Senghor, Léopold Sédar 1906-2001
SENGHOR, Léopold Sédar 1906-2001
(Silmang Diamano, Patrice Maguilene Kaymor, pseudonyms)
PERSONAL: Born October 9, 1906, in Joal, Senegal (part of French West Africa; now Republic of Senegal); died December 20, 2001, in Normandy, France; son of Basile Digoye (a cattle breeder and groundnut planter and exporter) and Nyilane (Bakoume) Senghor; married Ginette Eboue, September, 1946 (divorced, 1956); married Collette Hubert, October 18, 1957; children: (first marriage) Francis-Aphang, Guy-Waly (deceased); (second marriage) Philippe-Maguilen (deceased). Education: Baccalaureate degree from Lycée of Dakar, 1928; University of Paris, Sorbonne, agregation de grammaire, 1933, studied African languages at Ecole des Hautes Etudes, Paris, 1929-32.
CAREER: Lycée Descartes, Tours, France, instructor in Greek and Latin classics, 1935-38; Lycée Marcelin Berthelot, St. Maur-des-Fosses, France, instructor in literature and African culture, 1938-40 and 1943-44; Ecole Nationale de la France d'Outre Mer, professor, 1945; French National Assembly, Paris, France, and General Council of Senegal, Dakar, Senegal, elected representative, beginning in 1946; Bloc Democratique Sénégalais, Dakar, founder, 1948; French Government, Paris, delegate to United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 1950-51, Secretary of State for scientific research, and representative to UNESCO conferences, 1955-56, member of consultative assembly, 1958, minister-counselor to Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Education, and Justice, 1959-60, advisory minister, beginning in 1960; City of Thies, Senegal, mayor, beginning in 1956; Senegalese Territorial Assembly, elected representative, beginning in 1957; founder and head of Union Progressiste Sénégalaise, beginning in 1958; Mali Federation of Senegal and Sudan, president of Federal Assembly, 1959-60; Republic of Senegal, President of the Republic, 1960-80, Minister of Defense, 1968-69; Socialist Inter-African, chair of executive bureau, beginning 1981; Haut Conseil de la Francophonie, vice president, beginning 1985. Cofounder, with Lamine Gueye, of Bloc Africain, 1945; representative for Senegal to French Constituent Assemblies, 1945 and 1946; official grammarian for writing of French Fourth Republic's new constitution, 1946; sponsor of First World Festival of Négro Arts, Dakar, 1966; chair of Organisation Commune Africaine et Malgache, 1972-74; established West African Economic Community, 1974; chair of ECONAS, 1978-79. Military service: French Army, infantry, 1934-35; served in infantry battalion of colonial troops, 1939; prisoner of war, 1940-42; participated in French Resistance, 1942-45; received serviceman's cross, 1939-45.
MEMBER: International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (past president), Academie des Sciences morales et politiques, Comite National des Ecrivains, Societe des Gens de Lettres, Societe Linguistique de France, Academy of Overseas Sciences, Black Academy of Arts and Sciences, Academy Française, American Academy of Arts and Letters.
AWARDS, HONORS: Corresponding membership in Bavarian Academy, 1961; International French Friendship Prize, 1961; French Language Prize (gold medal), 1963; International Grand Prize for Poetry, 1963; Dag Hammarskjöld International Prize Gold Medal for Poetic Merit, 1963; Marie Noel Poetry Prize, 1965; Red and Green International Literature Grand Prix, 1966; German Book Trade's Peace Prize, 1968; associate membership in French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, 1969; Knokke Biennial International Poetry Grand Prix, 1970; membership in Academy of Overseas Sciences, 1971; membership in Black Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1971; Grenoble Gold Medal, 1972; Haile Selassie African Research Prize, 1973; Cravat of Commander of Order of French Arts and Letters, 1973; Apollinaire Prize for Poetry, 1974; Prince Pierre of Monaco's Literature Prize, 1977; Prix Eurafrique, 1978; Alfred de Vigny Prize, 1981; Aasan World Prize, 1981; election to Academie Française, 1983; Jawaharlal Nehru Award, 1984; Athinai Prize, 1985. Also recipient of Grand Cross of French Legion of Honor, Commander of Academic Palms, Franco-Allied Medal of Recognition, membership in Agegres de Grammaire and American Academy of Arts and Letters. Numerous honorary doctorates, including those from Fordham University, 1961, University of Paris, 1962, Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), 1965, Lebanese University of Beirut, 1966, Howard University, 1966, Laval University (Quebec), 1966, Harvard University, 1971, Oxford University, 1973, and from the universities of Ibadan (Nigeria), 1964, Bahia (Brazil), 1965, Strasbourg (France), 1965, Al-Azan (Cairo, Egypt), 1967, Algiers (Algeria), 1967, Bordeaux-Talence (France), 1967, Vermont, 1971, California at Los Angeles, 1971, Ethiopia Haile Selassie I, 1971, Abidjan (Ivory Coast), 1971, and Lagos (Nigeria), 1972.
Chants d'ombre (title means "Songs of Shadow"; includes "Femme noire" and "Joal"; also see below), Seuil (Paris, France), 1945.
Hosties noires (title means "Black Sacrifices"; includes "Au Gouverneur Eboue," "Mediterranee," "Aux Soldats Négro-Americains," "Tyaroye," and "Priere de paix"), Seuil (Paris, France), 1948.
Chants pour Naëtt (title means "Songs for Naëtt"), Seghers (Paris, France), 1949.
Chants d'ombre [and] Hosties noires (title means "Songs of Shadow" [and] "Black Sacrifices"), Seuil (Paris, France), 1956.
Ethiopiques (includes "Chaka," poetic adaptation of Thomas Mofolo's historical novel Chaka; "A New York"; and "Congo"), Seuil (Paris, France), 1956, critical edition with commentary by Papa Gueye N'Diaye published as Ethiopiques: Poèmes, Nouvelles éditions africaines (Dakar, Senegal), 1974.
Nocturnes (includes Chants pour Naëtt, "Elégie de minuit," and "Elégie a Aynina Fall: Peème dramatique a plusieurs voix" [title means "Elegy for Aynina Fall: Dramatic Poem for Many Voices"]), Seuil (Paris, France), 1961, translation by John Reed and Clive Wake published as Nocturnes, Heinemann Educational (London, England), 1969, with introduction by Paulette J. Trout, Third Press (New York, NY), 1971.
Elégie des Alizés, original lithographs by Marc Chagall, Seuil (Paris, France), 1969.
Lettres d'hivernage, illustrations by Marc Chagall, Seuil (Paris, France), 1973.
Paroles, Nouvelles éditions africaines (Dakar, Senegal), 1975.
Oeuvre Poétique, Seuil (Paris, France), 1990, translation and introduction by Melvin Dixon published as Léopold Sédar Senghor: The Collected Poetry, University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), 1991.
La Dialogue de cultures, Seuil (Paris, France), 1993.
Contributor of poems to periodicals, including Chantiers, Les Cahiers du Sud, Les Lettres Françaises, Les Temps Modernes, Le Temp de la Poésie, La Revue Socialiste, Présence africaine, and Prevue.
CRITICAL AND POLITICAL PROSE
(With Robert Lemaignen and Prince Sisowath Youteyong) La Communaute imperiale française (includes "Views on Africa; or, Assimilate, Don't Be Assimilated"), Editions Alsatia (Paris, France), 1945.
(With Gaston Monnerville and Aime Cesaire) Commemoration du centenaire de l'abolition de l'esclavage, introduction by Edouard Depreux, Presses Universitaires de France (Paris, France), 1948.
Rapport sur la doctrine et le programme du parti, Présence africaine (Paris, France), 1959, translation published as Report on the Principles and Programme of the Party, Présence africaine (Paris, France), 1959, abridged edition edited and translated by Mercer Cook published as African Socialism: A Report to the Constitutive Congress of the Party of African Federation, American Society of African Culture (New York, NY), 1959.
Rapport sur la politique générale, [Senegal], 1960.
Nation et voie africaine du socialisme, Présence africaine (Paris, France), 1961, new edition published as Liberté II: Nation et voie africaine du socialisme, Seuil (Paris, France), 1971, translation by Mercer Cook published as Nationhood and the African Road to Socialism, Présence africaine (Paris, France), 1962, abridged edition published as On African Socialism, translation and introduction by Cook, Praeger (New York, NY), 1964.
Rapport sur la doctrine et la politique générale; ou, Socialisme, unite africaine, construction nationale, (Dakar, Senegal) 1962.
(With Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin et la politique africaine [and] Sauvons l'humanite [and] L'Art dans la ligne de l'energie humaine (the first by Senghor, the latter two by Teilhard de Chardin), Seuil (Paris, France), 1962.
(With others) Le Racisme dans le monde, Juilliard (Paris, France), 1964.
Theorie et pratique du socialisme sénégalais, (Dakar, Senegal), 1964.
Liberté I: Négritude et humanisme, Seuil (Paris, France), 1964, selections translated and introduced by Wendell A. Jeanpierre published as Freedom 1: Negritude and Humanism, [Providence, RI], 1974.
(In Portuguese, French, and Spanish) Latinite et négritude, Centre de Hautes Etudes Afro-Ibero-Americaines de l'Universite de Dakar (Dakar, Senegal), 1966.
Négritude, arabisme, et francité: Réflexions sur le problème de la culture (title means "Negritude, Arabism, and Frenchness: Reflections on the Problem of Culture"), preface by Jean Rous, Editions Dar al-Kitab Allubmani (Beirut), 1967, republished as Les Fondements de l'Africanite; ou, Négritude et arabite, Présence africaine, 1967, translation by M. Cook published as The Foundations of "Africanite"; or, "Negritude" and "Arbiter," Présence africaine (Paris, France), 1971.
Politique, nation, et développement moderne: Rapport de politique générale, Imprimerie Nationale (Rufisque, Senegal), 1968.
Le Plan du décollage économique; ou, La Participation responsable comme moteur de développement, Grande Imprimerie Africaine (Dakar, Senegal), 1970.
Pourquoi une ideologie négro-africaine? (lecture), Universite d'Abidjan (Abidjan, Ivory Coast), 1971.
La Parole chez Paul Claudel et chez les Négro-Africains, Nouvelles éditions africaines (Dakar, Senegal), 1973.
(With others) Litteratures ultramarines de langue française, genese et jeunesse: Actes du colloque de l'Universite du Vermont, compiled by Thomas H. Geno and Roy Julow, Naaman (Quebec, Canada), 1974.
Paroles (addresses), Nouvelles éditions africaines (Dakar, Senegal), 1975.
Pour une relecture africaine de Marx et d'Engels (includes "Le socialisme africain et la voie sénégalaise"), Nouvelles éditions africaines (Dakar, Senegal), 1976.
Pour une societe sénégalaise socialiste et democratique: Rapport sur la politique générale, Nouvelles éditions africaines (Dakar, Senegal, 1976.
Liberté III: Négritude et civilisation de l'universel (title means "Freedom 3: Negritude and the Civilization of the Universal"), Seuil (Paris, France), 1977.
(With Mohamed Aziza) La Poésie de l'action: Conversations avec Mohamed Aziza (interviews), Stock (Paris, France)), 1980.
Ce que je crois: Négritude, francité, et la civilisation de l'universel, Bernard Grasset (Paris, France), 1988.
Also author of L'Apport de la poésie nègre, 1953; Langage et poésie négro-africaine, 1954; Esthetique négro-africain, 1956; and Liberté IV: Socialisme et planification, 1983. Author of four technical works on Wolof grammar. Contributor to books, including Cultures de l'Afrique noire et de l'Occident, Societe Europeenne de Culture, 1961; and La Senegal au Colloque sur le liberalisme planifie et les voies africaines vers le socialisme, Tunis, 1-6 juillet 1975, Grand Imprimerie Africaine (Dakar), 1975. Author of lectures and addresses published in pamphlet or booklet form, including The Mission of the Poet, 1966; Négritude et germanisme, 1968; Problèmes de développement dans les pays sous-développés, 1975; Négritude et civilisations mediterraneennes, 1976; and Pour une lecture négro-africaine de Mallarme, 1981. Contributor, sometimes under the pseudonyms Silmang Diamano or Patrice Maguilene Kaymor, of critical, linguistic, sociological, and political writings to periodicals and journals, including Journal de la Societe des Africanists, Présence africaine, and L'Esprit.
(Editor) Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française [precede de] Orphee noir, par Jean Paul Sartre (poetry anthology; title means "Anthology of the New Négro and Malagasy Poetry in French [preceded by] Black Orpheus, by Jean-Paul Sartre"), introduction by Sartre, Presses Universitaires de France (Paris, France), 1948, 4th edition, 1977.
(With Abdoulaye Sadji) La Belle Histoire de Leuk-le-Lievre (elementary school text; title means "The Clever Story of Leuk-the-Hare"), Hachette (Paris, France), 1953, reprinted as La Belle Histoire de Leuk-le-Lievre: Cours elementaire des ecoles d'Afrique noir, illustrations by Marcel Jeanjean, Hachette (Paris, France), 1961, British edition (in French) edited by J. M. Winch, illustrations by Jeanjean, Harrap (London, England), 1965, adaptation published as Les Aventures de Leuk-le-Lievre, illustrations by G. Lorofi, Nouvelles éditions africaines (Dakar, Senegal), 1975.
(Author of introductory essay) Anthologie des poètes du seizieme siecle (anthology), Editions de la Bibliotheque Mondiale (Paris, France), 1956.
Melange offerts a Léopold Sédar Senghor: Langues—litterature—histoire anciennes, Nouvelles éditions africaines (Paris, France), 1977.
Espaces: A la recherche d'une ecology de l'esprit, Euroeditor (Luxembourg), 1989.
Le Dialogue des cultures, Seuil (Paris, France)), 1993.
Also author of foreword to The Astrolabe of the Sea, by Shams Nadir, 1996. Also author of prose tale Mandabi (title means "The Money Order"). Translator of poetry by Mariane N'Diaye. Contributor of selected texts to books, including Afrique Africaine (photography), photographs by Michel Huet, Clairfontaine, 1963; Terre promise d'Afrique: Symphonie en noir et or (poetry anthology), lithographs by Hans Erni, Andre et Pierre Gonin (Lausanne, Switzerland), 1966; and African Sojourn (photography), photographs by Uwe Ommer, Arpel Graphics, 1987. Founder of journals, including Condition Humaine, with Aime Cesaire and Leon Gontran Damas, L'Etudiant Noir, and, with Alioune Diop, Présence africaine.
Léopold Sédar Senghor (collection of prose and poems; with biographical-critical introduction and bibliography), edited by Armand Guibert, Seghers, 1961, reprinted as Léopold Sédar Senghor: Une Etude d'Armand Guibert, avec un choix de poèmes [et] une chronologie bibliographique, "Léopold Sédar Senghor et son temps," Seghers (Paris, France), 1969.
Selected Poems, edited and translated by John Reed and Clive Wake, introduction by Reed and Wake, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1964.
Poèmes (includes Chants d'ombre, Hosties noires, Ethiopiques, Nocturnes, and "Poèmes divers"), Seuil (Paris, France), 1964, 4th edition, 1969, new edition, 1984.
L. S. Senghor: Poète sénégalais, commentary by Roger Mercier, Monique Battestini, and Simon Battestini, F. Nathan (Paris, France), 1965.
(In English translation) Prose and Poetry, selected and translated by John Reed and Clive Wake, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1965, Heinemann Educational (London, England), 1976.
(In French with English translations) Selected Poems/Poésies choisies, English-language introduction by Craig Williamson, Collings (London, England), 1976.
(In French) Selected Poems of Léopold Sédar Senghor, edited, with English-language preface and notes, by Abiola Irele, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1977.
Elégies majeures [suivi de] Dialogue sur la poésie francophone, Seuil (Paris, France), 1979.
(In English translation) Poems of a Black Orpheus, translated by William Oxley, Menard (London, England), 1981.
ADAPTATIONS: Senghor's Mandabi was adapted for film by Ousmane Sembene.
SIDELIGHTS: President of the Republic of Senegal from the proclamation of that country's independence in 1960 until he stepped down in 1980, Léopold Sédar Senghor is considered, according to Time, "one of Africa's most respected elder statesmen." Yet until 1960, Senghor's political career was conducted primarily in France rather than in Africa. He was a product of the nineteenth-century French educational system, a scholar of Greek and Latin, and a member of the elite Academie Française, but he is best known for developing "negritude," a wide-ranging movement that influenced black culture worldwide. As the chief proponent of negritude, Senghor is credited with contributing to Africa's progress toward independence from colonial rule and, according to Jacques Louis Hymans in his Léopold Sédar Senghor: An Intellectual Biography, with "setting in motion a whole series of African ideological movements." Senghor first gained widespread recognition, however, when his first collection of poetry was published in 1945; he followed that volume with a highly esteemed body of verse that has accumulated numerous prestigious honors, most notably consideration for the Nobel Prize in literature. Senghor, thus, was, as Hymans suggested, "the living symbol of the possible synthesis of what appears irreconcilable: he is as African as he is European, as much a poet as a politician, . . . as much a revolutionary as a traditionalist."
As a child, Senghor demonstrated a lively intelligence and an early ambition to become a priest or a teacher, and was accordingly enrolled in a Catholic elementary school in 1913. The following year he began living in a boarding house four miles from Joal at N'Gasobil, where he attended the Catholic mission school operated by the Fathers of the Holy Spirit. There, Senghor was encouraged to forsake his ancestral culture while he learned Latin and studied European civilization as part of a typical nineteenth-century French teaching program. In 1922 he entered Libermann Junior Seminary in Dakar. In his four years there Senghor acquired a sound knowledge of Greek and Latin classics. Obliged to leave the seminary when he was deemed ill-suited to the priesthood, Senghor, disappointed, entered public secondary school at a French-style lycée in Dakar. There he earned numerous scholastic prizes and distinction for having bested white pupils in academic performance. Senghor obtained his secondary school degree with honors in 1928 and was awarded a half scholarship for continued study in France.
In Paris, Senghor boarded at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, where top-ranking French students study for entrance exams to France's elite higher education programs. One of Senghor's classmates was Georges Pompidou, later prime minister and, eventually, president of France. Pompidou exposed Senghor to the works of French literary masters Marcel Proust, Andre Gide, and Charles Baudelaire. During this time Senghor was also influenced by the writings of Paul Claudel, Arthur Rimbaud, and Maurice Barres. Senghor's lycée education in Paris emphasized a methodology for rigorous thought and instilled habits of intellectual discipline, skills that Senghor embraced. He meanwhile continued to observe Roman Catholicism and expressed support for a restoration of the French government to monarchical rule. According to Hymans, Senghor in his student days was considered fully assimilated into Paris's intellectual milieu, which began including political and social liberation movements such as socialism, rationalism, humanism, and Marxism.
In The New Negro, an anthology published in 1925, Senghor encountered the works of prominent writers such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, W. E. B. Du Bois, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, and Jean Toomer. The anthology's editor, Alain Locke, was a professor of philosophy at Harvard University and a contributor to La Revue du Monde Noir; Senghor met him through Nardal as well. When Senghor, Cesaire, and Leon-Gontran Damas, a student from French Guiana, sought a name for the growing francophone interest in African culture, they borrowed from the title of Locke's anthology and dubbed the movement "neonègre" or "nègre-nouveau." These labels were later replaced by "négritude," a term coined by Cesaire. Senghor credits Jamaican poet and novelist Claude McKay with having supplied the values espoused by the new movement: to seek out the roots of black culture and build on its foundations, to draw upon the wealth of African history and anthropology, and to rehabilitate black culture in the eyes of the world. With Cesaire and Damas, Senghor launched L'Etudiant Noir, a cultural journal.
In exalting black culture and values, Senghor emphasized what he perceived as differences between the races. He portrayed blacks as possessing intuitive and artistic natures, seeing in them an essential and exuberant emotionalism that whites tend to suppress with reason and intellect. Europe he saw as alien, dehumanized, and dying; in stark contrast, he considered Africa vital, nourishing, and thriving. As racism and fascism swept through Europe in the 1930s, Senghor's attitudes hardened. For a brief period he became disillusioned with Europe and abandoned his religious faith. However, as Hymans has suggested, Senghor began to see that "the same Romantic antirationalism that fathered racism among the Fascists of the 1930s underlay his early reaction against the West." Thus, as Senghor observed the increasing turmoil in Europe caused by Fascist regimes in Italy and Germany and witnessed the dangers of racism, he began to modify his position.
The poems Senghor wrote in the late 1930s were later published in the collection Chants d'ombre. For the most part, these poems express Senghor's nostalgia for Africa, his sense of exile, estrangement, and cultural alienation, and his attempt to recover an idealized past. In a style based on musical rhythms, the poet evokes the beauty of the African landscape and peoples, the richness of Africa's past and the protecting presence of the dead, and the innocence and dignity inherent in his native culture. These poems, critics noted, celebrate an Africa Senghor knew as a child, one transformed by nostalgia into a paradise-like simplicity. In some of the volume's other poems Senghor laments the destruction of the continent's culture and the suffering of its people under colonial rule. One of the collection's frequently cited pieces, "Femme noir," employs sensual yet worshipful language intended to glorify all black women. In "Joal" Senghor returns to his native village, revisiting places and inhabitants he had once known very well; it is, according to Sebastian Okechukwu Mezu in The Poetry of Léopold Sédar Senghor, "easily one of the most beautiful poems created by Senghor." When Chants d'ombre was published in 1945, it was well received in Paris and brought Senghor to public attention as a voice of black Africa. "In recreating the distant continent by verse," Hymans observed, "Senghor helped blaze the trail that led to the phenomenon of negritude."
World War II intervened between the writing of the poems collected in Chants d'ombre and their eventual publication. Germany invaded Poland in September, 1939, and Senghor was immediately called to active duty to protect France at the German border. While the holder of a high academic degree is usually made a commissioned officer, Senghor, as a black man was made a second-class soldier in the Colonial Infantry. France fell to the German assault in June, 1940, the same month Senghor was captured and interned in a German prison camp. At the time of his capture he was almost shot along with some other Senegalese prisoners, but a French officer interceded on his behalf. While in prison Senghor met African peasants who had been recruited into the French Army, and began to identify with their plight. He wrote a number of poems that he sent by letter to his old classmate and friend Georges Pompidou; they were hand-delivered by a German guard who had been a professor of Chinese at the University of Vienna before the war. These poems later formed the core of Senghor's second published collection, Hosties noires, which appeared in 1948.
Hosties noires documents Senghor's realization that he was not alone in his exile from Africa, explores his increasing sense of unity with blacks as an exploited race, and elucidates the positive meaning Senghor finds in the sacrifices blacks have made. In poems such as "Au Gouveneur Eboue," which treats a black man's willingness to die for the salvation of the white world, Senghor memorializes blacks fighting for Europe. Elsewhere in Hosties noires, Senghor protests the exploitation of black soldiers and attacks western sources of power and violence. In other poems, such as "Mediterranee" and "Aux Soldats Négro-Americains," he rejoices in the common bonds formed with fellow soldiers and with American blacks. And with "Priere de paix" and "Tyaroye," Senghor hopes for unity and peace; while denouncing colonialism, he calls for an end to hatred and welcomes the new life that succeeds death. The collection, according to Mezu, is "the most homogeneous volume of Senghor's poetry, from the point of view not only of theme but also of language and sentiment."
Through the influence of West Indian colleagues, Senghor was released from prison in June, 1942, and resumed teaching at the lycée in suburban Paris where he had earlier served as instructor of literature and African culture. He joined a Resistance group and also participated in activities involving colonial students. During the war, negritude had gained momentum, and when Chants d'ombre appeared in 1945, a new group of black intellectuals eagerly embraced Senghor's poetry and cultural theories. That year he published the influential essay "Views on Africa; or, Assimilate, Don't Be Assimilated." In the 1930s, Senghor had concentrated on cultural rather than political issues; after the war, encouraged by colonial reforms extended to French West Africans, he decided to run for election as one of Senegal's representatives in the French National Assembly. With Lamine Gueye, Senghor formed the Bloc Africain to involve the Senegalese people in their political fate. France was forming a new constitution, and in recognition of his linguistic expertise, France's provisional government appointed Senghor the document's official grammarian. Senghor founded the Bloc Democratique Sénégalais (BDS) in 1948; throughout the 1950s the BDS dominated Senegalese politics.
Senghor's literary activities also continued. In 1947, he founded, with Alioune Diop, the cultural journal Présence africaine. Along with a publishing house of the same name, Présence africaine became, under Diop's direction, a powerful vehicle for black writing worldwide. As editor of Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie noire et malgache de langue française, published in 1948, Senghor brought together contemporary poetry written by francophone blacks. An essay titled "Orphee noir" ("Black Orpheus"), by French philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre, introduced the anthology. Sartre's essay outlined the cultural aims of black peoples striving to recapture their heritage. In the process, Sartre defined and gained notoriety for the philosophy of negritude, portraying negritude as a step toward a united society without racial distinction. Many consider "Black Orpheus" to be the most important document of the negritude movement.
A collection of poems Senghor had been working on since 1948 was published as Ethiopiques in 1956. These poems reflect Senghor's growing political involvement and his struggle to reconcile European and African allegiances through crossbreeding, both figurative and literal. The year Ethiopiques was published, Senghor divorced his African wife to marry one of her friends, a white Frenchwoman; critics have suggested that Senghor's views on crossbreeding represent an attempt to resolve his personal conflict by eliminating the divisive social elements that divided his loyalties. One of Ethiopiques' poems, "Chaka," is a dramatic adaptation of Thomas Mofolo's novel about a Zulu hero who forged and ruled a vast domain in the early nineteenth century. Mezu called "Chaka" Senghor's "most ambitious piece." Others have drawn parallels between Senghor's life and the poem's attempt to combine in the character of Chaka, both the poet and politician. In "Chaka," Senghor applied his theories about the combination of music, dance, and poetry found in native African art forms. As Mezu noted, "Senghor aimed to illustrate what he considered an indigenous form of art where music, painting, theatre, poetry, religion, faith, love, and politics are all intertwined." In addition to musical and rhythmic elements, native plants and animals also figure prominently in Ethiopiques, whose other poems include "A New York," and "Congo."
Poems Senghor wrote during the tumultuous years leading up to his election as president of Senegal were published in the 1961 collection Nocturnes, which featured a group of love poems previously published as Chants pour Naëtt in 1949. In Nocturnes, Senghor ponders the nature of poetry and examines the poetic process. Critics have noted that in this volume, particularly in poems such as "Elégie de minuit," Senghor reveals his regret for time spent in the empty pomp of political power, his nostalgia for his youth, and his reconciliation with death. Mezu called "Elégie de minuit" the poet's "'last'poem."
After 1960, Senghor wrote mainly political and critical prose, tied closely to the goals, activities, and demands of his political life. During this time he survived an attempted coup d'etat staged in 1962 by Senegal's prime minister, Mamadou Dia. The following year, Senghor authorized the Senegalese National Assembly to draw up a new constitution that gave more power to the president, elected to five-year terms. Known for his ability to hold factions together, he remained in power, reelected in 1968 and 1973, despite more coup attempts, an assassination plot in 1967, and civil unrest in the late 1960s. Much of Senghor's writing from this era outlines the course to which he feels Africa must hold. Commenting on the instability suffered after African nations achieved independence, Senghor told Time: "The frequency of coups in Africa is the result of the backwardness in civilization that colonization represented. . . . What we should all be fighting for is democratic socialism. And the first task of socialism is not to create social justice. It is to establish working democracies."
According to Hymans, Senghor's brand of socialism, often called the African Road to Socialism, maps out a middle position between individualism and collectivism, between capitalism and communism. Senghor saw socialism as a way of eliminating the exploitation of individuals that prevents universal humanism. Some of Senghor's writings on this topic were translated by Mercer Cook and published in 1964 as On African Socialism. Appraising On African Socialism for Saturday Review, Charles Miller called its selections "exquisitely intellectual tours de force."
When a new collected edition of Senghor's poetry appeared in 1984, Robert P. Smith, Jr., writing in World Literature Today identified Senghor as a "great poet of Africa and the universe." Praising the masterly imagery, symbolism, and versification of the poetry, Smith expressed particular admiration for Senghor's "constant creation of a poetry which builds up, makes inquiries, and expands into universal dimensions," and cited an elegy Senghor wrote for his deceased son as "one of the most beautiful in modern poetry." Critics characterize Senghor's poetic style as serenely and resonantly rhetorical. While some readers detect a lack of tension in his poetry, most admire its lush sensuality and uplifting attitude. Offered as a means of uniting African peoples in an appreciation of their cultural worth, Senghor's poetry, most agree, extends across the chasm that negritude, at least in its early form, seemed to have created in emphasizing the differences between races. "It is difficult to predict whether Senghor's poetry will excite the same approbation when the prestige of the President and that of the idealist no longer colour people's view of the man," Mezu acknowledged. "The Senegalese poet will certainly survive in the history of the Black Renaissance as the ideologist and theoretician of negritude." Writing in the Washington Post Book World, K. Anthony Appiah saw Senghor's poetry as "an integral part of his political and intellectual career rather than as a free-standing accomplishment demanding separate literary treatment."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
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Blair, Dorothy S., African Literature in French, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1976.
Collins, Grace, Man of Destiny: Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal, Sights Publications (Mt. Airy, MD), 1997.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 54, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Crowder, Michael, Senegal: A Study in French Assimilation Policy, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1962.
Hymans, Jacques Louis, Léopold Sédar Senghor: An Intellectual Biography, University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1971.
Kluback, William, Léopold Sédar Senghor: From Politics to Poetry, P. Lang (New York, NY), 1997.
Markovitz, Irving Leonard, Léopold Sédar Senghor and the Politics of Negritude, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1969.
Mezu, Sebastian Okechuwu, The Poetry of Léopold Sédar Senghor, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (Rutherford, NJ), 1973.
Neikirk, Barend van Dyk Van, The African Image (Negritude) in the Work of Léopold Sédar Senghor, A. A. Balkema, 1970.
Spleth, Janice, editor, Critical Perspectives on Léopold Sédar Senghor, Three Continents Press (Washington, DC), 1991.
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"Senghor, Léopold Sédar 1906-2001." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 21, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/senghor-leopold-sedar-1906-2001
"Senghor, Léopold Sédar 1906-2001." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Retrieved March 21, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/senghor-leopold-sedar-1906-2001
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