In 1989, while teaching literature in Louisiana, the Caribbean writer Edouard Glissant visited Rowan Oak, William Faulkner's home in Oxford, Mississippi. His visit spurred him to an original and powerful reappraisal of Faulkner's work.
Like Faulkner's literary descendants in the United States, Glissant is fascinated by the stories of Yoknapatawpha County and disturbed by the author's equivocations about the racism there. Glissant, however, stands in a distinctive relation to Faulkner and his county: as a black Martinican, he is descended from slaves; as a native French speaker, he first encountered the great novelist's work in translation.
Faulkner, Mississippi is a distinctive look at an American icon by a writer deeply involved in the issues of Faulkner's work. Glissant sees the racial complexities of Faulkner as the key to his influence in the next century, and presents Faulkner as the progenitor of Flannery O'Connor, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alejo Carpentier, and Toni Morrison, who all write fiction in which the characters are implicated in a single multiracial calamity. He exhorts the reader to "Look him straight in the eyes, the son of the slave and the son of the slave owner" -- and Glissant's own clear-eyed gaze makes this book a revelation about the work of one of our greatest but still least-understood writers.