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William Faulkner | Biography

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William Cuthbert Faulkner (originally spelled Falkner) was born on September 25, 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi. Eventually known for his innovative novels about the highs and lows of life in the American South, young Faulkner began his writing career as a poet. His first collection of verses, The Marble Faun, was published in 1924 to little acclaim. He then tried his hand at prose with 1926's Soldiers' Pay, a novel about World War I and its aftermath.

Although Faulkner's work is an integral part of the American literary canon today, initially he had difficulty finding a subject that resonated with readers. Fellow writer and acquaintance Sherwood Anderson (Winesburg, Ohio) suggested Faulkner write about what he knew best: Mississippi. The creative floodgates opened. Faulkner mined his experiences as a son of the South, as well as those of his family, to create a vast body of work that examines southern culture and its secrets. One of his greatest influences was his great-grandfather, Colonel William Clark Falkner. Colonel Falkner—a veteran of the Civil War—served as the inspiration for Colonel Sartoris, the mayor of Jefferson in "A Rose for Emily," as well as a key character in Sartoris, the first novel Faulkner set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. More stories about Yoknapatawpha County followed, including Faulkner's most famous novel, The Sound and the Fury, as well as Light in August and As I Lay Dying.

His novels were widely acclaimed and artistically fulfilling, but they didn't provide a steady income. To keep his extravagant, southern-aristocratic lifestyle afloat, Faulkner turned to short stories. "A Rose for Emily," published in 1930, was the first of Faulkner's stories to appear in a nationally published magazine (Forum). Though he often complained about having to compromise his artistic ideals for a large commercial audience, he proved to be a master of the art form. These brief literary pieces also gave him the opportunity to further explore his fictional home base of Yoknapatawpha between novels.

Faulkner's literary achievements have been recognized several times over, both during his lifetime and posthumously. In 1949 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his body of work, followed by two Pulitzer Prizes for A Fable and The Reivers, as well as several National Book Awards. He died on July 6, 1962, in Byhalia, Mississippi.

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