“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

I finished reading William Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun this evening. I was reading it partly because I’m teaching it’s prequel, Sanctuary, this semester, but also because I am fond of the famous quote from it about the past not being past, and wanted to learn more about its context. I had always thought the quote was “We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us. In fact, it is not even past.” However, the quote is actually “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It turns out that the version I had in my head is a misquotation of Faulkner from one of my favorite films, Magnolia. I am sad that the film’s version is incorrect because, even though both make the excellent point that the past constantly affects the present (especially in Faulkner’s work, where the Civil War always happened yesterday), the longer version depicts the past as a foreboding presence, always gaining on us as we try to escape it, which seems fitting for Faulkner’s writing.


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