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

Aimé Césaire, Creator of Liberties (II)

With Notebook of a Return to the Native Land Aimé Césaire went back to the communitarian life of Martinique and entered the Parnassus of French poetry, with André Breton as his godfather (though not his discoverer), one of the founders of surrealism as we all know. That double condition already made him an important black man and even a guide for the black community of Martinique, as well as for black poets writing in French. But Césaire started to become the Fundamental Black Man and the great creator and attendant of liberties after his encounter with Haiti during World War II, the only independent black nation at the time.

“Haiti is the first black colony to have fought for its independence and, once that independence was achieved, to have adopted a republican regime. That happened at the end of the 18th century and yet the Haitian people are one of the most dissatisfied. Haiti fascinated me because it’s a magnifying glass through which we can view the entire Antilles as well as Africa, and if we study Haiti’s history we can become aware of all the problems of the Third World.

The fight for independence is glorious, it costs a great deal of blood and tears. It is an epic. But I would say that independence is relatively easy. After independence comes tragedy, since it is at that moment – people should already realize this – when the difficult struggle begins and the struggle for liberty takes on its true meaning. And there’s no possible alibi, since independent man has to work things out with himself alone.” (Interview with Jalid Chrabi, 1961)

At the beginning of the 1940s, during his first stay in Haiti, the Martinican poet became aware that his problem as a black man and as a poet was also the fundamental problem of all those who struggle or had struggled for independence: what to do with the liberty conquered, how to consolidate and maintain it within artistic creation and community-based life.

From that moment of consciousness – as people tended to say in the realms of the Left during those 1960s we evoke so often – Césaire dedicated himself to a major struggle, on the political plane as well as on the plane of artistic creation, in order to affirm that each man, no matter his color, faith or ideology, is responsible for conquering and affirming the liberty he seeks. With his actions and his verb, Césaire dedicated himself to showing that the right to liberty is a matter of personal struggle for each individual and not something given by leaders, parties or doctrines. That one has to mistrust all of them, especially because they often stifle liberties under the well-worn pretext of defending them. Starting from these coordinates of personal responsibility and a search for liberty, we will see how Césaire built his life, his work and those of millions and millions of his contemporaries.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, Tal Cual, 24 April 2008 }

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