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Faulkner at Virginia Photo
Photograph by Ralph Thompson
© Rector and Visitors, University of Virginia

During the 1957 and 1958 Spring semesters, William Faulkner was the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia. During that time he appeared at thirty-six different public events, reading from his work and answering over 1400 questions from students, faculty and others. Thanks to two members of the Department of English, Frederick Gwynn and Joseph Blotner, most of those sessions were recorded, and preserved on tape in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. Over 28 hours of the recordings have been digitized, and are available online in the Faulkner at Virginia audio archive . The mp3 clips available below have been taken from that archive, and are playable on most devices.


Flags in the Dust Audio Clips

NOTE: Faulkner's first novel was published in 1929 as Sartoris, and referred to by that title until fifteen years after the clips below were recorded.

A good book to begin with? (23 May 1958; 0:34)
Colonel Sartoris and Colonel Falkner? (28 April 1958; 1:11)
Why does Old Bayard live so long? (28 April 1958; 0:24)
Missing generation of Sartorises? (28 April 1958; 2:06)
Young Bayard's cowardice? (28 April 1958; 1:32)
Byron Snopes and Narcissa Benbow? (28 April 1958; 1:07)
Simon's character? (8 May 1958; 0:40)

A good book to begin with. (23 May 1958; 0:34)

Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner?

William Faulkner: Yes, ma'am.

Unidentified participant: Do you think that there's a particular order in which your works should be read [...]? Many people have offered a sequence. Do you think there's a particular sequence that your books should be read in?

William Faulkner: Probably to begin with a book called Sartoris. That has the germ of my apocrypha in it. A lot of the characters are postulated in that book. I'd say that's a good one to begin with.

 

Colonel Sartoris and Colonel Falkner? (28 April 1958; 1:11)

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: This question is related. Were Colonel Sartoris and your great-grandfather, the Colonel Falkner—I mean—or how much did you—how much did you draw on Colonel Falkner to get the picture of Colonel Sartoris?

William Faulkner: That's difficult to say. That comes back to what we spoke of—the three sources the writer draws from, and—and I myself would have to stop and—and go page by page to see just how much I drew from family annals that I had listened to from these old, undefeated spinster aunts that—that children of my time grew up with. Probably, well, the—the similarity of raising of that infantry regiment, that was—that was the same. The—his death was about—was pretty close, pretty close parallel. But the rest of it I would have to go through to—page by page and remember, did I hear this or did I imagine this?

 

Why does Old Bayard live so long? (28 April 1958; 0:24)

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: Sir, did you have any reason for having Old Bayard live so much longer than all the other Sartorises?

William Faulkner: No. Probably the only reason was a—a dramatic and technical one. I simply needed him. As soon as I didn't need him anymore, I got rid of him. [audience laughter]

 

Missing generation of Sartorises? (28 April 1958; 2:06)

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: Sir, in Sartoris, you sort of skipped over one generation of the Sartoris family between the old Bayard and the young Bayard. Is there any reason for that?

William Faulkner: Dramatically, yes. Dramatically, there was no—well, the twins' father didn't have a story. He came at a—a period in history which—which, in this country, people thought of and think of now as a peaceful one. That it was an optimistic one. Nothing was happening. There would be little brush-fire wars that nobody paid much attention to. The country was growing. The time of—of travail and struggle where the hero came into his own had passed. From '70 on to 1912, '14, nothing happened to Americans to speak of, and this John Sartoris, the father, lived in that time when there was nothing that brought the issue to him to be—be brave and strong or dramatic—well, call it dramatic, not brave, but dramatic. Nothing happened to him. But he had to be there for the simple continuity of the family.

Frederick Gwynn: And yet if you thought of a story some time about that—that father, something that he could have done, you would have a right to—to give it to him, wouldn't you?

William Faulkner: Sure, he's already on record, and he's—he's in—in my stable, too. I can run him any time I find— [audience laughter]

Joseph Blotner: Sir?

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Joseph Blotner: Sir, did any of the three manuscripts you burned relate to that period?

William Faulkner: No, no. None of them did.

 

Young Bayard's cowardice? (28 April 1958; 1:32)

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: Sir, in—in Sartoris, it appears that when Bayard, young Bayard, in the wreck after his grandfather is killed, that he commits a kind of cowardly act by running away. Why didn't he go back and be more or less brave, as the—to have—to show his courage like the Sartoris family always has, instead of running away?

William Faulkner: I expect that that one of the twins really wasn't brave and knew it. His dead brother was the—the braver, I mean capable of—of the sort of rash recklessness which—which passes for physical courage. That the one that survived not only had—had suffered the—the psychotic injury of having lost a twin, but also he would have to say to himself, "The best one of us died. The brave one died." And he no longer wanted to live, actually. He came—came back home, but he probably had no good reason to—to live, or maybe he was—would have to salve himself by saying, "Well, whether I'm brave or not, it doesn't matter, and I don't care." It may—

 

Byron Snopes and Narcissa Benbow? (28 April 1958; 1:07)

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: What is the [significance] of the Snopes in this book and his relationship to the Benbow girl, in Sartoris? [Do you remember?]

William Faulkner: Snopes was clerk in the bank at that time. He saw that girl on the street, and he began to write her letters—letters, probably anonymous letters, containing indecent proposals.

Unidentified participant: Was there any special significance that that was supposed to illustrate [...]?

William Faulkner: Well, only to illustrate that—that there was not any sort of shoddiness and sorriness and baseness that some Snopes wasn't capable of. [audience laughter] Not all of them would be capable of all baseness, but any baseness you could think of, there would always be a—one Snopes's footprint there. [audience laughter]

 

Simon's character? (8 May 1958; 0:40)

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner, in Sartoris, did you make Simon, the Negro house man, a tricky or comic character, or did something corrupt him to make him [...]?

William Faulkner: That was just what the white folks saw in him because his training, his—his environment, had taught him that that's what the white folks look to see in Negroes, and Negroes got along better if they act like black-faced comedians when white people were looking at them. That's one of the Negro's tragedies. No, that was just Simon's Sunday suit, you might say.