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(02/08/2008) The Collected Poetry by Aime Cesaire. The Collected Poetry by Aime Cesaire. Berkeley. 1983. University Of California Press. Translated From The French & With Introduction & Notes By Clayton Eshleman & Annette Smith. keywords: Poetry Caribbean Black Martinique Literature. 408 pages. Jacket art - 'Le vent chaud by Wifredo Lam. 0520043472.

A remarkable collection of Aime Cesaire's poetry from the University of California Press.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'In Aime Cesaire the great surrealist tradition draws to a close, achieves its definitive meaning and is destroyed: surrealism, a European movement in poetry, is snatched from the Europeans by a black man who turns it against them and assigns a rigorously defined function to it. a Cesaire poem explodes and whirls about itself like a rocket, suns burst forth whirling and exploding like new suns - it perpetually surpasses itself - Jean-Paul Sartre. Born in 1913 on the French-speaking Caribbean island of Martinique, Aime Cesaire went to Paris as a scholarship student at the age of eighteen. There, with Leopold Senghoi later to become famous as a poet and an African statesman, Cesaire, as he put it, 'discovered Africa.' The first fruit of the discovery came on the eve of World War II when, awaiting his return to Martinique, Cesaire wrote a long and brilliant poem, entitled Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. The effect of that work - 'the national anthem of blacks the world ovel' as one critic described it - has been extraordinary. Portions of it have simply entered the language of French-speaking Africa. The Notebook inaugurated Cesaire's long search for negritude, the black cultural archetype that would negate the political and geographical categories of colonialism. The same search continued in a surprising new way when in 1945 he was elected mayor of Martinique and deputy to the French National Assembly, positions he has held to the present day, as a Communist until 1956 and thereafter as the head of his own party. He has remained intensely active in literature, writing, roughly, poetry in the 1950s, drama in the 1960s, and essays throughout. Cesaire was early recognized as a major poet in the surrealist tradition. In 1943, Andre Breton wrote of him: 'It is a black man today who wields the French language as today no white man can. It is a black man who is our guide to the unexplored, making connections as he goes, and almost playfully, that pave our path with electricity. It is a black who is not only a black but all mankind, expressing all its queries, all its anxieties, all its hopes, and all its ecstasies. ' For Smith and Eshleman, Cesaire 'symbolizes and sums up what is probably the twentieth century's most important phenomenon: the powerful surge next to the old and the new world, of a third world both very new and very old. ' Their edition, containing introduction, notes, the French original, and a new translation of Cesaire's poetry - the complex and challenging later work as well as the famous Notebook - will remain the definitive Cesaire in English, a monument to a poet who is, to quote from one of his own works, 'that very ancient yet new being, at once very complex and very simple who at the limit of dream and reality, of day and night, between absence and presence, searches for and receives in the sudden triggering of inner cataclysms the password of connivance and power.'

Clayton Eshleman has published many books of poetry, essays, and translations. He won the National Book Award in 1979 for his translation with Jose Rubia Barcia of Cesar Vallejo: The Complete Posthumous Poetry, and is the editor of Sulfur, a poetry journal. Annette Smith is French, and was born in Algeria in a milieu much involved with the emergence of African nations. She is Associate Professor of French at the California Institute of Technology, and the author of a book and several articles on the relationship between the natural sciences and French literature in the nineteenth century.

 

 

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