Aimé Césaire, 100 years of fight

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 Aimé Césaire, “one of the founders of the négritude movement in Francophone literature” passed away in 2008. He was born on 26th June 1913 in Basse Pointe, Martinique.

Aimé Césaire

Aimé Césaire

This week, Dakar is all prepped up to pay tribute to one of the founders of “Negritude” literature and one of the most influential Francophone poets and thinkers, Aimé Césaire whose hundred birthday takes place on the 26th June this year. The tribute has debuted with screenings, conferences, debates and plays under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Senegal SE M. Macky Sall and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). Delegates from France, Martinique Guadeloupe,Guyane and Haïti,  members of the Césaire family will be present.

Aimé Césaire is regarded as the founder of the négritude movement and as a key writer and reformer in the French literary writings. As a young student hailed from Martinique, he obtained a scholarship and traveled to Paris to attend the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In Paris, in 1935 Aimé Césaire, by then a brilliant student at the Ecole normale supérieure created, with Léon Damas and Leopold Sédar-Senghor, the literary review L’Étudiant Noir (The Black Student). In 1936, Césaire began work on his long poem “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal“, a vivid and powerful depiction of the ambiguities of Caribbean life and culture in the New World and this upon returning home to Martinique.

In 1941, Aimé Césaire and his wife Suzanne Roussi founded the literary review Tropiques, with the help of other Martinican intellectuals such as René Ménil and Aristide Maugée, in order to challenge the cultural status quo and alienation that then characterized Martinican identity. Many run-ins with censorship did not deter Césaire from being an outspoken defendant of Martinican identity.  He also became close to French surrealist poet André Breton, who spent time in Martinique during the war. The two had met in 1940, and Breton would champion Cesaire’s work. In 1947 he was finally able to publish his book-length poem Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land), which had first been published in the Parisian periodical Volontés in 1939.The book mixes poetry and prose to express his thoughts on the cultural identity of black Africans in a colonial setting. Breton contributed a laudatory introduction to this 1947 edition, saying that the “poem is nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of our times.”

His writings during this period reflect his passion for civic and social engagement. He wrote Discours sur le colonialisme (Discourse on Colonialism) (1950; English translation 1953), a denunciation of European colonial racism, decadence, and hypocrisy that was republished in the French review Présence Africaine in 1955. In 1960, he published Toussaint Louverture, based on the life of the Haitian revolutionary. In 1968, he published the first version of Une Tempête, a radical adaptation of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest for a black audience. A political figure, he served as President of the Regional Council of Martinique from 1983 to 1988. He retired from politics in 2001. Till his death in 2008, he has been a staunch supporter of anti-colonialism and equality. A national commemoration ceremony was held on April 6, 2011, as a plaque in Aimé Césaire’s name was inaugurated in the Panthéon in Paris.

In March 2013, the Salon du Livre of Paris will pay homage to Aimé Césaire of many other literary events will take place in honor of his memory. The Parisian metro, the RATP has already announced it will open a new station in 2017 bearing his name.

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Directeur de publication : Délégation Générale de la Fondation Alliance Française en Inde et au Népal

Rédacteur en chef : Laurent Elisio Bordier

Rédacteur/Coordinateur national : Siddharth Bhatt

Rédacteurs, contributeurs : Guillaume, Abhirami, Alexandre, Chintan, Cléa, David, Eleonore, Elie, Kanika, Karine, Nita, Thomas, Malvika, Marie-Joëlle, Meera, Mayuri, Mitushi, Alice, Prutha, Romain, Ritika, Manas, Supriya ...