Cahier d'un retour au pays natal

Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (1939), variously translated as Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, Return to My Native Land, or Journal of a Homecoming, is a book-length poem by Martinican writer Aimé Césaire, considered his masterwork, that mixes poetry and prose to express his thoughts on the cultural identity of black Africans in a colonial setting.


After a rejection by a French publisher, Césaire submitted the manuscript of the poem to Georges Pelorson, director of the Parisian periodical Volontés, who published it in August 1939, just as Césaire was returning to Martinique to take up a post as a teacher.[1][2] Cahier was subsequently published in an expanded version in 1947 by Editions Pierre Bordas, introduced with an essay by André Breton that had first appeared in 1943 in the New York-based review Hémisphêres under the title "Un grand poete noir".[1] In his introduction Breton called the poem "nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of our times."[3] According to Bonnie Thomas, Cahier d'un retour au pays natal was a turning point in French Caribbean literature: "Césaire’s groundbreaking poem laid the foundations for a new literary style in which Caribbean writers came to reject the alienating gaze of the Other in favour of their own Caribbean interpretation of reality."[4]


The poem was adapted as a one-man show by Cy Grant.[5]

A passage from the poem –

For it is not true that the work of man is finished,
That we have nothing more to do in the world,
That we are just parasites in this world,
That it is enough for us to walk in step with the world,
For the work of man is only just beginning and it remains to conquer all,
The violence entrenched in the recess of his passion,
And no race holds a monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of strength, and
There is a place for all at the rendezvous of victory.

– provided the title for a volume of Selected Writings by C. L. R. James, At the Rendezvous of Victory (Allison and Busby, 1984),[6] as well as an epigraph for that volume, much quoted by other writers, such as Edward Said.[7]

Selected editionsEdit

  • Return to My Native Land, translated by John Berger and Anna Bostock, with an introduction by Mazisi Kunene, Penguin Books, 1969. Illustrated by Peter de Francia, Archipelago Books, 2014, ISBN 9781935744948.
  • Notebook of a Return to My Native Land / Cahier d'un retour au pays natal, translated by Mireille Rosello with Annie Pritchard. French-English bilingual edition. Bloodaxe Contemporary French Poets: 4, 1995, ISBN 9781852241841.[8]
  • Journal of a Homecoming ⁄ Cahier d′un retour au pays natal, translated by N. Gregson Davis; Introduction, Commentary and Notes by F. Abiola Irele, Duke University Press, November 2017, ISBN 978-0-8223-6896-0.


  1. ^ a b "Aimé Césaire", in Donald E. Herdeck (ed.), Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical-Critical Encyclopedia, Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1979, pp. 324–25.
  2. ^ "Commentary", Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001), p. 53.
  3. ^ "A Great Black Poet", Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001), p. xiii.
  4. ^ Thomas, Bonnie, "Cahier d'un retour au pays natal", The Literary Encyclopedia, 30 March 2008.
  5. ^ "Return to my Native Land", Cy Grant website.
  6. ^ Scott McLemee, "At the Rendezvous of Victory", Inside Higher Ed, 22 September 2010.
  7. ^ Samir Chopra, "Aimé Césaire’s Immortal, Eminently Quotable Line", 10 December 2012.
  8. ^ Haidar Eid, "Edward Said and the 'rendezvous of victory'", Mondoweiss, 15 July 2020.

External linksEdit