To go away…

To go away.  My heart was pounding with emphatic generosities.  To go away… I would arrive sleek and young in this land of mine and I would say to this land whose loam is part of my flesh: “I have wandered for a long time and I am coming back to the deserted hideousness of your sores.”

I would go to this land of mine and I would say to it: “Embrace me without fear… And if all I can do is speak, it is for you I shall speak.”

And again I would say:

“My mouth shall be the mouth of those calamities that have no mouth, my voice the freedom of those who break down in the solitary confinement of despair.”

And on the way I would say to myself:

“And above all, my body as well as my soul, beware of assuming the sterile attitude of a spectator, for life is not a spectacle, a sea of miseries is not a proscenium, a man screaming is not a dancing bear…” (45)


Quite clearly, this passage describes Césaire’s desire to go “away,” or more specifically to go to France, in order to further his education – a desire driven not only by a thirst for knowledge and personal development, but also, and arguably more so, by an aspiration to better the life of his family and the people of Martinique.  In addition to this, the passage foreshadows Césaire’s decision to become involved in politics, as he emphasizes the idea that “life is not a spectacle” for people merely to observe, and that he intends on using his voice to speak out for change in Martinique.

It is interesting to note that, though one with a knowledge of Césaire’s life (or simply with some knowledge of the history of Martinique) can easily discern that “to go away” means “to go to France,” Césaire does not actually mention France in this passage.  Instead he invokes the concept of “away” – somewhere not “here” but also not tied to any actual geographical location.  This is likely due to his staunch anti-colonial stance, which serves as a central theme of the overall work.  Throughout the poem, Césaire describes France (and Europe in general) as an egotistical conqueror – the oppressor of the Martinicans and main reason for the intense level of poverty in his homeland.  In keeping France’s name out of the description of his decision to pursue higher education abroad, Césaire is able to confine France to the role of the oppressor in his narrative.  This strips France from its one potential redeeming factor in this poem – that of providing education to some choice Martinicans, such as Césaire, so that they can help to rebuild the country that colonization decimated.  In so doing, Césaire is able to bring light to the fact that, though France serves as the choice destination for Martinicans to obtain the best education, the very fact that Césaire must “go away” from Martinique in order to pursue a decent education is ultimately a result and fault of the French colonization of the island.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Empire and Its Contemporary Legacies