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Césaire, Aimé 1913–2008

Césaire, Aimé 1913–2008

(Aimé Fernand Césaire, Aime Cesaire, Aime Fernand Cesaire)

OBITUARY NOTICE—

See index for CA sketch: Born June 25, 1913, in Basse-Pointe, Martinique; died April 17, 2008, in Fort-de-France, Martinique. Politician, poet, playwright, and author. Césaire is remembered for his pivotal role in the promotion of black pride, not only in the former French colony of Martinique in the Caribbean, but in Africa and throughout the world. He expressed his own feeling of pride in traditional black societies, not only in the fifty-plus years he spent as the mayor of the capital city of Fort-de-France, Martinique, but in his even longer tenure as a poet of international repute. Césaire was educated in France and wrote in French, rather than the native An- tillean creole, but his message was a call to "negritude," a revival of traditional black culture and values. It was a concept that he and other literary figures discussed in the magazine L'Etudiant Noir as early as the 1930s, thereby founding a movement that lasted for several decades. One of his best known poems, "Cahier d'un retour au pays natal," emerged in 1939 as the poet planned what the title of the poem implied: a return to his native land of Martinique. Once there, Césaire spent the rest of his life in public service to his homeland, as a municipal leader and a representative of the French protectorate to the French National Assembly. Though he was sometimes described as an "anti-colonialist" and certainly favored "de-colonization," Césaire was not an advocate of complete political independence for his little island. As a poet he called for literary independence from political issues in favor of the exploration of cultural themes, and he was a tireless voice for human dignity, self-respect, and freedom from the oppression that so often permeated indigenous populations in colonial settings. Césaire's poetry, often described as surreal and transcendent, jarring and energetic, was collected in several French editions and a few English translations, including Cadastre (English translation published in 1961), Aimé Césaire: The Collected Poetry (1983), Non-Vicious Circle: Twenty Poems (1985), and Lyric and Dramatic Poetry, 1946-82 (1990). Césaire also wrote nonfiction and plays, some of which were translated into English in 1969 and 1970.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 48, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2005.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 321: Twentieth-Century French Dramatists, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2006.

Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas, 2nd edition, Macmillan Reference (Detroit, MI), 2006.

PERIODICALS

Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2008, p. B12.

New York Times, April 22, 2008, p. C15.

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