Édouard Glissant

  • Edouard Glissant
    Date of birth:
    September 21, 1928
    Date of death:
    February 3, 2011

Édouard Glissant is a Martinican writer considered as one of the Fathers of Creole. He was born on September 21, 1928 at Bezaudin, a district of Sainte-Marie. Coming from a family of five children, he is the son of an overseer of a plantation, central character of the plantation that embodies the authority and respect of the established order.

It integrates primary school in Lamentin in a studious atmosphere where it is forbidden for children to speak Creole as the model imposed by the colonial authority.

He will continue his studies at the Lycée Schoelcher (high school) in 1938 where teaching aimed for excellence and the training of future elites of the island. Two years later, Aimé Césaire will be appointed professor of philosophy in the same high school but will not be his teacher.

Passionate about literature, he participated in a sophisticated group of young lamentinois (people from the town of Lamentin in Martinique) writing poems and essays. It is moving away from marxism and internationalism, and approaches René Depestre ideas, young Haitian poet and enrolled more his island in the Caribbean.

For his graduate studies, he left Martinique for Paris where he will integrate la Sorbonne University.

This is an opportunity for him in 1946, leaving for the first time his native island. There will experience material difficulties, isolation, but also the meeting with another young Martinican, Frantz Fanon with whom he will forge a strong friendship.

He published his first book, "Un champ d'île" in 1949, published in 1953, when he will succeed his philosophy degree. He also writes under the direction of Jean Wahl "Découverte et conception du monde dans la poésie contemporaire".

He published "La Terre inquiète" in 1955 where he opened to the Parisian intellectual life.

In 1953, back to Martinique, it binds friendships with a group of poets: Jean Paris, Jacques Charpier, Henri Pichette, Yves Bonnefoy, Maurice Roche, Yacine Kateb, Jean Laude and Rene Giroux, all hungry of literature and having faith in the struggles of decolonization.

Subsequently, he published several stories in the magazine "Les Lettres Nouvelles" of his friend Maurice Nadeau. It also collaborates with the journal "Présence Africaine". In 1956 released his "Soleil de la consience" ans the poem "Les Indes".

His career really experience a turning point in 1958 when Edouard Glissant won the Prix Renaudot (french Litterature prize) for his first novel "The Lézarde". This narrative style poetized tells the trajectory of a group of young Martinican anti-colonial people.

It is committed against colonialism in literary and cultural debates and within the Federation of Black African Students of African Society of Culture. It is always the Caribbean specificity that is the subject of its interventions in what was then called the "black diaspora". He is keen to remind the special foundations of the colonial situation plaguing the Caribbean.

He sympathizes with Albert Béville (literary nickname Paul Niger) then Director at the Ministry of Colonies, Guadeloupean origin with whom he recognizes a common approach to decolonization issues. He dedicated himself later Fourth Century, published in 1964. It won the International Prize Charles Veillon. In this novel, seen as a major masterpiece, he clears the unspoken of the official history book and his insights on the drama of colonization and creolization.

In a context of tension at the beginning of the 60s, Glissant was arrested in Guadeloupe, banned from the Caribbean and assigned to residence in mainland France. Following the death of his friend Albert Beville and two other anti-colonialist West Indian and French Guyanese activists, he delivered a moving speech at the Palais de la Mutualité in Paris on July 6, 1962.

In 1965, Edouard Glissant returned to Martinique and moved there.

He founded in 1967, Martinique Studies Institute (IME in french Institut Martiniquais d'Études), a private educational institution that aims to restore to the Caribbean an education in line with the reality of their history and their geography. The IME is also a rich cultural place where are organized theater festivals or interdisciplinary symposia.

In 1971, he founded the magazine Acoma and is interested in theater including the play Monsieur Toussaint, recounting of life of Toussaint Louverture.

However, he continues his literary work with the publication of Intention poétique in 1969, Malemort in 1975 and l'affaire du commandant in 1981. His Discours antillais published in 1981 described the Caribbean reality in an anthropological, sociological, literary and historical approach.

In 1981, he was appointed director of the Unesco Courier, a position he will occupy for 7 years before leaving to settle in the United States where he became Distinguished Professor at the University of Louisiana. He was passionate about this part of the United States, home to the Cajuns, where they speak a Creole remainder. It forges links between Louisiana and the West Indies in interdisciplinary seminars it organizes. He will lead in the same university as Director of French Studies.

His work is broadcast on the territory of the United States but around the world too. Its influence is growing worldwide and numerous conferences are devoted to it. In the 90s, he was appointed to head the International Parliament of Writers which will be the honorary chairman in 1993. He will then receive numerous international literary awards.

In the 2000s, he published several essays: The Cohee du Lamentin (2005), Une nouvelle région du monde (2006), Philosophie de la Relation (2009).

In 2006, the President of French Republic, Jacques Chirac entrusted him a mission, the development of a national center dedicated to the Trafficking and Slavery, but although Glissant is particularly attached to it, it will not happen. He published anyway: Mémoires des esclavages in 2007. In 2009, he published his last essay Philosophie de la Relation.

In 2010, while he was in the United States, his health deteriorated and he decides to return to France. Despite that, his dialogue with Lise Gauvin, L'imaginaire des langues, appeared in October. In November, he received a tribute to the Odeon Theatre for what will be his last public appearance.

He died on February 3, 2011 in Paris and was buried at the Diamant in Martinique six days later.