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rowena

Rowena's Reviews

My true loves: Wilkie Collins, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anais Nin, George Eliot, James Joyce, James Baldwin, George Orwell, Oscar Wilde, bell hooks, Chinua Achebe, Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare... I'm falling for : Italo Calvino, Toni Morrison, Frantz Fanon, Wole Soyinka, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Camus, Margaret Atwood, Somerset Maugham, Junot Diaz, A.S. Byatt... And the lists continue to grow! I will read almost anything, as long as it's well-written. I always love to expand my reading horizons.

Currently reading

Orientalism
Edward W. Said
Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace
Finnegans Wake (Trade Paperback)
James Joyce
Black Writers in French - Pa - Lilyan Kesteloot;Kesteloot “All black intellectuals are fully aware to what extent the foundations of history can help their cultural movement, and that is the reason for their passionate interest in ethnology.”
— Lilyan Kesteloot

This is THE book for anyone interested in the négritude movement. According to Kesteloot, the three fathers of négritude were Léon Damas (French Guiana), Léopold Senghor (Senegal) and Aimé Césaire (Martinique), who met in Paris in the 1930s and started the movement. Senghor defined negritude as: "the cultural patrimony, the values, and above all the spirit of Negro African civilization.”

A major component of negritude is the black protest literature, protesting the struggle of black francophone writers to develop their own art forms, and to get away from the kitschy platitudes that had been written about the “tropical paradises” in which they lived. Suzanne Cesaire voices the frustration the best: “Swoonings, blues, golds, pinks. How nice! How overdone! Literature? Yes. Literature from the hammock, made of sugar and vanilla. Tourist literature…Come on now! Real poetry is somewhere else. Far from shyness, laments, soft breezes, parrotings. We decree the death of frou frou literature. And to hell with hibiscus, the scent of jasmine, and bougainvillea. ”

Lots of literature excerpts are included, not only by black francophones, but also by some of the players of the Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes, for example). The poetry featured was mainly by the Big Three (Senghor, Cesaire and Damas), and was written in both French and English. I quickly became a fan of both Senghor and Cesaire:


“Fire men see only in the night, on the darkest nights,
Fire that burns without consuming, that sparkles without burning,
Fire that flies without body, without wings, knowing neither hearth nor hut,
Fire, transparent palm-tree fire, a fearless man invokes thee.”
— Leopold Senghor, Chant du feu follet

“I bathe in ever-changing images
of neritic memories, suspended
possibles, larval tendencies,
obsure becomings
habits form trailing in algae in the
liquid slime- evilly,
flowers burst.
Plop
One sinks, sinks as if
into music.”
— Aime Cesaire

It surprised me that I was the first person on Goodreads to give this book a rating. It was written in the early 1960s but I think it is still a wonderful resource. I learned so much and I now need to buy myself a copy!