‘The Sound and the Fury’ as William Faulkner imagined, in color


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Although William Faulkner won a Nobel Prize in literature, his writing is still considered particularly dense. One of his most difficult works is ‘The Sound and the Fury,’ which is told from multiple points of view. It begins in the voice of Benjy, a mentally disabled man whose perception is jumbled, immediate and distinctly hard to parse.

One of the reasons Benji’s narrative is hard to follow is because it jumps around in time with little indication of the change, other than italics. But when Faulkner was working on the book in the 1920s -- ‘The Sound and the Fury’ was published in 1929 -- he imagined a way to make the section clearer to readers. ‘I wish publishing was advanced enough to use colored ink,’ Faulkner wrote to his editor, ‘as I argued with you and Hal in the Speakeasy that day.’


‘I’ll just have to save the idea until publishing grows up,’ he added, inadvertently launching a challenge to future publishers. Nine decades later, the Folio Society took it up.

In a special edition, the Folio Society is publishing ‘The Sound and the Fury’ in 14 colors. It’s a fine press edition, quarter-bound in leather, with a slipcase and an additional volume of commentary. It also includes a color-coded bookmark that reveals which time period is designated by each color.

The Folio Society worked with two Faulkner scholars, Stephen Ross and Noel Polk, to figure out how to divide the text. Only the Benjy section is rendered in the 14 colors of ink.

‘With the Benjy section the different threads are sufficiently clear that I don’t feel we are distorting or compromising the novel,’ Folio’s commissioning editor for limited editions Neil Titman told the Guardian. ‘I found the book tremendously confusing the first time I read it, so I think that overall you have a net gain here, rather than feeling over-guided.’

The color edition of Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’ is being published July 6 in a limited edition of 1,480 and is priced at $345. One thousand preordered copies have been sold.



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