A Notebook On Aime Cesaire

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2013120820131214

When poet and politician Aimé Césaire died at the age of 94 in 2008, it robbed the Caribbean island of Martinique of its most articulate and powerful voice. He was a prolific writer - of poetry, plays and essays - and served as Mayor of Martinique's capital Fort-de-France for over 50 years, as well as representing Martinique in the French National Assembly for 45 years. Aimé Césaire dedicated his life, in print and in public, to his people and his island.

Aimé Césaire would have been 100 this year, and to walk around Fort-de-France is to be confronted with his image on almost every street, as Martinique honours his centenary and comes to terms with his loss and his legacy.

Although a potent critic of colonialism, Césaire was central in advocating for Martinique to become a département of France in 1946 - not a dominion or an independent nation, but an equal part of the French Republic. Thus, in part, was created the Martinique of today, a Gallic outpost in the Caribbean, fully part of the European Union, and where the currency is the Euro. But while the official language may be French, the lingua franca is Creole.

Perhaps Césaire's most celebrated work is the long poem Notebook of a Return to My Native Land (Cahiers d'un retour au pays natal), a fragmentary, excoriating meditation on the predicament of colonial Martinique. Begun in 1936, after Césaire had spent several years in France, it is in Notebook of a Return to My Native Land that he first employed the term that would become inseparable from his name: Négritude. Developed with fellow Francophone intellectuals in Paris in the 1930s, Négritude was an influential literary and ideological movement marked by a rejection of colonialism in favour of a common black identity, rooted in Africa and as such possessed of a shared historical context.

Using extracts from Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, this programme sketches a fragmentary portrait of Aimé Césaire in his centenary year, and also of Martinique itself, since to talk about one is necessarily to talk about the other.

Featuring Christian Lapousiniere, director of the Césaire Study and Research Centre, filmmaker Euzhan Palcy, anthropologists Richard and Sally Price, and Dominique Taffin, director of the Martinique National Archive.

Includes readings by John Norton.

Producer: Martin Williams.

20131208

When poet and politician Aimé Césaire died at the age of 94 in 2008, it robbed the Caribbean island of Martinique of its most articulate and powerful voice. He was a prolific writer - of poetry, plays and essays - and served as Mayor of Martinique's capital Fort-de-France for over 50 years, as well as representing Martinique in the French National Assembly for 45 years. Aimé Césaire dedicated his life, in print and in public, to his people and his island.

Aimé Césaire would have been 100 this year, and to walk around Fort-de-France is to be confronted with his image on almost every street, as Martinique honours his centenary and comes to terms with his loss and his legacy.

Although a potent critic of colonialism, Césaire was central in advocating for Martinique to become a département of France in 1946 - not a dominion or an independent nation, but an equal part of the French Republic. Thus, in part, was created the Martinique of today, a Gallic outpost in the Caribbean, fully part of the European Union, and where the currency is the Euro. But while the official language may be French, the lingua franca is Creole.

Perhaps Césaire's most celebrated work is the long poem Notebook of a Return to My Native Land (Cahiers d'un retour au pays natal), a fragmentary, excoriating meditation on the predicament of colonial Martinique. Begun in 1936, after Césaire had spent several years in France, it is in Notebook of a Return to My Native Land that he first employed the term that would become inseparable from his name: Négritude. Developed with fellow Francophone intellectuals in Paris in the 1930s, Négritude was an influential literary and ideological movement marked by a rejection of colonialism in favour of a common black identity, rooted in Africa and as such possessed of a shared historical context.

Using extracts from Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, this programme sketches a fragmentary portrait of Aimé Césaire in his centenary year, and also of Martinique itself, since to talk about one is necessarily to talk about the other.

Featuring writer Suzanne Dracius, Christian Lapousiniere, director of the Césaire Study and Research Centre, filmmaker Euzhan Palcy, anthropologists Richard and Sally Price, and Dominique Taffin, director of the Martinique National Archive.

Producer: Martin Williams.