Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Aime Cesaire: Solar Throat Slashed, Part One with A. James Arnold

Show description for Sunday 8/21/2011 @ 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Our guest today on the 5 o'clock hour, A. James Arnold, discussing his most recent work, in collaboration with Clayton Eshelman, Solar Throat Slashed, the unexpurgated 1948 edition of the masterwork by Aimé Césaire.

A. JAMES ARNOLD is an emeritus professor of French at the University of Virginia. He is the lead editor of Césaire's complete literary works in French (in progress) and author of Modernism and Negritude: The Poetry and Poetics of Aimé Césaire.

Soleil cou coupé (Solar Throat Slashed) is Aimé Césaire’s most explosive collection of poetry. Animistically dense, charged with eroticism and blasphemy, and imbued with an African and Vodun spirituality, this book takes the French surrealist adventure to new heights and depths. A Césaire poem is an intersection at which metaphoric traceries create historically aware nexuses of thought and experience, jagged solidarity, apocalyptic surgery, and solar dynamite. The original 1948 French edition of Soleil cou coupé has a dense magico-religious frame of reference. In the late 1950s, Césaire was increasingly politically focused and seeking a wider audience, when he, in effect, gelded the 1948 text—eliminating 31 of the 72 poems, and editing another 29. Until now, only the revised 1961 edition, called Cadastre, has been translated. The revised text lacks the radical originality of Soleil cou coupé. This Wesleyan edition presents all the original poems en face with the new English translations. Includes an introduction by A. James Arnold and notes by Clayton Eshleman.

“Not only do Eshleman and Arnold give us excellent translations of Césaire’s at times syntactically knotty, etymologically abstruse, and semantically bedeviling verse; they also contextualize the poems—with an introduction by Arnold and endnotes by Eshleman—with crucial historical information and lucid discussions of the complexities of the poems’ language.”Brent Hayes Edwards, author of The Practice of Diaspora

“Since Césaire first came into our view, he has seemed to some of us to be, with Breton and Artaud, one of the three truly unbounded poets of Surrealism—not so much lyrical, as with some other, more readily accessible poets (Eluard and Desnos the finest among them), but as Diderot had it over two centuries ago: the maker of a poetry that was and had to be ‘barbaric, vast and wild.’ It is the genius of the present gathering to rescue from previous editings and literary compromises the full force of Césaire’s remarkable 1948 work, Soleil cou coupé/Solar Throat Slashed. The result—in both the original French and in Eshleman’s and Arnold’s remarkable and no-holds-barred translation—is a reconstituted masterwork of the twentieth century and ample grist for the century to come.”Jerome Rothenberg, editor of Technicians of the Sacred


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