Tragedy of the Possible: Aimé Césaire in Cuba, 1968

In: Historical Materialism
Jackqueline Frost Department of Romance Studies, Cornell University Ithaca, New York USA

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Jorge E. Lefevre Tavárez Universidad de Puerto Rico Arecibo, Puerto Rico

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In 1968, Aimé Césaire travelled to Cuba to participate in the Havana Cultural Congress, a mass international meeting where delegates discussed the place of culture in the struggle against imperialism, neo-colonialism, and underdevelopment. Among the likes of C.L.R. James, Nicolás Guillén, René Depestre, Michel Leiris, and Daniel Guérin, it was in Havana that the Martinican politician undertook the until-now untranslated interview with Sonia Aratán for the Casa de las Américas revue and delivered his Cultural Congress conference paper – previously believed by Césaire scholars to be lost. Both texts shed light on Césaire’s little-known views on Fidel Castro, the Cuban Revolution and Marxism in the context of late-1960s tricontinentalism. By reconstructing Césaire’s exchanges with Cuban writers before and during the Congress, we propose a consideration of the role of Cuba in Césaire’s political thought as a tragic possibility, combining the catastrophe of Caribbean history with the uncertain potential of new social forms.

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