Tag Archives: Faulkner

18 – Coincidence

I recently wrote about an idle fascination with movement, soon after I read an old interview with William Faulkner (Paris Review, Spring 1956) in which he talks about motion. I like the false coincidence of thinking something and then, as if by chance, finding something related.
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INTERVIEWER

Critics also suggest that your characters never consciously choose between good and evil.

FAULKNER

Life is not interested in good and evil. Don Quixote was constantly choosing between good and evil, but then he was choosing in his dream state. He was mad. He entered reality only when he was so busy trying to cope with people that he had no time to distinguish between good and evil. Since people exist only in life, they must devote their time simply to being alive. Life is motion, and motion is concerned with what makes man move—which is ambition, power, pleasure. What time a man can devote to morality, he must take by force from the motion of which he is a part. He is compelled to make choices between good and evil sooner or later, because moral conscience demands that from him in order that he can live with himself tomorrow. His moral conscience is the curse he had to accept from the gods in order to gain from them the right to dream.

INTERVIEWER

Could you explain more what you mean by motion in relation to the artist?

FAULKNER

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.