If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem

Last updated
First edition cover WildPalms.jpg
First edition cover

If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem is a novel by the American author William Faulkner published in 1939. The novel was originally published under the title The Wild Palms, which is the title of one of the two interwoven stories. This title was chosen by the publishers, Random House, over the objections of Faulkner's choice of a title. Subsequent editions have since been printed under the title If I Forget Thee Jerusalem (1990, following the "corrected text" and format of Noel Polk), and since 2003 it is now usually referred to by both names, with the newer title following the historically first published title and in brackets, to avoid confusion: The Wild Palms [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem].


Like four other Faulkner novels ( Soldiers' Pay , Mosquitoes , Pylon and A Fable), the novel is not set in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County.


The book consist of two different stories, told in non-linear fashion in alternating chapters, which contain both parallels and contrasts.

Wild Palms starts in New Orleans in 1937 with Harry, an impoverished and virginal intern finishing his training in a hospital. At a party he meets Charlotte, who abandons husband and two children to run away with him. With little money and few employment prospects, they drift through Chicago to a cabin in Wisconsin and then a mine in Utah. There Charlotte falls pregnant and they decide to go to the Mississippi coast. When she dies after he tries an abortion, he is sentenced to 50 years' hard labor. Charlotte's husband visits and slips him a cyanide pill.

Old Man starts on a prison farm in Mississippi in 1927, where a convict has served time since his early teens. When the river overflows its levees, he is ordered to take a skiff and rescue people from rooftops. He saves a woman late in advanced pregnancy. The force of the current drives them downstream. He manages to land on a hillock, where the woman gives birth to the child. Later, an official motor boat appears, taking skiff, convict, woman and baby to New Orleans. They sneak away, and the convict paddles the skiff against the current until he is able to leave woman and baby near a place she knows. He carries on up to the prison, where 10 years are added to his sentence for escaping.

Cultural allusions

Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges translated the complete novel into Spanish as Las palmeras salvajes (1940). The Wild Palms is quoted in Jean-Luc Godard's 1959 film, Breathless ("À bout de souffle"), when Patricia claims to prefer to take "grief rather than nothing"; the same quote is cited in the 1986 John Hughes comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off , when Principal Rooney "consoles" Sloan while waiting in front of the school.[ citation needed ] It also appears in the movie Im Lauf der Zeit , 1976, by Wim Wenders in which one of the protagonists, a truckdriver, is reading his paperback copy of the book every now and then.[ citation needed ] Agnès Varda claimed in her film The Beaches of Agnès that the structure of Faulkner's novel directly inspired her first feature, La Pointe Courte .[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

William Faulkner American writer (1897–1962)

William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer known for his novels and short stories set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, where Faulkner spent most of his life. A Nobel Prize laureate, Faulkner is one of the most celebrated writers of American literature and is widely considered the greatest writer of Southern literature.

<i>Absalom, Absalom!</i> 1936 novel by William Faulkner

Absalom, Absalom! is a novel by the American author William Faulkner, first published in 1936. Taking place before, during, and after the American Civil War, it is a story about three families of the American South, with a focus on the life of Thomas Sutpen.

Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 1927 flood of the Mississippi River

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2) inundated in depths of up to 30 feet (9 m) over the course of several months in early 1927. The uninflated cost of the damage has been estimated to be between 246 million and 1 billion dollars.

John Murrell (bandit) American criminal

John Andrews Murrell, the "Great Western Land Pirate" also known as John A. Murrell and commonly spelled as Murel and Murrel, was a bandit and criminal operating in the United States, along the Mississippi River, in the 19th century. Murrell had his first criminal conviction, for horse theft, as a teenager and was branded with an "HT", flogged, and sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in 1829. Murrell was convicted a second and final time, for the crime of slave stealing, in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Tennessee, and incarcerated in the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville from 1834 to 1844.

Yoknapatawpha County Fictional Mississippi county created by William Faulkner

Yoknapatawpha County is a fictional Mississippi county created by the American author William Faulkner, largely based upon and inspired by Lafayette County, Mississippi, and its county seat of Oxford. Faulkner often referred to Yoknapatawpha County as "my apocryphal county".

<i>The Postman Always Rings Twice</i> (novel) 1934 crime novel by James M. Cain

The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1934 crime novel by American writer James M. Cain. The novel was successful and notorious upon publication. It is considered one of the most outstanding crime novels of the 20th century. The novel's mix of sexuality and violence was startling in its time and caused it to be banned in Boston.

Patty Cannon American serial killer (c. 1759/1760–1829)

Patty Cannon, whose birth name may have been Lucretia Patricia Hanly, was an illegal slave trader, murderer and the co-leader of the Cannon–Johnson Gang of Maryland–Delaware. The group operated for about a decade in the early 19th century and abducted hundreds free Black people and fugitive slaves, along the Delmarva Peninsula, across multiple state lines to sell into slavery in southern states such as Alabama and Mississippi. The activity became known as the Reverse Underground Railroad.

Old Man may refer to:

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" is the beginning of the second sentence of one of the most famous soliloquies in William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth. It takes place in the beginning of the 5th scene of Act 5, during the time when the Scottish troops, led by Malcolm and Macduff, are approaching Macbeth's castle to besiege it. Macbeth, the play's protagonist, is confident that he can withstand any siege from Malcolm's forces. He hears the cry of a woman and reflects that there was a time when his hair would have stood on end if he had heard such a cry, but he is now so full of horrors and slaughterous thoughts that it can no longer startle him.

John Ashley Brown Jr. was an American from New Orleans who was convicted of first-degree murder and incarcerated on death row in Louisiana State Penitentiary for 12 years. He was one of six inmates featured in the 1998 documentary entitled The Farm: Angola, USA. He was executed in 1997 for the murder of Omer Laughlin in New Orleans in 1984.

<i>Requiem for a Nun</i> 1951 novel by William Faulkner

Requiem for a Nun is a work of fiction written by William Faulkner. It is a sequel to Faulkner's early novel Sanctuary, which introduced the characters of Temple Drake, her friend Gowan Stevens, and Gowan's uncle Gavin Stevens. The events in Requiem are set in Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County and Jackson, Mississippi, in November 1937 and March 1938, eight years after the events of Sanctuary. In Requiem, Temple, now married with a child, must learn to deal with her violent, turbulent past as related in Sanctuary.

Murder of Shalhevet Pass Murdered of an Israeli baby by a Palestinian sniper in Hebron

The murder of Shalhevet Pass was a shooting attack carried out in Hebron, West Bank, on 26 March 2001, in which a Palestinian sniper killed 10-month-old Israeli infant Shalhevet Pass. The event shocked the Israeli public, partly because an investigation ruled that the sniper had deliberately aimed for the baby. According to Deborah Sontag of the New York Times, the murder became a "potent Israeli symbol as an innocent victim of the raging violence."

Seth David Morgan was an American novelist, who published one book, Homeboy (1990), and was working on a second novel when he died. He was Janis Joplin's fiancé at the time of her death in October 1970.

Willie McGee was an African American man from Laurel, Mississippi, who was sentenced to death in 1945 and executed on Tuesday, May 8, 1951, for rape of a woman on November 2, 1945. McGee's legal case became a cause célèbre that attracted worldwide attention, as it was roundly decried as a miscarriage of justice in the Jim Crow south.

Union Correctional Institution State prison in Union County, Florida

The Union Correctional Institution, formerly referred to as Florida State Prison, Raiford Prison and State Prison Farm is a Florida Department of Corrections state prison located in unincorporated Union County, Florida, near Raiford.

William Faulkner bibliography Wikipedia bibliography

The bibliography of William Faulkner, an American writer, includes 19 novels, 125 short stories, 20 screenplays, one play, six collections of poetry as well as assorted letters and essays.

Leonor Acevedo Suárez Mother of Jorge Luis Borges

Leonor Rita Acevedo Suárez was the mother of the Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, and a major figure in his life and work.

C-Murder American rapper from Louisiana

Corey Miller, better known by his stage name C-Murder, is an American rapper and songwriter. He initially gained fame in the mid-1990s as a part of his brother Master P's label No Limit Records, primarily as a member of the label's supergroup, TRU. Miller went on to release several solo albums of his own through the label, including 1998's platinum Life or Death. C-Murder has released nine albums altogether on six different labels, No Limit Records, TRU Records, Koch Records, Asylum Records, RBC Records, and Venti Uno.

The Metz Gang was a notorious drug ring founded by Glenn Metz and his brother Cordell "Jethro" Metz; Glenn Metz is currently serving life in prison. From 1985 to mid–1992, The Metz Gang distributed approximately 1,000 kilograms of cocaine in the New Orleans metropolitan area and, in furtherance of the conspiracy, committed murders, attempted murders, and other violent crimes. In 1993, Metz, his wife, and several of his henchmen were convicted and charged in a 22 count indictment with various charges arising from a narcotics conspiracy. In 2016, President Barack Obama commuted the life sentence of Danielle Metz, wife of Glenn Metz.

Old Man (<i>Playhouse 90</i>) 8th episode of the third season of Playhouse 90

"Old Man" is an American television play broadcast on November 20, 1958, as part of the CBS television series, Playhouse 90. The production, starring Sterling Hayden and Geraldine Page, was adapted by Horton Foote from the short novel "Old Man" by William Faulkner. It was nominated for three Emmy Awards: for most outstanding program of the year; for best single performance by an actress (Page); and for best writing of a single dramatic program one hour or longer (Foote).