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Return to My Native Land

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  1,038 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
Aime Cesaire's masterpiece, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, is a work of immense cultural significance and beauty. The long poem was the beginning of Cesaire's quest for negritude, and it became an anthem of Blacks around the world. With its emphasis on unusual juxtapositions of object and metaphor, manipulation of language into puns and neologisms, and rhythm, Ce ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published February 28th 1970 by Penguin Classics (first published 1939)
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"Vainly in the tepidity of
your throat you ripen for
the twentieth time the
same indigent solace
that we are mumblers of words.

Words? while we handle
quarters of earth, while
we wed delirious
continents, while we
force steaming gates,
words, ah yes, words!
but words of fresh blood,
words that are tidal
waves and erysipelas
and malarias and lava
and brush fires, and
blazes of flesh, and
blazes of cities . . ."

It might be odd for me to say that I enjoyed this poem. It definitely wasn't cheery and i
Haiti where negritude rose to its feet for the first time and said it believed in its own humanity; and the comic little tail of Florida where they are just finishing strangling a negro; Africa gigantically caterpillaring as far as the Spanish foot of Europe; the nakedness of Africa where the scythe of Death swings wide.

Return to my Native Land by Aime Cesaire a single poem by the African activist. Cesaire was born in the French Caribbean country of Martinique. He earned a scholarship to Lycee L
At the end of the small hours: Life flat on its face, miscarried dreams and nowhere to put them,
the river of life listless in its hopeless bed, not rising or falling, unsure of its flow, lamentably
empty, the heavy impartial shadow of boredom creeping over the quality of all things, the air
stagnant, unbroken by the brightness of a single bird.

When Aimé Fernand David Césaire came to study in Paris at the age of 19, he's said to have fled from the colonial misery and narrowness-mindedness of Marti
Jul 16, 2015 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And neither the teacher in his classroom, nor the priest at catechism will be able to get a word out of this sleepy little picaninny, no matter how energetically they drum on his shorn skull, for starvation has quicksanded his voice into the swamp of hunger (a word-one-single-word and we-will-forget-about-Queen-Blanche-of-Castille, a word-one-single-word, you-should see-this-little-savage-who-doesn't-know-any-of-God's-Ten-Commandments),

for his voice gets lost in the swamp of hunger,
and there i
Jul 16, 2015 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The lack of a full five is simply because you should read the bilingual edition instead, or the unexpurgated one - but, to be honest, anything is better the nothing at this point

Aime Cesaire's Return to My Native Land, one of the great prose-poetry works of the twentieth century, was parented by not one but three literary movements: the Negritude movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and French surrealism.

The book's very rich suffusion of cultural and political nuances may be attributed to the Harlem Renaissance and the Negritude movement while its linguistic dexterity and philosophical daring would have to acknowledge some allegiance to French
Eliana Rivero
Jul 23, 2016 Eliana Rivero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popsugar2016
Reading Challenge 2016.
37. Un libro de una cultura con la que no estás familiarizada/eres indiferente.

Y ahora estamos en pie, mi país y yo, con los cabellos al viento, con mi mano pequeña ahora en su puño enorme, y la fuerza no está en nosotros sino por encima de nosotros, en una voz que perfora la noche y la audiencia como la penetrabilidad de una avispa apocalíptica. Y la voz pronuncia que Europa durante siglos nos ha cebado con mentiras e inflado con pestilencias, pues no es cierto que la ob
I would rediscover the secret of great communications and great combustions. I would say storm. I would say river. I would say tornado. I would say leaf. I would say tree. I would be drenched by all rains, moistened by all dews. I would roll like frenetic blood on the slow current of the eye of words turned into mad horses into fresh children into clots into curfew into vestiges of temples into precious stones remote enough to discourage miners. Whoever would not understand me would not understa ...more
Dec 11, 2014 D.A. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"At the end of the small hours: this town, flat, displayed, brought down by its common sense..."

Against the hate and exoticism Europeans unleashed for centuries on Caribbean and African lands, this haunting litany, this rhapsodic celebration of Cesaire's native Martinique, a place where "the daylight comes velvety like the sapodilla berry, the smell of liquid manure from the coconut palm" is more than glorious locales. It is a dream inside a nightmare, a poem in which the very language is breaki
Mar 24, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, french
This long and surrealist poem is not only a cry of anger and pain against the effect of slavery and colonialism. It's also a war cry coming from the heart, and Cesaire's choice of weapon are words. It's the cry of the new "negritude", the cry of the chained man who decides to get free of his chains.

What I can only call Cesaire's "freedom rage" is expressed by the choice of getting free of traditional poetry rules. He alternates between prose and free verses and uses a powerfully contrasted imag
Feb 10, 2009 Jana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had a class on Aimé Césaire at university years ago. I remember that reading Cahier d'un retour au pays natal was so difficult, but absolutely worthwhile. I think I spent more time preparing for this class than for any of the other ones that year (well, probaly with the exception of Latin...if I happened to take both classes the same semester...I really don't remember). That must have been the single most interesting class I had in French studies, not for any intersting discussions or analyses ...more
Sep 15, 2012 Tana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aime Cesaire is brilliant and beautiful. This prose poem shows a trajectory of self acceptance by moving from individual experience to universal experience. It is unpredictable in form, and highlights the varying black experience.
Zachary Bush
Mar 10, 2010 Zachary Bush rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the absolute greatest long poems I've ever read. And, of course, one of the weirdest. I will soon re-read it again, and again.
Sean A.
Apr 15, 2012 Sean A. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
A masterpiece.
I'd like to read Eschleman's translation, as I read a different version.
Dustin Kurtz
Aug 12, 2013 Dustin Kurtz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Marvelous. Marvelous. I'd forgotten so many details about this poem. The facing edition is an angry pleasure for the tongue.
Wesley  Gerrard
Aimé Césaire is the father of Martinican literature. In his Cahier, he explores his roots in his native Martinique and looks with an often angry voice at the repression of his fellow islanders. The Cahier is a poem directed at enlightening the views of his fellow countrymen and giving them a point at which to resist their colonial masters, to escape the bonds of Negrédom, the chains of slavery that bound them in the triangular slave trade culture and left them in the sugar cane fields of Martini ...more
Jack Wolfe
May 04, 2017 Jack Wolfe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm writing this review because I "finished" the poem, and I'm giving it four stars because it's powerful stuff, like Walt Whitman in how beautifully it ties together the political and the personal and the universal.

I'm not gonna write much else, though, because I don't think I'm really finished with it. There's a lot going on here.

I'll just say this: I fucking cannot stand it when some white dingbat piece of shit goes on Fox News and starts talking about the glory of the white race, and how-- a
Apr 06, 2015 D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true original, powerful and inspiring.

His reliance on "the blowtorch of humor" in denouncing the effects of colonialism on his Caribbean island home (Martinique) is a clear indication that Césaire had also understood the corrosive poetics of Lautréamont.

The alexandrine is so culturally ingrained that the French ear picks it up unselfconsciously.
[An alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables. Alexandrines are common in the German literature of the Baroque period and in French
Guillaume Koenig
pas toujours évident à lire, il y a des mots que je ne connaissais pas. métaphore préférée : "ce petit rien ellipsoïdal qui tremble à quatre doigts au-dessus de la ligne" (la Martinique, au-dessus de l'équateur).
Philippe Lamart
L’auteur retranscrit ses aventures à travers le monde d’une plume extraordinairement habile et musicale, avec une maîtrise de la langue française et une capacité à toucher les sens remarquables.
D’une part, le récit est un moyen d’émouvoir le lecteur sur la condition humaine, et notamment les souffrances physiques, sociales et philosophiques subies par la population noire depuis la traite négrière et l’esclavage, jusqu’à la décolonisation, en passant par la place de cette communauté dans la soci
Jan 15, 2013 No rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, po-sie
Cahier d’un retour au pays natal était à l’honneur du festival « Le goût des autres » d’Aimé Césaire. Faisant partie de l’équipe, j’ai voulu découvrir cette oeuvre.

Cette oeuvre est un poème qui semble parfois obscure, cet aspect m’a parfois gêné dans ma lecture mais j’espère y retourner plus tard.

Ce poème est un cri poignant avec une écriture violente, un livre court (75 pages) mais c’est ce qui fait sa force en plus de l’écriture. Césaire y dénonce le colonialisme, l’esclavage.

Il montre sa fier
Danny Daley
Feb 12, 2015 Danny Daley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a founder of the negritude movement in Paris in the 1930's, Cesaire's influence and significance is massive. Thankfully, the quality of his art matches the level of its stature, and then some.

It's interesting to me that this movement followed the Lost Generation of Paris from the previous decade. The two do not seem related, but the point underscores the importance of Paris as a literary environment in the first half of the twentieth century.

This book length poem is beautiful, in every way,
Craig Werner
One of the founding texts of the Negritude movement--the Caribbean iteration of the Harlem Renaissance--Cesaire's hybrid book combines essay, memoir and poetry. It's very much of its moment, a time defined by the seemingly intractable Jim Crow segregation in the U.S. and of not-yet-collapsing colonialism in most of the rest of the world. Cesaire was influenced by the French avant-garde which he encountered as a student in France, and it shows in the way he relies on images to carry meaning. But ...more
Nov 07, 2016 Dusty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
A short, brilliant, and difficult read, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land is a book I had started many times and worried that I would never in good conscience be able to move to my "read" shelf. Tonight, I sat down and read the thing cover to cover, and I admit it is something of a quagmire -- a poetic narrative which tacks back and forth between the author's birth home of Martinique and his ancestors' homes in Africa, and which uses scientific, medical, and other vocabulary words I did no ...more
Jun 17, 2014 metaphor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, aime-cesaire
At the end of the small hours: the strand of dreams and the senseless awakening on this frail
stratum of earth already humiliated by the greatness of its future when the volcanoes will erupt
and naked waters sweep away the stains ripened by the sun till nothing is left but a tepid molten
simmering pried over by sea birds.
At the end of the small hours: Life flat on its face, miscarried dreams and nowhere to put them,
the river of life listless in its hopeless bed, not rising or falling, unsure of i
« Et surtout mon corps aussi bien que mon âme, gardez-vous de vous croiser les bras en l'attitude stérile du spectateur, car la vie n'est pas un spectacle, car une mer de douleurs n'est pas un proscenium, car un homme qui crie n'est pas un ours qui danse... »

I read this fairly quickly, just wanting to get an idea of it for now. Unfortunately the only edition I could get at the public library didn't include the French text, so there's probably a lot I missed. Looking forward to reading it again,
Luna Selene
I understand Notebook of a Return is widely regarded as a ground-breaking revival of the epic poem, and while I find it ground-breaking just below the surface in terms of its message, on the surface, in terms of its artistry, I do not. Perhaps it is that I read this work in a translated form, not in its original French, but after rereading multiple times, I did not find it beautiful or haunting but I did find the language and metaphors incredibly masculine in an unappealing way and at times a li ...more
Aug 26, 2009 jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poems
Interesting, but not outstanding. I appreciate it as an excellent example of capital-S Surrealism (especially with the breathless piling on of images in the third, and most interesting, part), but, as with a lot of surrealism, the emotional core has a hard time shining through the visuals. It does make me want to read a little more on negritude, tho.
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Help, I can not finish this book … 1 13 Aug 26, 2011 02:27PM  
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Aimé Fernand David Césaire was an Afro-Martinican francophone poet, author and politician.
More about Aimé Césaire...

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“Beware, my body and my soul, beware above all of crossing your arms and assuming the sterile attitude of the spectator, for life is not a spectacle, a sea of griefs is not a proscenium, and a man who wails is not a dancing bear.” 44 likes
“A man screaming is not a dancing bear. Life is not a spectacle.” 19 likes
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