“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” — From Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Speech
William Faulkner, ever immortal in his words, died fifty years and a day ago. Open Culture gives an account of his death:
Faulkner died at Wright’s Sanatorium in Byhalia, Mississippi in the early morning hours on July 6, 1962…Faulkner had been suffering from back pain due to an earlier fall from a horse. His preferred way to deal with pain was to drink alcohol, and after a drinking binge he would typically go to the sanatorium to recover. This particular visit seemed routine. Joseph Blotner describes the scene in Faulkner: A Biography:
The big clock ticked past midnight and July 6 came in–the Old Colonel’s birthday–with no promise of a letup in the heat. Insects thumped against the screens while electric fans hummed here and there. Faulkner had been resting quietly. A few minutes after half past one, he stirred and then sat up on the side of his bed. Before the nurse could reach him he groaned and fell over. Within minutes Dr. Wright was there, but he could not detect any pulse or heartbeat. He began external heart message. He continued it for forty-five minutes, without results. He tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, again with no results. There was nothing more he could do. William Faulkner was gone.
When Albert Camus died two years earlier, Faulkner had been asked by La Nouvelle Revue Française to write a few words about his fallen friend. What Faulkner wrote about Camus could be his own epitaph:
When the door shut for him, he had already written on this side of it that which every artist who also carries through life with him that one same foreknowledge and hatred of death, is hoping to do: I was here.
It was 1949, thirteen years before his death, that Faulkner won the Nobel Prize. The beginning of his speech talks to the deep love of the act of creation, which in turn, is the only act of immortality that is possible.
“I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work — a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.”
Listen to the entire Nobel Prize acceptance speech by Faulkner below. If you want to follow along with a written version, you can do so at olemiss.edu, here.