In 1941 Andre Breton with his wife Jacqueline Lamba and daughter Aube left Marseilles bound for New York. Travelling on a crowded cargo freighter they arrived after a long and difficult crossing in the Caribbean island of Martinique, which was under the control of the Nazi-dominated Vichy Regime. His experiences on the island led to the book Martinique—Charmeuse de Serpents and describes his internment in a military prison camp upon arrival. After his release he was to meet, after a series of chance encounters, the Martinican poet, politician and fierce anti-colonialist theorist; Aime Cesaire and his brilliant wife Suzanne.
The encounter was to influence all parties profoundly. Andre Breton praises Aime Cesaire’s book length poem (mixed with prose) Cahier d’un retour au pays Natal (Notebook on a Return to the Native Land) as “nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of our times.” The Cesaire’s embraced Surrealism as a potential tool to help in the struggle for black identity and self-determination worldwide. Aime was to be one of the founders of the Negritude movement and mentored the revolutionary Franz Fanon, whose The Wretched of the Earth analysed the brutalizing effect that colonialism has upon both the colonized and the colonizer and is widely considered a landmark in the literature of colonial studies.
Serpent sun eye bewitching my eye
and the sea flea-ridden with islands cracking in the fingers of flamethrower roses and my
intact body of one thunderstruck
the water raises the carcasses of light lost in the pompless corridor
whirlwinds of ice floes halo the steaming hearts of ravens
it is the voice of tamed thunderbolts turning on their crack hinges
a transfer of anolis to the landscape of broken glasses it is the vampire flowers relaying the
elixir of the central fire
fire just fire night mango tree swarming with bees
my desire a throw of tigers caught in the sulphurs
but the stannous awakening gilds itself with infantine deposits
and my pebble body eating fish eating doves and slumbers
the sugar in the word Brazil deep in the marsh.