The first Faulkner story I ever read was a short story called A Rose For Emily. I read it from a college literature anthology. It wasn’t assigned, but a friend had recommended it. As you can guess, I was hooked. I turned immediately to As I Lay Dying, before following it with The Sound and the Fury.
I loved Faulkner’s odd (to me) point-of-view. I loved the shifting perspectives. I loved the altered timelines. I loved the imaginary world he built. I loved the stories.
When I committed to reading all of Faulkner’s novels, I wanted to learn more about how he grew as a writer. I wanted to see how that imaginary world was built. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the development of his world from this project.
But, I’ve read 17 of his novels in a row (three more remain) and as you can imagine, I’m starting to become almost too accustomed to his style. His voice has become familiar.
A Fable would have to really be something to surprise me. And it did. Before I began this project, I had already read many of Faulkner’s novels; A Fable was not one of them. I knew little about it. It did not come with the customary set of characters, as it’s not set in Yoknapatawpha. It is set in Europe during World War I.
A regiment of the French Army refuses to take part in an assault against the German Army. The Germans likewise refuse to attack. This non-violence spreads, and it turns out a lone French corporal is spreading the gospel of non-violence.
Well, he’s not exactly a lone French corporal, he has—you guessed it—twelve followers. This of course does not go well with the higher ranks whose job it is to wage war. They find out about the saintly corporal from a Judas—I mean traitor—among the twelve followers.
This gives most of the characters a lot to think and talk about. A Fable is a dense and somewhat rambling novel filled with symbolism and allegory. Although my description of the story may seem straightforward, I assure you the book is not. It is a difficult read.
The few Non-Yoknapatawpha books on this list I have not enjoyed as much as the Yoknapatawpha stories. A Fable is different. This is a terrific book, clearly my favorite of the Non-Yoknapatawpha stories. I’m sure I didn’t pick up on everything, and I sense that there is a lot more to enjoy upon second-reading. I’ll read it again someday.