Faulkner in Brazil: The Second Mother

A few years after publishing The Sound and the Fury in 1929, William Faulkner wrote an appendix to the novel laying out a few biographical notes on its main characters. He starts out with the ancestors who built Yoknapatawpha, moves on to the members of the Compson family and finishes with the cast of servants: “These others were not Compsons. They were black.” Three lines each describe TP, Frony and Luster, and then finally about the housekeeper Dilsey nothing is said, ending only with “They endured.” This is rather interesting because Dilsey occupies a middle ground between servants and the family, being the sort of maid who’s been around so long that she’s “practically family,” raising the children as her own, refusing to leave when her pay is cut and indeed enduring in the face of the Compsons’ decay, while standing as the moral center for the book. Now jump about a hundred years forward and consider Val, the housekeeper at the center of The Second Mother, the Brazilian pick for this year’s Academy Awards (screening at Cornell Cinema on February 25 and 28). Val has also been around long enough to be considered family.