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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.


Intruder in the Dust Audio Clips

How did this novel start? (13 May1957; 1:19)
Do you agree with Gavin Steven's politics? (12 May1958; 1:00)
Is your novel trying to make a point about segregation? (7 May 1958) ; 2:03)
Do you like the movie versions of your work? (12 May 1958; 0:30)

How did this novel start? (13 May 1957; 1:19)

Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner, what did you start with in Intruder in the Dust? Was it the idea of a single character or [...]?

William Faulkner: Well, it began with the notion—there was a tremendous flux of detective stories going about at that time, and my children were always buying them and bringing them home. I'd stumble over them everywhere I went. And I thought of an idea for one would be a man in jail, just about to be hung, that would have to be his own detective. He couldn't get anybody to help him. Then the next thought was, the man for that would be a Negro. Then the character of—of Lucas—Lucas Beauchamp came along. And the book came out of that. It was the notion of a man in jail who couldn't hire a detective, couldn't hire one of these tough guys that slapped women around [audience laughter] and took a drink every time he couldn't think of what to say next. [audience laughter] But once I thought of Beauchamp, then he took charge of the story, and the story was a good deal different from the idea that—of the detective story that I had started with.

 

Do you agree with Gavin Steven's politics? (12 May 1958; 1:00)

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: I'm interested in Intruder in the Dust, too, in the last part there, that Gavin—you have the lawyer uncle in that say that "It would be better if the North, the outsiders, left the South alone to settle its own problems and sins." Do you still hold that theory, or am I right in thinking that you meant that [to start]?

William Faulkner: I still hold that opinion, I think that—that no one can be saved by an outsider. He must be saved from inside himself. That is, the South must correct that evil, as it applies to the South, ourselves, that it can't be done by—by laws or philosophical or political theories compelled on us from the outside.

 

Is the novel trying to make a point about segregation? (7 May 1958; 2:03)

Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner—

William Faulkner: Yes, ma'am.

Unidentified participant: Do you think we get certain things from reading books? And I'm sure there are certain ways to communicate feelings about things, and I have a feeling, from your books, that you are trying to communicate certain very strong feelings that you have about things. Now you—you don't do them in an obvious, sermonizing way, but I do think that your books, [...] [that come to memory] are, to a certain extent, books which propound certain systems of values. And I don't mean, again, to sound like that—by that [standing on a soap box], but, for instance, the one on—on segregation, [...] [Intruder in the Dust], [...] I think you—you do more than just [sermons]. I think you make certain points about people and [their] values.

William Faulkner: Yes'm. I agree with you, but they are—are coincidental. The writer is too busy writing about people struggling with their own hearts, with others, or with environment, that his own convictions and opinions about injustices come out, but he's not, at that moment, concerned in telling the reader, "This is what I think about injustice or morality." He's simply trying to—to take from his experience and imagination and observation people and make them stand up and assume enough of reality to, you might say, cast a shadow behind them and themselves move, engage in the—in the struggles which have been man's nature ever since he became man, for—for love, for—for pleasure, for money, to be brave, to be honest, as much as he can.

 

Do you like the movie versions of your work? (12 May 1958; 1:21)

Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner—

William Faulkner: Yes, ma'am.

Unidentified participant: What do you think of the dramatizations that have been made of your work for the movies and for the play coming out next year?

William Faulkner: I saw Intruder in the Dust. I thought that was a—a pretty good picture. It was a good deal like my book. [audience laughter] The others, I never saw. That play which will be in New York next—next fall is—is the way I wrote it. That hasn't been changed. That was—was sections of a book that was told in play form because that seemed to me the best way to tell the story of man struggling in his dilemma. So I used play form. The others I haven't seen because—well, I'd done the best I could with that book, and I was interested in writing another one which would be better, I thought, and I just didn't have time to go to see it. And then picture shows come at the wrong time of day for me. It's—that's the time of day I like to—to be at home and have a drink or two and then eat supper and sit down and smoke and read for a while, not to go out to the picture show.