William Faulkner for 21st Century World Readers: FAULKNERIANA: Back to (and Beyond) Yoknapatawpha

by Anca Peiu

Specialized in literary studies of the Old South, Dr. Anca Peiu, an Associate Professor of the Department of English, within the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures of the University of Bucharest, Romania, is the author of a new book: FAULKNERIANA: Back to (and Beyond) Yoknapatawpha. This volume represents the outcome of her devoted research for over two decades. Anca Peiu has meanwhile also published three volumes of translations into Romanian from William Faulkner’s vast literary heritage. She has provided all these books with critical notes and well-documented introductory studies for Faulkner’s Romanian readers.

The book’s title may hint at E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “Kreisleriana”, an evocation of a favorite romantic character in some fragmentary fiction – thus suggesting now a kaleidoscope of approaches to some particular aspects of the modern American writer’s inexhaustible works. Another possible echo detectable in the present title is Louisiana, the place where William Faulkner’s career as a novelist actually started, with a generous friend’s encouragement, while Faulkner was living in Pirates’ Alley, New Orleans.   

Anca Peiu’s book is written in English, addressing a larger audience. The “C. H. Beck” Publishing House in Bucharest has offered the best support for this volume, enriched with illustrations and cover design by Ion Aramă, a great graphic artist from Romania.

We may often fall prey to clichés about the masters of world literature. These clichés tend to obscure their actual messages. Many readers, whether scholars or just amateurs, may (think they) know enough about William Faulkner to place him into a thematic context and an absolute literary canon of the late 20th century.

From an Eastern-European retrospective, Anca Peiu’s book aims at guiding such readers through a labyrinth of universally contemporary fields of significance. Not only fine witticisms, but also the most unsettling prophecies for our times can we find through Faulknerian lines.

These will trouble us today more than ever; from the mock-cynical echo of a rhetorical question in Faulkner’s Acceptance Speech of his Nobel Prize in 1950: “When will I be blown up?” to his ars poetica reasserted in an interview given to The Paris Review in 1956: “I imagine as long as people will continue to read novels, people will continue to write them, or vice versa; unless of course the pictorial magazines and comic strips finally atrophy man’s capacity to read, and literature really is on its way back to the picture writing in the Neanderthal cave.”