Whether you read William Faulkner for the first time in high school or have been meaning to, he is known around the world for making Mississippi in the post-Civil War South tangible—and populated with the craziest cast of misbegotten characters anywhere in literature. When Gabriel García Márquez first read Faulkner (he was the mostly widely translated American author of his generation) something clicked. From there an idea grew until it became, over time, a masterpiece of time and place to rival Faulkner's own.
Gabo Meets Yoknapatawpha
About the time Faulkner was preparing to make the journey to Stockholm to receive the Nobel award, García Márquez, a generation younger than Faulkner, was beginning an uncertain career in journalism and creative writing on the Caribbean coast of his native Colombia. There he was first introduced to the mysterious land of Yoknapatawpha County and its principal town, Jefferson. These were the sites of much of Faulkner's writings; both were modeled after the northern Mississippi region in and around the city of Oxford where Faulkner had spent most of his life. Like Faulkner, García Márquez invented Macondo and based it on his past, and the small Colombian town of Aracataca, near the northern coast of Colombia where he spent his childhood. Faulkner and García Márquez are both dedicated to the struggle of human beings against social and material decadence, the common lot dealt to all in Yoknapatawpha County and the town of Macondo.
Parallel Towns, Parallel Visions
García Márquez uses Macondo as a microcosm for the study of a whole society. This is a technique also used by Faulkner—he created a locale in which he examines the South, its great tragedy, and its system of traditional values. In One Hundred Years of Solitude the development of the Buendía family through six generations parallels Faulkner's creations like the Bundrens, Compsons and Sutpens—many of whom recur throughout Faulkner's works. Both novelists offer a panoramic view of the vicious circle of civil war and incestuous societal decadence. The paradise of Yoknapatawpha as undeveloped Indian Territory and of Macondo in its earliest years is lost when human exploiters come to violate the innocence of nature. In both writers work, the community struggles on in the wake of their lost innocence, and remake their lives because of it.