Biography of Aime Cesaire

Aimé Césaire was a Martinician poet, playwright, and theorist, primarily known for his poetry. His books of poetry include Lost Body (which included illustrations by Pablo Picasso) and Return to My Native Land. His plays include A Tempest and A Season at Congo. Perhaps his best-known essay is Discours sur le colonialisme, which is about the tension between colonizers and colonized populations. This work is a seminal work of French literature and introduced the concept of Negritude, which Césaire defines as “the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture.”

Césaire was born in Martinique, France, in 1913 to a tax inspector and a dressmaker. He was educated in Paris, and then returned to Martinique in 1936, where he wrote a long poem entitled Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, a meditation on Caribbean life after life in Europe. While embarking on a career as a writer, he also served as Mayor of Fort-de-France and deputy to the French National Assembly for Martinique, with the support of the French Communist Party. Throughout his career, he was very involved in the fight to establish French West Indian rights.

Césaire was a celebrated thinker and writer. Philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre said of his poetic work, "a Césaire poem explodes and whirls about itself like a rocket, suns burst forth whirling and exploding like new suns—it perpetually surpasses itself."

Study Guides on Works by Aime Cesaire

Discourse on Colonialism is a text by Martinican author, politician, and poet Aime Cesaire published in the 1950s France. Cesaire argues that the true intention of colonial powers in Africa and other colonized territories was not to civilize the...

A Tempest, written in 1968, is Aimé Césaire's postcolonial adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest. It follows the actions of the Shakespeare play, but makes the relation between Prospero and his fairy slaves, Ariel and Caliban, that of a...