Born in 1913 in Martinique, Aim Csaire is acknowledged as one of the major poets of the twentieth century writing in French, and his celebrated long poem, Cahier dun retour au pays natal (Notebook of a return to the native land), is his best known work. In addition to containing the most forceful statement of Ngritude (a term coined by Csaire and appearing in print for the first time in this poem), Cahier is a masterpiece of modern French poetry. In his 1947 preface to the first edition, Andr Breton hailed it as the greatest lyrical monument of the age. The only truly long poem in the Surrealist tradition, Cahier belongs as much to mainstream French literature as to the evolving canon of African and Caribbean literature in French.
The poem is marked by its allusive character, its highly compressed images, and its unusual use of the French language. In preparing this edition, Abiola Irele has tried to keep the needs of the English-language student foremost in mind. The edition presents the complete text of the poem in French, with an editorial apparatus in English that includes a substantial introduction setting it in its historical and ideological context and offering a detailed analysis of its literary significance; a stanza-by-stanza commentary explicating references, allusions, and a select bibliography of related works.