In his paper, "Aimé Césaire and Gestures toward the Universal," Gary Leising argues that Césaire's Notebook of a Return to the Native Land presents a speaker struggling with his own identity, torn between a double consciousness of his black African heritage and his French-European education. This dichotomy appears in the poem in terms of his perceptions of his ancestry as well as in symbols of the masculine and feminine in the surrounding landscape. For the speaker, the African appears as the "real" around him, while the European is an "absent presence," and he confronts the two at the poem's climax, when he encounters a comically stereotypical African-Caribbean man on a streetcar. As the poem moves from the climax toward conclusion, the speaker, it seems, reaches for something more universal than either the black or white races. This universal is cast in terms of paradox as the poem spins toward the concluding word, which is etymologically a paradoxical statement of eternity and limitlessness. In the end, the speaker has returned, but he finds that his journey is only at a starting point.
"Aimé Césaire and Gestures toward the Universal."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
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