The Great Camouflage: Writings of Dissent  (1941-1945) by Suzanne Cesaire. Middletown. 2012. Wesleyan University Press. 9780819572752. Edited by Daniel Maximin. Translated by Keith L. Walker. 67 pages. paperback. Cover illustration: Suzanne Cesaire.


9780819572752FROM THE PUBLISHER - 


The Great Camouflage translates and assembles in one volume the seven articles Suzanne Césaire wrote for the cultural journal Tropiques. Césaire engages anthropology, esthetics, surrealism, history, and poetry as she grapples with questions of power and deception, self-deception, the economic slipknot of a post-slavery debt system, identity and inauthenticity, bad faith, psychological and affective aberration, and cultural zombification. All are caught in the web of "the great camouflage." The collection provides a multifaceted portrait of Césaire, and includes short writings from others who wrote passionately about her, including André Breton, André Masson, René Ménil, Daniel Maximin, and her husband Aimé Césaire and daughter, Ina Césaire.



Cesaire SuzanneSuzanne Césaire [née Roussi] (11 August 1915 – 16 May 1966), born in Martinique, an overseas department of France, was a French writer, teacher, scholar, anti-colonial and feminist activist, and Surrealist. Her husband was the poet and politician Aimé Césaire. Césaire (née Roussi) was born on 11 August 1915 in Poterie, Martinique, to Flore Roussi (née William), a school teacher, and Benoït Roussi, a sugar factory worker. She began her education at her local primary school in Rivière-Salée in Martinique (which still had the status of a French colonial territory at that time), before attending a girls' boarding-school in the capital, Fort-de-France. Having completed her secondary education, she went to study literature in Toulouse and then in Paris at the prestigious École normale supérieure from 1936-1938. During her first year as a student in Paris, Suzanne (then still named Roussi) meet Léopold Sédar Senghor, who introduced her to Aimé Césaire, a fellow student at the École normale supérieure. The following year, on 10 July 1937, the couple married at the town hall of the 14th arrondissement in Paris. During their studies, the Césaires were both part of the editorial team of the militant journal L'Étudiant noir. In 1938 the couple had their first child. The following year they returned to Martinique where they both took up teaching jobs at the Lycée Schoelcher. They went on to have six children together, divorcing in April 1963 after 25 years of marriage. Césaire wrote in French and published seven essays during her career as a writer. All seven of these essays were published between 1941 and 1945 in the Martinique cultural journal Tropiques, of which she was a co-founder and editor along with her husband, Aimé Césaire, and René Ménil, both of whom were notable French poets from Martinique. Her writing explored themes such as Caribbean identity, civilisation, and surrealism. While her writing remains largely unknown to Anglophone readers, excerpts from her essays "Leo Frobenius and the Problem of Civilisations", "A Civilisation’s Discontent", "1943: Surrealism and Us", and "The Great Camouflage" can be found translated into English in the anthology The Refusal of the Shadow: Surrealism and the Caribbean (Verso, 1996), edited by Michael Richardson. Césaire had a particular affinity with surrealism, which she described as "the tightrope of our hope". In her essay "1943: Surrealism and Us", she called for a Martinican surrealism: “Our surrealism will then deliver it the bread of its depths. Finally those sordid contemporary antinomies of black/white, European/African, civilised/savage will be transcended. The magical power of the mahoulis will be recovered, drawn forth from living sources. Colonial stupidity will be purified in the blue welding flame. Our value as metal, our cutting edge of steel, our amazing communions will be recovered." Césaire also developed a close relationship with André Breton following his visit to Martinique in 1941. She dedicated an essay to him ("André Breton, poet", 1941) and received a poem dedicated to her in return ("For madame Suzanne Césaire", 1941). This encounter with André Breton opened the way for her development of Afro-Surrealism. Her writing is often overshadowed by that of her husband, who is the better known of the two. However, in addition to her important literary essays, her role as editor of Tropiques can be regarded as an equally significant (if often overlooked) contribution to Caribbean literature. Tropiques was the most influential francophone Caribbean journal of its time and is widely acknowledged for the foundational role it played in the development of Martiniquan literature. Césaire played both an intellectual and administrative role in the journal's success. She managed the journal's relations with the censor — a particularly difficult role given the oppositional stance of Tropiques towards the war-time Vichy government — as well as taking responsibility for the printing. The intellectual impact she had on the journal is underlined by her essay "The Great Camouflage", which was the closing article of the final issue. Despite her substantial written and editorial contribution to the journal, the collected works of Tropiques, published by Jean-Michel Place in 1978, credits Aimé Césaire and René Ménil as the journal's catalysts. Tropiques published its last issue in September 1945, at the end of World War Two. With the closing of the journal, Suzanne Césaire stopped writing. The reasons for this are unknown. However, journalist Natalie Levisalles suggests that Suzanne Césaire would have perhaps made different choices if she had not had the responsibilities of mothering six children, teaching, and being the wife of an important politician and poet, Aimé Césaire. Indeed, her first daughter, Ina Césaire, remembers her saying regularly: "Yours will be the first generation of women who choose." Having stopped writing she pursued her career as a teacher, working in Martinique and Haiti. She was also an active feminist and participated in the Union des Femmes Françaises. Césaire was a pioneer in the search for a distinct Martiniquan literary voice. Though she was attacked by some Caribbean writers, following an early edition of Tropiques, for aping traditional French styles of poetry as well as supposedly promoting "The Happy Antilles" view of the island advanced by French colonialism, her essay of 1941, "Misère d'une poésie", condemned what she termed "Littérature de hamac. Littérature de sucre et de vanille. Tourisme littéeraire" [Literaure of the hammock, of sugar and vanilla. Literary tourism]. Her encounter with André Breton opened the way for her development of Afro-Surrealism, which followed in the footsteps of her use of surrealist concepts to illuminate the colonial dilemma. Her dictum - "La poésie martinique sera cannibale ou ne sera pas" [Cannibal poetry or nothing] - was an anti-colonial appropriation of a surrealist trope. Suzanne Césaire's repudiation of simple idealised answers - whether assimilationist, Africanist, or creole - to the situation of colonialism in the Caribbean has proved increasingly influential in later postcolonial studies.







Copyright © 2022 Zenosbooks. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU General Public License.