, but he mailed her an engagement ring.
Afflicted by Estelle?s engagement, Faulkner turned to new mentor Phil Stone, a local attorney who was impressed by his poetry. Stone invited Faulkner to move and live with him in New Haven, Connecticut. While delving into prose, Faulkner worked at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, a rifle manufacturer, and joined the British Royal Flying Corps in 1918, training as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. To enlist in the Royal Air Force, he lied about several facts, changing his birthplace and surname?from Falkner to Faulkner?to appear more British. A man of skilled exaggeration, Faulkner embellished his experiences and sometimes completely fabricated war stories for his friends back home.
By 1919, Faulkner had enrolled at the University of Mississippi. He wrote for the student newspaper, the Mississippian, submitting his first published poem and other short works. However, after three semesters as an entirely inattentive student, he dropped out. He worked briefly in New York City as a bookseller’s assistant and for two years as the postmaster for the university, and spent a short stint as the scoutmaster for a local troop.
In 1924, Phil Stone escorted a collection of Faulkner?s poetry, The Marble Faun, to a publisher. Shortly after its 1,000-copy run, Faulkner moved to New Orleans. While there, he published several essays for The Double Dealer, a local literary magazine. In 1926, Faulkner had his first novel published, Soldiers’ Pay. As soon as it was accepted for print, he sailed from New Orleans to Europe to live for a few months just outside of Paris, during which he wrote about the Luxembourg Gardens, a short walk from his apartment.
Back in Louisiana, American writer Sherwood Anderson, who had become a friend, gave Faulkner some advice: He told the young author to write about his native region of Mississippi. Inspired by the concept, Faulkner began writing about the places and people of his childhood. For his famous 1929 novel, The Sound and the Fury, he developed the fictional Yoknapatawpha County?a place nearly identical to Lafayette County, in which Oxford, Mississippi, is located. A year later, in 1930, Faulkner released As I Lay Dying.
Faulkner became known for his faithful and accurate dictation of Southern speech. He also boldly illuminated social issues that many American writers left in the dark, including slavery, the “good old boys” club and Southern aristocracy. In 1931, after much deliberation, Faulkner decided to publish Sanctuary, a story that focused on the rape and kidnapping of a young woman at Ole Miss. It shocked and appalled some readers, but it was a commercial success and a breakthrough. Years later, in 1950, he would publish the sequel, Requiem for a Nun.
Faulkner’s next novel, Light in August (1932), tells the story of Yoknapatawpha County outcasts. In it, he introduces his readers to Joe Christmas, a man of uncertain racial makeup; Joanna Burden, a woman who supports voting rights for blacks and later is brutally murdered; Lena Grove, an alert and determined young woman in search of her baby’s father; and Rev. Gail Hightower, a man besieged by visions. Time magazine listed it?along with The Sound and the Fury?as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.
After publishing several notable books, Faulkner turned to screenwriting. Starting with a six-week contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he cowrote 1933’s?Today We Live, and he sold the rights to film Sanctuary, later titled The Story of Temple Drake (1933). That same year, Estelle gave birth to Jill, the couple’s only surviving child. Between 1932 and 1945, Faulkner traveled to Hollywood a dozen times to toil as a scriptwriter and contributed to or wrote countless films. Uninspired by the task, however, he did it purely for financial gain.?
During this period, Faulkner also published several novels, including the epic family saga?Absalom, Absalom! (1936), the satirical?The Hamlet (1940) and Go Down, Moses (1942).
Two years later, Faulkner published Intruder in the Dust, the tale of a black man falsely accused of murder.
In 1949 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, with the committee deeming him one of the most important writers of American letters. A few years later, Faulkner was awarded?the 1955 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction along with another National Book Award for his novel A Fable, set in France during WWI.??
In January 1961, Faulkner willed all his major manuscripts and many of his personal papers to the William Faulkner Foundation at the University of Virginia, and he died in 1962 of a heart attack. He was posthumously awarded his second Pulitzer in 1963 for?The Reivers.?