The Text as a Labyrinth: The Invitation to Faulknerian Ecriture.

Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 2004. 289 pp. (Japanese)


     The author, Fumiyo Hayashi, professor at University of Tokyo, declares that she is not strongly biased by any "isms," but as the words like "labyrinth" and "ecriture" in the title of the book show, she is apparently influenced by Umberto Eco and Roland Barthes.
     This book consists of two parts: one is "Notes on Faulkner's Labyrinth," discussing the early stories, "The Hill," "Nympholepsy," "Carcasonne" and "Black Music; " the other is "The Text as a Labyrinth," discussing his three major novels, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom!.
     Hayashi's discussion in the first part lays out Faulkner's overall design, rooted in his early short stories and ranging over his later works. Her interesting reading of "The Hill" suggests that the view from the hill is not a hieroglyphic "design" which one is expected to decode, but is a prototype of a labyrinth as an abstract model for reasoning. She regards Faulkner's early stories as detective or mystery stories. His protagonists are detectives who, noticing something mysterious, attempt to find out what it is, and almost decipher some code; but they wonder if there might be another code and then, entering another labyrinth, realize they cannot find out the truth. She evaluates "Black Music" as an original work whose searching pattern was further developed in his later works.
     The major point of Hayashi's reading of The Sound and the Fury is why Caddy does not relate her own story and why Faulkner did not let her do so. Hayashi, citing Beryl Schlossman's Object of Desire: The Madonnas of Modernism, succeeds in finding out her own answer through investigating the inconsistencies of Faulkner's own words on Caddy in his several interviews. Hayashi, discussing The Light in August, points out that the process of making people believe Joe Christmas a negro parallels that of creating fiction itself. Hayashi, using the theory of entropy, affords the excellent insight into Absalom, Absalom! that its reader, together with its protagonists and narrators, has to be involved in creating the story, therefore he/she is an investigator of the truth and co-writer of the novel itself.
     This illuminating book somehow reminds me of The Davinci Code by Dan Brown whose fascinating, exciting mystery depicts the process of decoding the cryptographical death message by the director of the Louvre Museum. This is because Hayashi's interpretation, based on her close, intensive reading of Faulkner's text itself, is an attempt to decode his messages in his "detective/mystery" works, as she refers to Faulknerian labyrinth, by giving reliable pieces of evidence (=interpretations) one by one. As Brown's hero and heroine try to break the code, so does Hayashi try to decode Faulkner's elaborated and complicated texts. While Brown suggests at the end of the book that his hero decodes the death message and its meaning, Hayashi admits that her attempt has not been accomplished, since Faulkner's labyrinth is so "rhizomic," which is a word coming from Eco, that even if we might think we could decode the text, it would continue to present us puzzles one after another. Hayashi gives us excellent answers to Faulkner's riddles. Yet, she herself knows they are only temporary interpretations of Faulkner's rhizomic text. I enjoyed reading this book, because Hayashi herself enjoyed the process of reasoning or decoding Faulkner's labyrinth, and she has let us know how important it is to read the text itself. This monograph is Hayashi's invitation to us to join Faulknerian labyrinth tour, which will be full of pleasure to interpret.

Copyright (c)2005 NAKAMURA Hisao