In The Guise of A Literary Manifesto | Aimé Césaire

for André Breton

Let us count:
the madness remembering
the madness howling
the madness seeing,
the madness unleashed

Who and what are we? Admirable question! Haters. Builders. Traitors
Hougans. Especially hougans. For we want all the demons.
Those of yesterday, those of today
Those of the yoke, those of the hoe
Those of the forbidden, of prohibition, of marronnage

and we mustn’t forget those of the slave trader …
And so we sing.

We sing of poisonous flowers bursting across furious prairies; skies of love slashed with embolism; epileptic mornings; the white blazing of abyssal sands, the descent of wreckage in the course of nights struck by wild scents.

What can I do about it?

You must begin.

Begin what?

The only thing in the world worth beginning.

The End of the world, my God!

Make room for me. I will not get out of your way.

Sometimes I am seen, in a grand toss of the hate, to snatch an overly red cloud, 
or a caress of rain, or a prelude of wind,

don’t sedate yourselves too much:

I force open the yolk sac keeping me from myself.
I force open the great waters which gird me with blood

I, only I check my place on the last train of the last surge of the tidal wave,

I, only I

take up the tongue in the final anguish

I, oh! only I
ensure that I receive from the straw

for you who one morning will hoard my words in your beggar’s pouch and will take, as the children of fear while they sleep,

the oblique path of flights and monsters.




by Aimé Césaire
Tropiques, no. 5 (April 1942)
translated by Cynthia Hahn
as printed in Black, Brown, and Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora