A Fable, 1954

ISBN: 0824068289
ISBN 13: 9780824068288
By: William Faulkner Faulkner Willia

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Reader's Thoughts


If you hate yourself, read this book.


I find the concept of this book amazing: recasting the Christ story into World War I. The execution, unfortunately, left much to be desired.This book presumes much from its readers. If you're not pretty well-versed in the gospels, you're going to miss most of the references. If you're not pretty well-versed in World War I history, you're not going to understand what's going on half the time. If you don't enjoy the stream-of-consciousness technique, or if you don't have the patience to follow the narrative down tortuous paths that appear irrelevant to the main story, you'll probably quit in frustration within the first 100 pages. (I stubbornly held on, and in my opinion the plot began to become interesting somewhere between pages 300 and 350.) In other words, if you're not a huge fan of Faulkner or a World War I enthusiast with a fetish for Christian allegory, skip this one. Read Faulkner's other, far more accessible and entertaining Pulitzer winner, "The Reivers," instead.

Michael David

I believe that my personal preference with regard to novels is toward those which possess such an intricately-structured chaos that ultimately make sense by the end of the novel. Looking back, I think that Absalom, Absalom! is my most favourite novel because of how it ties the loose ends so well at the end of the novel. I think that the novel is Faulkner at the peak of his powers: he is both extremely dense, and yet extremely sensible. Everything absolutely makes sense at the end of it, and the broken images, jarring shifts in time and purported excursions actually cohere into a beautiful, tragic whole. The same can be said to a lesser extent in his Sound and the Fury. Of course, Faulkner is also pretty good as a minimalist as evidenced by his As I Lay Dying. This dynamism led, among others, Albert Camus to recognize Faulkner as the eminent American novelist of all time. It would have been all right had Fable been as well-constructed as Absalom, Absalom! was. Alas, both brilliance and bathos could be seen in Faulkner here: the prose is extremely rambling at times, that, despite being a relatively seasoned reader of Faulkner (at 13 works and counting), I had a hard time deciphering what he wanted to discuss in the first place. It became eventually worse when I couldn’t see much of a point with his discursions. The ending was frustrating precisely because the novel could have been cut in half and yet still have made a whole lot of sense (or nonsense). The story is, essentially, simple. A corporal convinces twelve men of his not to continue fighting the war which led to the whole battalion stop fighting. This causes the other side, the Germans, to also stop fighting the war and a temporary truce is made after the two sides realize that it takes an aggressor to even have a war. One of the other twelve men betrays the corporal: the corporal is shot dead, left by his followers, along with two other thieves. Marthe and Marya bear witness to the occurrence alongside a prostitute who was answered for by the corporal because of his kindness. The division commander is ordered killed by the generalissimo. The former dies as if a hero: he is shot in his front, by his own men, with a German pistol. Before killing the corporal, however, the generalissimo tempts the corporal to retire to the countryside and abrogate his mission. The corporal declines – and is thus killed. The story is, of course, partly a retelling of the story of Jesus Christ. The thesis is that if a Christ-like figure existed in the 20th century, he’d have been shot dead. It’s similar to the thesis of Dostoevsky’s Idiot. Unlike Dostoevsky’s work, however, this lacked in clarity, plot, and storytelling. There was little coherence right until the end of the novel, and editing could certainly have been done to make the story more readable and fluid. Instead, what I read was a jumbled mishmash of a retelling with little to show for it. I agree with a fellow reviewer of mine: if one sought to read easy, accessible Faulkner, I suggest As I Lay Dying; if one sought to read intricate, difficult, but rewarding Faulkner, I recommend The Sound and the Fury, and, if that was to one’s taste, Absalom, Absalom!, which I believe is his greatest work. If one sought to be frustrated and angry with a difficult and unrewarding work, one should try A Fable. I’ve been such a masochist lately.


There have only been two Faulkner novels' I could not finish. "Mosquitoes" and " A Fable". I had to return the former to my schools library because I was graduating and actually intend to finish. The later I gave up on. This is all of Faulkner's tell-tale habits and style at its worse. The backstories and side stories to side stories make it tough. I made it half way through, maybe I will finish this eventually.


Am now into the second chapter and stopped to read other reviews. This book needs plenty of space and focus. If you are new to Faulkner do not start here. Start with his other Pulitzer winner THE REIVERS, or THE UNVANQUISHED or even INTRUDER IN THE DUST. Faulkner's density + the fog of war is an unappetizing morsel. More later.....

Dotty Dye

Not one of my all time favorites but there are some incredibly memorable moments in this book and I think with the right reading it could be seen as having lived up to the expectations of it's author. Will require at least another reading and a way to overcome the empty symbolism of the central allusion to the passion but it sticks with you and for this reason I think a bit of time will see it rise in literary esteem to the level of his more well known work.

Keith Cottrell

This novel is difficult... to say the least. The general idea is that there is this corporal who is very influential (a clear allegory to Jesus Christ) and he convinces a group of soldiers to disobey orders and not fight which causes WWI to take an unplanned 1 day hiatus. Eventually the powers that be get the war back on track and they have to decide what the punishment should be for all the soldiers that didn’t fight and specifically for this corporal and his 12 (yes 12) close followers. This premise could make an interesting story but most of this novel is simply indigestible. Faulkner puts most of this novel completely over everyone's head. Some parts seem really well written and interesting but that might just be because they are refreshingly comprehendible. Ultimately it was unenjoyable. So whether the writing was good or even great seems irrelevant when that it that case.


This is the book that really turned me on to Faulkner, though I'd read The Sound and the Fury some years prior. It's a lot more straightforward (and therefore maybe not as powerful) as his earlier masterpieces but because of that, might be a better introduction.

K.M. Weiland

This is an insanely difficult book that buries its flashes of brilliance in a welter of incomprehensibility.


This difficult, at times exasperating novel may be Faulkner's true masterpiece, one which has never received the acclaim it truly deserves. It posits a fascinating premise: What if Jesus, or someone very much like Him, had served as a soldier in WWI?


Did Faulkner ever use punctuation? I would guess that this entire allegory has fewer than eighty sentences in it!! But it was facinating...An allegorical story of World War I set in the trenches in France and dealing ostensibly with a mutiny in a French regiment.

Esteban Gordon

On different levels, this novel is both a success and a failure. On one hand, the strident anti-war message and brilliant, tense scenes are, in some ways, a peak for Faulkner. On the other hand, the density of some parts and the, at times, obfuscation of the main anti-war thread keep a story everyone should read from being within the grasp of the average reader. Personally, I will take away from this novel two worthy ideas: one, that soldiers have the ability to stop war when they want by simply refusing to fight, and two, that Christianity over the past 1200 years or so has thoroughly buried the Prince of Peace and replaced him with the glistening idol of the god of war.


Started because it's the 1955 National Book Award winner. (I'm working on reading all the NBA winners.) I'm not finishing it because while I do like Faulkner, I'm not a huge fan of his war stories. In fact, I'm not really a fan of war stories in general. I wasn't up to reading a 400+ page war novel. Next up on the NBA project: a book I've never heard of! (Ten North Frederick, by John O'Hara)

Trenton Judson

This book was terrible and I have no idea why it won the Pulitzer, short of that it was written by Willy Faulkner. I did not know how you could take the adventure, romance, and tragedy all out of war in a single novel until I read this, but Faulkner manages to do all of it. It was painstaking to finish this one, but I was hoping that there would be that Faulkner pay off where you just love the end of the book, where he brings everything together in a way that blows your mind, but this did not happen in the novel. Save yourself the trouble, stick to Faulkner's gems and leave this one way on the back of the library shelf for Faulkner academics.


I've had a copy of this for over ten years & haven't read it yet. why am i so lamethis is supposed to be one of his greatest if you believe the shit they put on the sleeve

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