Faulkner’s Universal Truths

The writer “must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed–love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.”

That is an excerpt from William Faulkner’s acceptance speech for his 1950 Nobel Prize. For writers, the whole speech is worth re-reading to reach full understanding. It is both inspiring and daunting.

Faulkner’s point is that in writing about these universal truths, the writer helps the reader endure. He went on to say that without these truths, “He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.”

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