Aimé Césaire, creador de libertades (I) / Oswaldo Barreto

Aimé Césaire, Creator of Liberties (I)

Aimé Fernand David Césaire, one of the great contemporary French poets, politician and playwright, tenacious anti-colonial fighter, born on June 26, 1913 in Basse Pointe on the northeastern end of Martinique, died on April 17 in the island’s capital, Fort-de-France.

Those words, which we find with little variation among the infinity of obituaries published in European and American newspapers, themselves justify these other words we find on the Web page: www.cesaire.org, dedicated to the funeral rites celebrated in Fort-de-France:

Le negre fondamentale s’en est allé
La Martinique et tous les damnés de la terre lui rendent hommage
(The fundamental black man has left us
Martinique and all the wretched of the earth pay homage to him)

No, the former speak of someone who has already died while the latter words, which could serve as an epitaph, speak of what Aimé Césaire was as a man and of the world he desired for his fellow humans. The Fundamental Black Man, among all the black people of the earth, those in Africa, in the United States and those belonging to the diaspora dispersed throughout the other Americas. All of them belonging to the wretched, to the condemned of the earth.

But just as not all the wretched are black, neither was Aimé Césaire just a fundamental black man. Césaire, a member of a “subaltern” race, has been what Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was, a member of a ruling and hegemonic race for his time, the fundamental man. Simply and proudly, the man, without distinguishing between races, cultures or credos. Just as Goethe was fated to live through the vicissitudes that were imposed on liberty, that is, on the liberties of all men, by the French Revolution, and the actions of its defenders and its gravediggers, in this manner Césaire lived in order to face similar vicissitudes, the ones that were imposed on the liberties of the entire planet by the communist and Marxist revolutions that began in 1917, when our poet was beginning his life.

And this movement in search of the paths of liberty begins right at the start of a small book: Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (1939):

As there are hyena-men and panther-men, I would be
a Jew-man
a Kaffir-man
a Hindu-man-from-Calcutta
a Harlem-man-who-doesn’t-vote

It was a colonized black man who began this search in a world where all black people were still colonized. Despite Haiti, as we shall see.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, Tal Cual, 23 April 2008 }

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