Yoknapatawpha County is the apocryphal setting of as many as fiften novels, in addition to short stories, written by William Faulkner
(1897-1962) who spent most of his settled years in Oxford
in Lafayette County, Mississippi
, on which the imaginary Yoknapatawpha is certainly based.
, who is best known for repopularizing
the works of Faulkner with his 1946 The Portable Faulkner
, wrote of the work of genius required for the invention of such a fantastic place in such rigid and inconsistent detail:
Faulkner performed a labor of imagination that has not been equaled in our time, and a double labor. First, to invent a Mississippi county that was like a mythical kingdom, but was complete and living in all its details; second, to make his story of Yoknapatawpha County stand as a parable or legend of all the Deep South."
Like Kurt Vonnegut
, many of Faulkner's novels bring characters back to life, though from different narrative perspectives
or in different contexts. With so many novels reliant on the same apocryphal landscape, there are, of course, some inconsistencies in the Yoknapatawpha texts.
The county is bounded by the Tallahatchie River
on the north and by the Yoknapatawpha River on the south. Jefferson
, the county seat, is modeled after Oxford. Up the road a piece is Frenchman's Bend
, a poverty-stricken village. Scattered throughout the countryside are ramshackle plantation houses, farmhouses, and the hovels of tenant farmers. Depicted in both the past and the present, Yoknapatawpha is populated with a vast spectrum of people--the Indians who originally inhabited the land, the aristocrats, those ambitious men who fought their way into the landed gentry, yeoman farmers, poor whites, blacks, carpetbaggers, and bushwhackers. Faulkner was proud of the kingdom he had erected in his imagination.
On a map of Yoknapatawpha County he prepared for the first edition of Absalom, Absalom!
, Faulkner wrote, "William Faulkner, Sole Owner & Proprietor."