Africa (Location Key)


Faulkner only locates Yoknapatawpha in relationship to "Africa" in three of the fictions. "Red Leaves" evokes the way in which his imaginary county and the continent on the other side of the Atlantic were connected when its enslaved protagonist remembers a few parts of his life before he became Issetibbeha's "servant": he was born in "Guinea" (327), a term which includes much of the modern nation of Cameroon, and "taken" into slavery "by a trader off Kamerun" (327-28). A high percentage of the people taken to America and sold into slavery originally came from this area in West Africa. This is the one time the Yoknapatawpha fictions make that connection explicit, though it's both an acknowledgment and an evasion, since this slave belongs to an Indian rather than to any of the county's white planters. The other references to "Africa" keep it even further away from the realities of American slavery. "Africa" is mentioned twice in The Hamlet, both times in connection with European colonialism. When Ratliff visits Columbia, Tennessee, and discovers that it is an untouched market for selling his sewing machines, his joy is compared to the feelings of "the first white hunter blundering into the idyllic solitude of a virgin African vale teeming with ivory" (61). A few pages later the narrative depicts Will Varner and Flem Snopes settling the accounts of Varner's tenants in Frenchman's Bend and looking like "the white trader and his native parrot-taught headman in an African outpost" (67). The description of Flem as a "native headman" is the only hint of an actual 'African' presence in these passages. Race plays a role in the third mention of Africa, but not the race one might expect. It appears in Requiem for a Nun. The Square in Jefferson gains a new monument in the aftermath of World War II, a "tank gun: captured from a regiment of Germans in the African desert by a regiment of Japanese in American uniforms"; these U.S. troops are the sons of "mothers and fathers" who have been interned in "a California detention camp for enemy aliens" (194). The internment of Japanese-Americans is a real historical event, of course, and it is historically true that during the war Japanese-American troops fighting in Europe accumulated an impressive combat record - although in fact no Japanese-American troops were involved in fighting in Africa. In the novel's context, the tank gun next to the Confederate statue is a monument to the way the modern South now sees itself as part of "One nation" (194). But at the same time, it seems worth noting what's missing: any memorial to the longer history of "Africa" in Yoknapatawpha. (See also the entries in the index for "Egypt" and "Ethiopia.")

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