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Notebook of a Return to the Native Land

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4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,805 ratings  ·  124 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, 66 pages
Published September 24th 2001 by Wesleyan University Press (first published 1939)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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Rowena
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
...more
Cheryl
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Notebook, which Andre Benton calls "the greatest lyrical monument," was written in Paris, when Césaire was about to return to Martinique. Brevity is what first made me pick this book from my shelf. As I recover from major surgery with only a few hours of clarity a day, it seemed like the perfect, weightless book to hoist and read. Affecting it definitely is, the repetition, the word choice, the movement, force and must I add, style: "like a sob gagged on the verge of bloodthirsty burst."

At t
...more
Edita
Jun 17, 2014 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
...more
Jenny
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
...more
Jonathan
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
...more
leynes
Notebook of a Return to My Native Land was hard to rate. I would rate the poem itself 3 stars but since this particular edition had a brilliant and extensive introduction that I highly appreciated and from which I took so much, I had to rate it 4 stars. Mireille Rosello did a fantastic job at putting Césaire's work into its historical context and showcasing its relevance. Her analysis added much to my comprehension of the text.

Rosello took upon a very hard task: How does one commemorate the spir
...more
Jonathan
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Aberjhani
A PRODUCT OF LITERARY FUSION

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
...more
Lauren
"And above all, my body as well as my soul, beware of assuming the sterile attitude of a spectator, for a life is not a spectacle, a sea of miseries is not a proscenium, a man screaming is not a dancing bear..."

...more
Aubrey
3.5/5
My negritude is not a stone, its deafness hurled against the clamor of the day
my negritude is not a leukoma of dead liquid over the earth's dead eye
my negritude is neither tower nor cathedral
it takes root in the red flesh of the soil
it takes root in the ardent flesh of the sky
it breaks through opaque prostration with its upright patience.
Yet another super short classic that translators and editors and introduction writers did their best to ruin. Unlike On the Abolition of All Political
...more
meeners
Oct 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Hoodlum
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"I was hiding behind a stupid vanity destiny called me
I was hiding behind it and suddenly there was a man on the ground,
his feeble defenses scattered,
his sacred maxims trampled underfoot, his pedantic rhetoric
oozing air through each would.
there was a man on the ground
and his soul is almost naked
and destiny triumphs in watching this soul which
defied its metamorphosis in the ancestral slough."

Absolutely fantastic work. An essential convergence of surrealism and decoloniality upon a guttural, wrenc
...more
D.A.
Dec 11, 2014 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
...more
Tana
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Sceox
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So good.

What can I do?

I must begin.

Begin what?

The only thing in the world that's worth beginning:
The End of the World, no less.


words, as yes, words! but
words of fresh blood, words which are
tidal waves and erysipelas
malarias and lavas and bush-fires,
and burning flesh
and burning cities...

Know this well:
I never play except at the millennium
I never play except at the Great Fear
...more
Momo Bradham

"At the end of first light, the extreme, deceptive desolate eschar on the wound of the waters; the martyrs who do not bear witness; the flowers of blood that fade and scatter in the empty wind like the cries of babbling parrots; an aged life mendaciously smiling, its lips opened by vacated agonies; an aged poverty rotting under the sun, silently; an aged silence bursting with tepid pustules

the dreadful inanity of our raison d’être.

At the end of first light, on this very fragile earth thickness e
...more
Diane
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jana Tetzlaff
Feb 10, 2009 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
Zachary Bush
Mar 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Sean A.
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
A masterpiece.
I'd like to read Eschleman's translation, as I read a different version.
...more
Dustin Kurtz
Aug 12, 2013 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. ...more
D
Apr 06, 2015 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
...more
Jimmy
Read it in a fury last night, which is probably the way to experience it. Loved some parts of it. Other parts kind of flew over my head. My rating is provisional as this work obviously needs to be re-read and understood within a larger context, and I have yet to do that work. On the first read, I can tell you that I loved the passion in this... the rage, the imagery, and the irony.

I also want to try a different translation when I re-read it, possibly this one translated by Clayton Eshleman or th
...more
Kyle
Feb 05, 2018 rated it liked it
"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 underst ...more
Kirby
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had to read this three times to really get a grip on it. The language is insane— super lush and evocative and visceral. The content will sucker punch you. The voice still feels so contemporary and prescient after all these years. I would recommend reading up a little on Aime Cesaire and the history of colonialism in Martinique before diving into this to provide some deeper context.
Irène
I truly can't rate this book. It's just another level of word-use ✨ ...more
Diane
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, ma-program
Another book I read for my "The Other Caribbean" English literature graduate course. Definitely a surrealistic sort of book. It left me with some interesting thoughts. Definitely a different tone from A Small Place. Although the speaker has returned from his time abroad. You can see the love he has for his birthplace. He is invested in it. Could it be because Martinique remained with the France as its protectorate position? I am not sure. ...more
Jay
A rallying monument of a book that became a foundational text for postcolonial thought. Drawing upon a lyrical mixture of Negritude, Surrealism, new words, old forms, idiosyncratic language, Césaire constructs a lush, violent landscape of colonised Martinique: its beauty, its bodily horror, its tortured past as well as the Edenic vision of a possible future. This 1939 edition preserves some of the spiritual and surreal elements that Césaire later removed; he altered the text to emphasise the soc ...more
Erika Higbee
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cesaire was a powerful, raw read. His word choices were unfamiliar and striking, an entire learning experience in itself. His poems do not hide the relentless, harsh gaze in which his blood, as a Martinican, as someone from Antilles, as someone labelled black, is seen in a colonial world.

“An indefatigable road charging at full speed a morne at the top of which it brutally quicksands into a pool of clumsy houses, a road foolishly climbing, recklessly descending, and the carcass of wood, which I
...more
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
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Aimé Césaire was an Afro-Martinican francophone poet, playwright, author and politician born in 1913. His books of poetry include Lost Body, with illustrations by Pablo Picasso, Aimé Césaire: The Collected Poetry, and Return to My Native Land. He is also the author of Discourse on Colonialism, a book of essays which has become a classic text of French political literature and helped establish the ...more

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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.” 60 likes
“A man screaming is not a dancing bear. Life is not a spectacle.” 33 likes
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