A Poet of Postmodernity
Césaire’s works exist within a pivotal junction between both the European literary canon and the corpus of Caribbean literature, just as his home island of Martinique exists prominently both within the context of French colonialism and as part of the African diaspora. He likewise cannot be ignored in any discussion of modernism, surrealism, or négritude. He is likewise cited as an heir to the Créolité movement, in which other authors such as Patrick Chamoisseau, also from Martinique, are involved.
Césaire and the Visual Arts
From March 16, 2011 to June 6, 2011, the RMN-Grand Palais hosted the exhibition entitled “Aimé Césaire, Lam, Picasso: ‘Nous nous sommes trouvés,'” showcasing the relationship between the three mid-twentieth-century artists and celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the first meeting between Wifredo Lam and Aimé Césaire. The exhibit was shown in Paris, as well as in Martinique and Guadeloupe, and it was curated under Daniel Maximin, with patronage from Nicolas Sarkozy.
Césaire and the Dramatic Arts
One of Césaire’s most popular dramatic works is his Une Tempête, a 1969 adaptation of Shakespeare’s 1611 play The Tempest. Césaire brings the play into dialogue with post-colonial discourses, namely by reversing the polarity Shakespeare creates between his protagonist, Prospero, and his antagonist, the enslaved Caliban. Césaire transforms Caliban into the underdog protagonist who is able to temporarily subvert his master’s control and later provide a soliloquy on colonialism.
On April 6, 2011, nearly three years after Césaire’s death, a monumental fresco and plaque were installed at the Panthéon in Paris at the invitation of the Elysée. Even though Césaire was buried in Martinique, this plaque exists alongside the tombs of such French canonical authors and thinkers as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Joseph Louis Lagrange, Victor Hugo, Emilé Zola, Marie Curie, and Alexandre Dumas. In this respect, Césaire joins Toussaint L’Ouverture, a leader of the Haitian Revolution, and Louis Delgrès, a leader of the Guadeloupean resistance to Napoleon, who both likewise have plaques in the Panthéon, having been admitted in April 1998.
Sources for images:
- Painting of Césaire:
- Exhibit Poster:
- Performance photograph:
- Panthéon fresco: