Aimé Césaire's Legacy: Colin Dayan
Colin Dayan's tribute to Aimé Césaire highlights some of the tensions still evident is Caribbean life and letters.
If in Paris Césaire found writing and Africa (he confessed that until he left Martinique in 1931 he did not know what it meant to be black), in Haiti he found something quite different. Césaire arrived in Haiti in 1944 a poet and returned home later that year a politician. At the time Haiti was still the only independent black republic in the Americas. The people of Jamaica, Barbados, and the West Indies still served the King, learned English history, celebrated the Empire, and knew the beauty of daffodils not breadfruit. Martinique itself had supported the colonial regime and Vichy after France’s collapse in World War II until a U.S. naval blockade in 1943 forced the island to transfer its allegiance to the Free French.