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Saturday, 18 October 2008

"Seek it in his poetry"

Césaire once quipped that anyone confused by his politics should seek it in his poetry. He seemed, at times, an advocate of poésie pure, a follower of Mallarmé’s craft of absence and elimination, especially in Les armes miraculeuses. But his poems also bear witness to the harsh realities of life in a colonial outpost under Vichy rule. He meant the “miraculous weapons” to be arms for the struggle against colonialism, as well as, in and of themselves, poetic annunciation. Behind the flames, grasses, guava, and hibiscus of his impossible landscapes, one catches sight of the lashing of bodies and rotting flesh, the stench of slave ships, the postures of sanctimonious politicians.

-- From Colin Dayan's beautiful essay on the late Aimé Césaire in the current issue of the Boston Review. (Dayan is, among many other things, one of Césaire's translators.)

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