Aimé Césaire

The world-renowned French Caribbean poet and political activist from Martinique, who was Mayor of Fort-de-France for 56 years, gave this interview November 5, 2001. He speaks about his passion for the island landscape, his student days in Paris, his friendship with other notable poets, and his creation of SERMAC, promoting Martinique’s heritage. He speaks of his battle against the assimilation of his people by France and gives a dynamic reading from his seminal prose poem, Cahier d’un retour au pays natal. (See an excerpt from the DVD below.)

DVD: Aimé Césaire, Poet and Statesman
Details: English voiceover or French; teacher’s guide; 40 minutes

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Excerpt: I never wrote poetry as a literary genre. That is not my conception of poetry. If I don’t write poetry now, it is not because I don’t have the time. It is because poetry for me is the inner knowledge of the human being. It is a call to action. And if I liked Surrealism, I understood it in my own way. What interested me about Surrealism was the possibility, or the hope in any case, of going to the deepest part of the self, of having finished with the superficial, the already done, of breaking the surface, of descending even deeper than the ocean floor. And for me, that was poetry.

Everybody always asks me who are you? I don’t know anything about that. When I want to know myself, gain some insight, I re-read my poems. It is through the poem that I know myself. The poem for me is what allows me to descend within myself, to wander among my phantoms, among my fantasies, my dreams, my terrors, all of that. It is through the poem that I gain knowledge. I call this “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land” a first poem. It is the poem of a battle with myself, of a sort of internal revolution, and of a call to action. I did not call it “Notebook” as a joke.

Endorsements: “This delightful video manages to give all the essential outlines of Césaire, the man and his work…in a lively and appealing fashion.”
Jacqueline Leiner, editor, scholar, professor emerita of French Caribbean Literature, University of Provence in Aix

“This documentary shows a side of Césaire that could not possibly be picked up from written work alone–luminous, supple, with the generosity of spirit that is the hallmark of a fearless intellect.”
Ron Sukenick, author, professor emeritus of English, University of Colorado, Boulder

“This work provides a living voice of one of the greatest writers of both the colonial and post-colonial period…the geographical location and the island’s topography, the history and politics of a fascinating people, as well as Césaire’s own family, elite education, travels and political career all came together to create one of the most remarkable minds in Francophone literature.”
Scott Juall, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

“The first time I listened to the French version of this video I worried a bit about the interviewer’s French accent, though her sentences were excellent. However, my students told me very clearly that the French was easy to understand and that they derived much from the interview. We read excerpts of the Cahier after seeing it, and their comments made it even clearer that they had benefited a great deal from your work. My colleague’s experience with your documentary on Raphaël Confiant was not dissimilar. Thanks and congratulations!”
Jean-Jacques Poucel, Assistant Professor of French, University of Calgary


2 thoughts on “Aimé Césaire

  1. Pingback: Mission | Mosaic Media Arts

    • I’m not sure what originated this message. Maybe a change you made on the site, and because it is a blog, it gets sent to you and me. When people make comments, you should get notification. Later, P

      On Sat, Nov 15, 2014 at 11:10 AM, Mosaic Media Arts wrote:


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