Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

6/1/2004 - 8/31/2004

Funding Totals

$5,000.00 (approved)
$5,000.00 (awarded)

Aimé Césaire's "Cahier d'un retour au pays natal / Notebook of a Return to the Native Land": Digital Edition

FAIN: FT-52334-04

Albert James Arnold, Jr
University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA 22903-4833)

Aimé Césaire’s long poem Cahier d’un retour au pays natal / Notebook of a Return to the Native Land was first printed in a Paris magazine in August, 1939. Two book-length editions were published in 1947: Brentano’s (New York) and Bordas (Paris). Présence Africaine (Paris) published the "definitive" edition in 1956. Subsequent editions of textual significance date from 1976 (Fort-de-France) and 1994 (Paris). Every edition of the poem brought substantive changes to the text that have never been studied systematically. My proposed electronic edition will render visually all the modifications to the poem between 1939 and 1994.

Media Coverage

Review (Review)
Author(s): A.J. Guillaume Jr.
Publication: Choice
Date: 5/6/2019
Abstract: “As the translators assert, the purpose of this new translation is not ‘to reveal what the poem ultimately means but rather how it was meant to be read in 1939.’ And unlike other translators who sought to capture the essence of the revolutionary spirit of the text, Arnold and Eshleman remain faithful to the rhythmic and incantatory power of the original text. A rare gift in translated poetry, this authentic rendering of the text makes the poem’s mesmerizing effect accessible to those without French. Highly recommended (for) all readers.”

Review (Review)
Author(s): Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Publication: Poetry Salzburg Review
Date: 5/6/2019
Abstract: “American translators A. James Arnold and Clayton Eshleman bring alive in the English language the original 1939 version of Aimé Césaire’s well-known Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land). … Dense in its illusions and complex in structure or diction, the work earns its place as one of the more important literary writings of our twentieth century—both in its cultural contexts and linguistic innovations. For scholars and informed readers, this edition offers fresh possibilities of interpretation for this document and its history as an anticolonialist manifesto, an anthem of sorts, and a representative topology of the collective colonial black consciousness of that time.”

Review (Review)
Author(s): H. Adlai Murdoch
Publication: Research in African Literatures
Date: 5/6/2019
Abstract: "…A stellar addition to the Césaire lexicon, which by finally establishing the substance of the 1939 edition, allows a clearer vision and a greater appreciation of the groundbreaking nature of the Cahier, or the substantive differences that shaped subsequent editions, and of the arc of Aimé Césaire's remarkable poetic voice."

Author(s): S.B. Jones-Hendrickson
Publication: The Caribbean Writer
Date: 5/6/2019
Abstract: “Aime Cesaire’s work is by far one of the most outstanding tour-de-force in French literature emanating from the Caribbean. The texture, the beauty and the centrality of the work is set in a Caribbean milieu and firmly contextualized in the concept of negritude, of which Aime Cesaire is a co-creator. The book will be appreciated for its depth, structure, and tactile renditions of the social impediments that strangled all of us whose ancestry heralds from Africa, but who were sequenced in various parts of the Caribbean.”

Associated Products

The Original 1939 Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (Book)
Title: The Original 1939 Notebook of a Return to the Native Land
Author: Césaire, Aimé
Editor: Arnold, A. James
Editor: Eshleman, Clayton
Abstract: This book represents one of the most significant of all pieces of postcolonial writing in its original version. The scholarship is impeccable; the result of two careers dedicated to Césaire.
Year: 2013
Primary URL:
Access Model: e-book; purchase from Wesleyan UP.
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Type: Translation
ISBN: 9780819573711
Translator: Eshleman, Clayton
Translator: Arnold, A. James
Copy sent to NEH?: No