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Is There Unity in the Writings of Aimé Césaire?

Thomas A. Hale and Kora Véron
Research in African Literatures
Vol. 41, No. 1, Special Issue: Aimé Césaire, 1913-2008: Poet, Politician, Cultural Statesman (Spring 2010), pp. 46-70
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/ral.2010.41.1.46
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/ral.2010.41.1.46
Page Count: 25
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Is There Unity in the Writings of Aimé Césaire?
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Abstract

ABSTRACT Researchers unfamiliar with the entire corpus of Césaire's writings question the connection between his literary works and his other texts, especially those of a political nature, many of which are little known. For them events such as the transformation of Martinique from colony to Overseas Department appear to contradict the militantism in Césaire's poetry. Our analysis of selected texts from the large and varied corpus of Césaire's writings (plays, poems, essays, prefaces, speeches, interviews, declarations, telegrams, letters, and translations) during three periods in his life, 1935 to 1948, 1949 to 1956, and 1957 until 2009, reveals that there is unity in the ideas and actions of Césaire. The relationship of the literary to the political, however, evolves during these three periods. Evidence comes, for example, from criticisms of the politics of cultural assimilation in his essays in L'étudiant noir and Cahier d'un retour au pays natal in the first period to poems that directly challenged the literary formalism promoted by the French Communist Party in the second period, and a synthesis of the literary and the political in a little known poem about an murdered activist in New Caledonia.

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