William Faulkner on Writers and their Work

An interview with the American writer
William Faulkner

In a 1958 interview, American writer William Faulkner reflects on the relative importance of an author to a literary text. His point raises an interesting question on the nature and role of the author, and the importance of culture and history in determining artistic work:
If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoevsky, all of us. Proof of that is that there are about three candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. But what is important is Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, not who wrote them, but that somebody did. The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn’t have needed anyone since.

William Faulkner
in Writers at Work : The Paris Review Interviews
edited by Malcolm Cowley