(12/06/2009) Discourse On Colonialism by Aime Cesaire. New York. 1972. Monthly Review Press. Translated From The French By Joan Pinkham. keywords: Caribbean Martinique Politics Black Literature. 79 pages. Cover photo by Henri Mellin.


   This volume makes available for the first time in English the most important political essay by the father of ‘Negritude’ as concept and as movement. Césaire’s Discourse on Colonial• ism was first published in 1955, and did much to shape the emergent Third World view of Europe and the United States. Included as well is an interview with Césaire about his ideas and work, conducted by the Haitian poet René Depestre in Havana in 1967. Césaire is already well known to the English-reading public through his plays and poetry, especially RETURN TO MY NATIVE LAND, which André Breton called ‘nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of all time. ’ These political essays make available his pathbreaking contributions to the revolt of the Third World. The main subject of these writings is the barbarism of the colonizer and the unhappiness of the colonized, the destruction of civilizations that were dignified and fraternal by the colonizer’s machine for exploitation. Césaire praises as healthy contact between the peoples of the world. But between the colonizer and the colonized there is no contact; there is only intimidation, police, taxes, thievery, rape, contempt, mistrust, and the morgue. it is not human contact, but the contact between dehumanized elites and degraded masses. Far from seeing the end of the era of formal colonization as the end of the problem, Césaire singles out the American form of imperialism as the only variety of oppression that surpasses that of Europe. Barbarism’s hour, he says, has arrived — modern barbarism, the American hour. Like Fanon, who was also born in Martinique and educated in France, Césaire turned to Africa for values he could counterpose to the Europe he came to despise. The ‘humanism’ of Europe he denounced as a pseudo-humanism, with a sordidly racist conception of the rights of man. European and United States civilization he saw as sick; morally weakened by its use of force against the subjugated, and by its justifications of imperialism, it calls down upon itself its own punishment.


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