Friday, 7 October 2016

William Faulkner and Henri Bergson

Being as I am a great stickler for evidence and avoiding the sweeping up of multiple inklings and intuitions in a great, if unwieldy, complex of recondite theory; the fibrillation of my antennae sensing a possible influence of Bergson on the work of William Faulkner just had to be tested in the light of google. I am occasionally right nor yet enough to be complacent but still a thin lipped wrinkle of satisfaction is allowed. In 1952 I am told that Faulkner stated that he agreed with his concept of time. In a interview with Loic Bouvard:
Since we have brought up Bergson. I next asked Faulkner to explain his conception of time. "There isn't any time", he replied. "In fact I agree pretty much with Bergson's theory of the fluidity of time. There is only the present moment in which I include both the past and the future and that is eternity. In my opinion time can be shaped quite a bit by the artist; after all, man is never time's slave.

Absalom, Absalom! is the Faulkner that I am reading now for the first time, I think, though one can never be sure with him, events get blended and blurry in various ways; and all the books are the same book if indeed we can call anything the same; crushed into a new form by the indomitable force of events that are transformed in their happening. Yess'm.

Probably, with its multiple references to 'wild niggers', this is one of the great unteachable books. In the institutes of higher learning there would be a crush in the safe spaces 'cept for Carries's spandrel. That would be free.


Stephen Pentz said...

Faulkner's comment ("There is only the present moment in which I include both the past and the future and that is eternity") brings to mind this statement by Wittgenstein (which I'm sure you are familiar with): "If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present." (Translation by C. K. Ogden.) An alternative translation by David Pears and Brian McGuinness: "If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present." Proposition 6.4311, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

Given my ignorance of Bergson's work, I am not qualified to opine on how this may or may not fit into his thought.

And, of course, it may be completely irrelevant to either Faulkner or Bergson. But the similarity in language struck me.

ombhurbhuva said...

Stephen Pentz:
Yes there is a great similarity there and I wouldn’t be surprised if Wittgenstein had encountered the writing of Bergson at some point although there is no reference to him that I can recall but then he rarely mentions other philosophers by name leading some to maintain that he was not interested in the history of philosophy. I have discerned echoes in various places but missed the one you point out. Thank you.

Here he ghostly grapples with the Archbishop of Dublin, Richard Whately: