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United Nations

Educational, Scientic and


Cultural Organization

TAGORE
NERUDA
CSAIRE
for a reconciled universal

TAGORE
NERUDA
A
CESAIRE

TAGO
TAGORE
NERUDA
UDA
C S
rabindrnth tagore pablo neruda aim csaire

FOR A R ECONC I LED U N IVERSAL

Published in 2011 by
Organisation of the United Nations
for Education, Science and Culture
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unesco
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Editorial Coordinator
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Content contributions
Annick Thbia-Melsan,
Uma Das Gupta,
Alain Sicard,
Ren Henane
Editorial coordination
Franoise Rivire,
Annick Thbia-Melsan,
cipsh,
Enzo Fazzino,
Jacques Plouin,
Nama Boumaiza,
Nolle Aboya-Chevanne,
Lamia Somai-Lasa,
Chris Sacarabany
Graphic design, cover and illustration
Aude Perrier

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rabindrnth tagore
As I look around I see the crumbling ruins of a proud civilization strewn
like a vast heap of futility. And yet I shall not commit the grievous sin
of losing faith in Man. I would rather look forward to the opening
of a new chapter in his history after the cataclysm is over
and the atmosphere rendered clean with the spirit of service and sacrifice.
Perhaps that dawn will come from this horizon, from the East where
the sun rises. A day will come when unvanquished Man will retrace his path
of conquest, despite all barriers, to win back his lost human heritage.

Excerpt of the speech on "the crisis of civilization", delivered on 7 August 1940 at Santiniketan.

pablo neruda
I want to live in a world with no excommunicates.
I want to live in a world in which beings are only human,
with no other title than that, no obsession with a rule, a word, a label ()
I want the huge majority, the only majority: everyone, to be able to speak,
to read, to listen, to blossom.

Excerpt from I confess I have lived, 1974 (English translation 1977).

aim csaire
There are two ways of losing yourself: by a walled segregation
within the particular, or by dilution within the universal.
My concept of the Universal is that it is a universal enriched
by all that is particular, by all particulars combined,
the coexistence and deepening of all things particular.

Excerpt from the Letter to Maurice Thorez, written on 24 October 1956.

contents
1

message from ms irina bokova,


director-general of unesco
three unifying messages for a new humanism

p 13

introduction
an innovative and viable project

p 17

across the centuries, lives, literary works:


poetics, humanism and action
tagore
neruda
csaire

p
p
p
p

five themes of convergence:

p 92

1
2
3
4
5

poetry and art: a life force


for a new pact of meaning between humanity and nature
emancipation from oppression, in reciprocity and rights
knowledge, science and ethics
the educational issues

26
28
52
70

p 94
p 110
p 128
p 148
p 164

conclusion

p 182

resolution of the general conference

p 186

acknowledgements

p 188

credits

p 190

1
MESSAGE FROM
MS IRINA BOKOVA
DIRECTOR-GENERAL
OF UNESCO

14

message from ms irina bokova, director-general of unesco

three unifying messages


for a new humanism
The twenty-first century began with a collective obligation to reconsider means of development
and to initiate new paths for peace.
Globalization has developed many gateways between regions of the world that were once
isolated, which has enhanced the experience of diversity for everyone. Unprecedented at this
level, this situation opens up new opportunities for the consideration of what is communal, and
the expression of the universal that we all share.
But society has also made notable errors of judgment, especially those related to ethno-centricity
and social injustice, which constitute the origins of intolerance and inequality. These tensions
appear at the very moment when global development issues and global warming require us to
reinforce our sense of unity and strengthen the reconciliation of all the worlds peoples.
Among so many diverse cultures, how can we coordinate a living-together ideal that is both
tolerant and humanist? On what basis can we build a united human community that is able to
develop common responses to global issues that concern us all?
The United Nations Millennium Declaration for development called for a humanity dedicated
to tackling todays challenges. This international cooperation cannot however succeed solely
by political or economic means. We must all strengthen our humanist values and our sense
of ethics, and we must focus more on the power of resilience provided by quality education,
science and culture at the service of the people.
Rabindrnth Tagore, Pablo Neruda and Aim Csaire have left us a collective legacy whose vast
reach is a major contribution to the reflection and action of this new humanism.

message from ms irina bokova, director-general of unesco

While evolving individually in separate cultural spheres, though having barely met, these three
giants of thought and poetry developed converging visions of extraordinary resonance with a
potential for contemporary politics and peoples.
Built on a foundation of deep cultural importance, their lifeworks are a strong plea for every
cultures right to participate in universal development. Their united struggle against rationales
of dehumanization and oppression thrives on the understanding that no geographic area, no
cultural sphere can grant itself the exclusive right to define what is common for all of us. By
the power of proposition and dialogue, men and women of the world can contribute towards
identifying that which calls upon all humanity, elevating the united, authentic universal.
Everyone can contemplate the convergences that emerge from the texts of Tagore, Neruda and
Csaire, like powerful guides that illuminate current questions and nourish the contemporary
humanist project.
By putting these issues in perspective, unesco is revising its mission of intellectual vigilance
and, more than ever, embraces the intercultural dialogue among all humanist voices, by
expressing the most of the human spirit.

Irina Bokova
Director-general of unesco

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2
INTRODUCTION
AN INNOVATIVE
AND VIABLE PROJECT

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an innovative and viable project

the concept behind


the programme
At the very centre of contemporary constellations of thought, experience, reflection and
creation, Rabindrnth Tagore (18611941), Pablo Neruda (19041973) and Aim Csaire (1913
2008) offered us a glimpse of a possible reconciled universal, freed at last from the domination,
exploitation, manipulation and exclusion that confined the processes of universalization
to a single and unique path. For a long time, this uni-directional process made the universal
incompatible with the worlds expectations and needs, exacerbated by the undeniable demands
of globalization.
Convinced of the need to bring shared responses to collective thinking, as required by a rapidly
changing context, the Member States of unesco expressed their wish that the living legacy of
Tagore, Neruda and Csaire help to refound the intellectual and moral solidarity required by the
challenges facing humanity. At the 35th session of unescos General Conference, the Member
States adopted resolution 46, proposed by the Executive Council, to launch the programme
entitled Rabindrnth Tagore, Pablo Neruda and Aim Csaire: For a reconciled universal,
and to include it in the Organizations medium-term revisable strategy for 20102013, in an
interdisciplinary operational framework appropriate for sustainable action.
Indeed Tagore, Neruda and Csaire, though coming from different geographical and cultural
backgrounds, had in common the fact that they positioned themselves as men speaking and
acting from the South, but with a desire to engage in dialogue with an obligation towards
responsibility. Their profoundly distinctive and original works were nourished with sources
emanating from Asia, Africa, America, the Caribbean and Europe. Their anti-colonial struggle for
the dawning of a new world order had anticipated the major global geopolitical upheavals. They
extended and even redefined the reach of modern humanism, and their works illustrate and
bring together authors, creators, decision-makers and scientists, whose messages enrich and
enlarge the themes of their respective involvement still further, as they traversed the complexity
of the nineteenth, twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Because the humanism they offer
conceives a relationship with the other, the self, and nature in a radical and concrete way, the
three poets provided clues that shed light on the roots of the principal contradictions currently
found in the difficult construction of a universal, which according to Aim Csaire in his Letter
to Maurice Thorez, enriched by all that is particular, by all particulars combined, the coexistence
and deepening of all things particular.

an innovative and viable project

The three poets embody in their lifeworks the pillars of a living solidarity, which inspired the
creation of unesco, entrusted by the international community to building peace in the minds of
men lest we forget a mission that is increasingly crucial in a world confronted by economic,
social and financial divisions, global issues of food and energy, as well as environmental,
humanitarian and ethical conflicts. Many people throughtout the world are questioning the
conditions of human fulfilment and are adjusting the balance of knowledge and wealth for the
benefit of all, beyond the simple accumulation of material goods. It appears that the time has
come to learn some lessons from history.
Far more than a cyclical occurrence, the crisis appears to be global, and is above all a crisis of
meaning, reminding us of the essential nature of humanism and its values, and which calls
for concrete ways and means to improve or even rethink governance and global dialogue. In
the end it is a crisis that places the role of culture, education and science firmly at the heart of
sustainable development and the building of peace. In other words, the very essence of unescos
mission of intellectual vigilance at the centre of the international community, contributing to
the indisputable pillars of reference by sharing a new humanism that conveys the experience
of peoples and speaks to all.
For all these reasons the central, pioneering, and current example of the messages by Tagore,
Neruda and Csaire has led Member States to unanimously agree to take inspiration from their
commitment as poets of action, because it is emblematic of the issues in the world today, and
because it unifies multiple committments. The implementation of this programme, rooted
in their message and actions, is a leading innovative mission that is likely to bring together
the cross-cultural attributes of reflection and creation of the North and the South in order to
consolidate linkages between cultures and civilizations.

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an innovative and viable project

focal points of constellations


for the culture of peace
As declared by the Director-General of unesco, Ms Irina Bokova, linking the three lifeworks of
Tagore, Neruda and Csaire projects their message beyond their singular meaning towards
a greater resonance than even their individual legacy provides. They are the focal points for
constellations of thought and action by which it is possible to explore and better understand
on the five continents the mechanisms that have structured the relationships between the
universal and the individual, from the middle of colonial ninteenth century to the present day.
That historical process, resulting today in globalization, was the colonial adventure and its
variations running alongside the expansion of industrial civilization, whose complex, contrasted
articulations Tagore, Neruda and Csaire evaluated articulations that foreshadowed the present
day world context defined by the recurrence of mechanisms of hegemony and exclusion, but
also by the emergence of undeniable opportunities and new paradigms.
In condensing the last two centuries, Tagore, Neruda and Csaire succeeded in taking on the
best of the traditions and achievements from the civilizations that preceded them. Although
they were confronted with the struggles of their era, which suffered under colonialism,
fascism, racism and fundamentalism, they accepted the choices imposed by the complex
construction of the historical changes taking place in their particular context, which was
in constant complementarity with their fundamental contemporaries: Mahatma Gandhi,
Albert Einstein, Franz Fanon, Pablo Picasso, Rafael Alberti, Wifredo Lam, Cheikh Anta Diop,
Andr Breton, Jean-Paul Sartre, Federico Garca Lorca, Yasunari Kawabata, Satyajit Ray, and
many others. Pivotal figures, they gave rise to the wealth of filiations that give meaning to the
notion of constellation, which brought together men and women from the North and South,
who contributed towards its long evolution, on the five continents, and the proposition of a
new humanism and a Culture of Peace.
Mobilizing these constellations is not only an intellectual exercise, distant from the realities of
development. At the juncture of past and present, and with a concrete and compelling urgency,
we are dealing with a humanistic dialogue that the world crucially needs today in order to
humanize development. In initiating the project Tagore, Neruda and Csaire: For a reconciled
universal, unesco aims to link this dynamic with the widest possible range of actors working to
activate practices of reflection and dialogue between cultures and civilizations: writers, artists,
philosophers, scientists, athletes, human rights activists, journalists, film-makers, educators of
all kinds, students of all ages, whether these practices are economic, political, social, scientific,
educational, cultural, environmental or recollections.

an innovative and viable project

poetics of active solidarity in


order to comprehend the issues
of peace and development
Thanks to Tagore, Neruda, Csaire and these constellations, at this stage of human history
we are able to decipher the frames of reference and thus the very structure of political and
cultural development of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and even understand
the strategic dimension of the economics of post-colonial modernity.
Each one of them acted in the domain of economic and social development, transforming the
poetics of action into a practice of solidarity and humility a laboratory of methods and means
of cultural, social and political reconciliation from the highest pinnacles of thought and creation
to the grassroots level.
From inventing microcredit or a new form of education in a decolonizing India, like Tagore,
or standing up for the saltpeter miners in Chile, like Neruda, or promoting social and cultural
development in the Carribbean, like Csaire, their example demonstrates how through
innovative and authentically responsible action on behalf of a pragmatic, tangible humanism,
it is possible to unite the respective cultural horizons towards a Culture of Peace. As pioneers
of responsibility and sharing, they showed how to link action to spirit, practice to ethics,
and material to immaterial. On that basis, this project offers a vast body of material for
interdisciplinary and inter-cultural dialogue.

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an innovative and viable project

mobilizing initiatives
and means
The goal set by unesco is to launch a dynamic with the support of national and local
governments, civil society, cultural and intellectual actors, private foundations and community
groups, in order to create an original framework for a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary action
around these plural and meaningful messages, making use of human talents, political
projects, technological resources, and operational and financial cooperation. The objective is
to promote an intellectual, artistic and institutional partnership that responds to the needs of
co-responsibility on a global scale.
On the one hand, politics of active solidarity confers a crucial role to the arts and humanities,
while on the other hand, by highlighting the legacy of these three humanists, who together
embraced the great geocultural regions of Asia, Africa, America, the Caribbean and Europe, our
ambition is to encourage international initiatives in the publication, translation, creation and
research of their lifeworks, in order to:

an innovative and viable project

Restore to poetry and art, whose works are visionary and raise awareness,
their role as mediators between humanity and the world, and as a link between cultures
for a peaceful co-existence.

Reformulate the human relationship to nature so as to nourish our shared existence


in the world with meaning and values, as well as the sustainability
of our development needs.

Consolidate the processes of emancipation against all forms of oppression


in order to progress towards the eradication of political, economical,
social and cultural exclusion, and to fight racism and intolerance at its source.

Strengthen the ethical challenge to science and technologies whose achievements


and shared horizons are organic vectors of the diversity of peoples and civilizations,
who together in mutual respect are required to assume the issues of peace and development.

Promote greater awareness of education as a method of transmission of knowledge


and respect in the shaping of conscience, and the evolution of societies towards social
justice, the fight against the erosion of values and the fragmentation of knowledge
and identity, and for the sharing of benefits of development.

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an innovative and viable project

unescos action areas to promote


the projects diffusion
unesco has identified a number of operational directions on how best to disseminate the project
by encouraging and supporting actions that have strong potential for creating greater visibility
of the projects many objectives. Programme implementation will involve the establishment of
partnerships with various political, economical, financial, social and media actors of Member
States so as to encourage interest and the mobilization of institutional partners and civil society.
This will include setting up diversified projects, satisfying particular national, regional or global
objectives, on the basis of financial and strategic cooperation with national public institutions
and the private sector to promote education, interdisciplinary research, and the artistic and
cultural aspects of the programme. The actions areas are outlined below:
1. Communication and information: An interactive framework of communication and
information is proposed by unesco, in particular, making available appropriate digital tools
(website, blogs, social networks, wikis, and so on). These will be supported by regular contact
with the press and opinion-formers (from personalized contacts, a variety of events), so as to
widely disseminate the information required to present and launch the programme; interactive
digital media is to become accessible in the greatest number of languages possible in order to
capture a wider audience, in particular, young people, artists, researchers and students.
2. Organizing awareness-raising events in partnership and in close cooperation with international
and intergovernmental organizations, unescos multilateral partners (un, eu, African Union,
Mercosur, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the Commonwealth and so on) so as
to consolidate the problematic of the new humanism and the Culture of Peace, with respect to
the Millennium Development Goals, as well as provide solutions to pressing international issues.
This inter-agency and inter-institutional dimension is consistent with unescos mandate of
intellectual vigilance entrusted to it within the un system, and is needed more than ever in the
current context, where the question of humanism is urgent and central. This broader multilateral
framework will likely leverage unescos initiative, making a valuable contribution towards the
realization of this unique moral mission to which it has been assigned on the world stage.
3. Publication and translation: A special effort will be devoted to promoting ventures with
public and private entities in the sector to publish and translate the three bodies of work with
a view to making the works available in translated works outside their original languages, and
thus making them accessible to a wider and more diverse audience. In this way, the project aims
to firstly ensure that the messages are known and understood in the national languages, and
secondly, to deepen the rich tangible and intangible heritage of these works, in full respect of
copyright and rights-holders. In the first instance, unesco will compile an anthology of texts by
the three authors, available in the six official un languages, while a special effort will be made
to ensure that the texts are available in other native languages.

an innovative and viable project

4. Carrying out awareness-raising actions directed at cultural institutions and artists,


performers, and other creative individuals so that they can take ownership of the project, using
all the languages of art and theatre, in order to reach the widest possible audience in the North
and South, ensuring in particular that young audiences are reached in order to promote the
programmes inter-generational and interfaith significance.
5. Launching calls for projects to promote local or national initiatives, depending on resources
and expectations on the ground. Projects benefitting from a unesco label would also have
promotional and awareness-raising tools available to them, which would be presented on the
unesco website.
6. Creating links between the programme and the major cultural meetings or events held
worldwide (Year of Culture, festivals, international exibitions, cultural and sporting events
worldwide, and so on), which would effectively disseminate the project in all social and
geographical contexts, and thus integrate it into peoples lives.
7. This is followed by the projects audiovisual dimension, which should be given special
attention by initiating and supporting the design, realization and dissemination of audiovisual
documentaries or fiction-inspired programmes of the lifeworks of the three poets and their
constellations. Transforming the texts into images would allow for broadcast on television,
projections in public spaces and educational settings, and for use to support a variety of
technological presentations.

His Excellency Ambassador Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai


Permanent Delegate of Benin to unesco
Chairperson of the Executive Board of unesco (2007-2009)

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3
TAGORE
NERUDA
CSAIRE
POETICS, HUMANISM
AND ACTION
ACROSS THE CENTURIES,
LIVES, LITERARY WORKS

rabindrnth tagore

rabindrnth tagore
1861-1941
oh what a relief it is to be away from narrow domestic walls
and to behold the universe. Gitanjali (Song offerings), 1910.
Rabindrnth Tagore was a poet of
spiritual, protean genius, a philosopher,
a farsighted anti-colonial activist,
an initiator of social change, an innovative
educator, an outstanding messenger
of dialogue between cultures
and civilizations, a defender
and enlightened propagator of scientific
rigour, but also an exceptional musician,
a prolific playwright, a fascinating
actor and singer, a very talented artist,
and many more things that made
the bard of Bengal an awakener
of consciousness and who is now timeless
thanks to the force of his message
and the relevance of his vision.
In modern history, few men can match
his achievements; through his political
and humanist commitment and the
spread of his ideas and inspiration,
he incarnated, in particularly
emblematic fashion, the human ideal

or Uomo universale as imagined


by Leonardo da Vinci. Tagore
was one of the major world players
of the industrial age that stretched
from the mid-nineteenth to the
mid-twentieth century.
His lifework was animated
by a tireless wish to share knowledge
and the pursuit of morality.
Adopting a pan-Asian as well as an Indian
perspective, he tirelessly devoted himself
to his peoples struggle for liberation,
and beyond to include all colonized
peoples. He sought to achieve this through
education and the acceptance
of responsibility so as to build a world
of cooperation between peoples,
a world freed from alienation, oppression,
humiliation and regression, so that
civilizations and talents could blossom
into mutual respect at the service
of the human universal.

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tagore, neruda, csaire, poetics, humanism and action

THE YOUNG RABI


Rabindrnth Tagore was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on Monday 25 Baishakh 1268 (Bengali
era) or Tuesday 7 May 1861 in an India ruled by the British Raj. Originating from the Pirali Brahmin
caste, he was known by the name Takur and the sobriquet Gurudev, and as a child was nicknamed
Rabi by his family.
Tagore was the youngest of thirteen surviving children of Debendranath Tagore, one of the
founders of the reform movement Brahmo Sama and the patriarch of a family of well-respected
large property owners in Bengal. This background was privileged materially and intellectually; his
family was composed of artists, and social and religious reformers opposed to the caste system and
in favour of improving the situation of Indian women.
The young Rabi, a worthy scion of this enlightened lineage, studied history, astronomy, modern
science and Sanskrit. He plunged into the classical poems of Kalidasa, and from an early age
learned about the Mughal heritage and Western and Muslim cultures. His education at home
as well as journeys around India transformed the teenage Tagore into a non-conformist and
pragmatist who devoted himself to observing nature and analysing the workings of society and
colonial domination, as well as intellectual reflection. At sixteen he published his first poems and
became known for composing Bhikharini ( The beggarwoman ) in 1877 his first short story in
Bengali and Sandhya Sangit in 1882, which contains the famous poem Nirjharer Swapnabhanga
or The rousing of the waterfall. The young Tagore spent much of his time sailing or camping by
the riverside in places that today form part of Bangladesh. He kept his eyes and his ears open, and
was touched by the beauty of the nature and people in Bangladesh. Coming from an aristocratic
background, he was inspired by the poor and their simple existence in Shilaidika, Shajadpur and
Patisar, where he became aware of the reality of poverty and discrimination. His poetry and short
stories often depict this reality.
Planning to become a barrister, Tagore enrolled at a private secondary school in Brighton, England
in 1878 from where he discovered the contradictions and dysfunctions of the western world.
There are grave questions that Western civilization has presented before the world
but not completely answered. The conflict between the individual and the state,
labour and capital, the man and the woman; the conflict between the greed of material
gain and the spiritual life of man, the organized selfishness of nations and the higher
ideals of humanity; the conflict between all the ugly complexities inseparable
from giant organizations of commerce and state and the natural instincts of man crying
for simplicity and beauty and fullness of leisure - all these have to be brought
to a harmony in a manner not yet dreamt of.

rabindrnth tagore

31

rabindrnth tagore

He studied law at University College London, but decided to return to Bengal before finishing his
degree. Returning to Calcutta in 1880, he published the volume Dawn Songs in 1883 and married
at his home a young woman from his caste, Mrinalini Devi (1873-1902). They had five children,
two of whom died before adulthood; his wife also died prematurely.

zamindar babu
Bowing to his fathers wish, in 1890 Tagore began to administer the family estate in Shilaidaha
(an area that is now part of Bangladesh). Nicknamed Zamindar Babu, Tagore lived on the family
barge, the Padma, and travelled around the estate to collect the peasants dues. And it was from
this country that he drew his detailed observation of the internal contradictions in Bengali
society, understanding the burden of alienation imposed by the British colonial yoke.
Dreaming of emancipation for his country and for humanity as a whole, he was vehemently
opposed to the blinkered traditionalism that was paralysing Indias transition towards an
endogenous modernism. He placed the education of both women and men at the centre of
national reconstruction and in 1901 founded an ashram on his family estate at Santiniketan in
west Bengal, which subsequently contained an experimental school, plant nurseries, gardens
and a library containing sources of knowledge from everywhere, including the West. His work
as an educator in Santiniketan and his prolific literary production earned him wide support in
India as well as abroad. He published Naivedya in 1901 and Kheya in 1906, and translated his
poems in free verse into English.
Against Bengals socioeconomic decline in the towns and villages where endemic poverty was
rife, Tagore developed concrete understanding of knowledge and scientific procedures, while
respecting cultural and linguistic identity, using schooling as the method of liberating villages
from the shackles of impotence and ignorance by revitalizing knowledge.
His interest in the sciences made Visva-Parichay a centre for exploratory work in biology, physics
and astronomy, which influenced his poetry as it set aside an important place for naturalism
and the respect for scientific laws. The university complexes of Santiniketan and Visha-Baraty
are still operating today with the support of the Indian government.

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tagore, neruda, csaire, poetics, humanism and action

a rich body of work


Profoundly influenced and inspired by spirituality, Tagore was an anti-conventional cultural
reformer who modernized Bengali art, while rejecting the restrictions that bound it to classical
Indian forms. He experimented with theatre for the first time when, at the age of sixteen, he
took the principal role, Mr Jourdain, in an adaptation by his brother, Jyotirindranath, of Molires
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. At twenty, he wrote his first play set to tune called Valmiki Pratibha
(The genius of Valmiki), which was followed by plays that explored philosophical and allegorical
themes based on ancient Buddhist and Hindu legends, except he chose ordinary people as
heroes so as to destroy symbols of subjugation. His thoughts on the environment, his modern
ideas and his interest in the life of the poor were exceptional in Indian literature at that time.
A prolific musician as well as a talented painter, Tagore composed a large body of music whose
emotive power was inseparable from his poetry, drama and painting. The lyrics of his songs
explored the whole range of human emotions, from his first songs on death to passionate pieces
on love and sexual relations written in innovative forms.
Outside the realm of fiction, Tagore wrote on subjects as varied as the history of India or
linguistics. Together with his autobiographical works, his travel journals, essays and lectures
have been compiled into many volumes, which include Iurop Jatrir Patro (Letters from Europe)
and Manusher Dhormo (Mans religion).
His literary and musical legacy is inseparable from all fields of modern Indian cultural creation,
and several of his novels and short stories, such as Chaturanga, Shesher Kobita, Char Odhay,
Noukadubi (The wreck), Charulata and Ghare Baire (The home and the world), have been adapted
for cinema by directors such as Satyajit Ray.

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tagore, neruda, csaire, poetics, humanism and action

rabindrnth tagore

anti-colonial commitment
and the pan-asian ideal
Curious about the world, Tagore very early on chose anti-colonial activism, having understood the
complex nature of the challenges independent India would face as part of the continent: how to
become a great nation. He knew that taking part in the peaceful awakening of Asia meant avoiding
the snares of nationalism, religious extremism and political totalitarianism, whatever their origins.
At the dawn of the century, new and worrying nationalist issues were appearing which pointed
to future significant transformations on the global geopolitical map. Spains defeat in Cuba in 1898
confirmed the arrival of the United States as a major player on the world stage, which just preceded
the Russo-Japanese war (19041905) between imperial Russia, whose aim was to have a coastal
opening on the Pacific, and the post-Meiji Japanese empire, which was determined to be recognized
as an important regional power to develop its own imperial and colonial strategy in Asia, and in so
doing, applied the most aggressive methods from the Western system to serve national domination.
In widening his anti-colonial vision, Tagore fully supported the peaceful pan-Asia ideal advocated
by the Japanese intellectual Kakuz Okakura, who in his book Asias Awakening, written in
India in 1902, affirmed his solidarity with the colonized countries, and in particular, with Indian
intellectuals. He followed the progress of cultural nationalism and militarism in Japan with critical
vigilance, where the authorities were carrying out violent repression of democratic movements
and protest with the almost unanimous support of the population, which Tagore deplored, From
Japan there have come no protests, not even from her poets. During his trip to Tokyo in October
1916, he strongly condemned ultranationalist, colonialist expansionism in an anti-nationalist,
universalist speech at Tokyo Imperial University, which Romain Rolland recalled as a turning
point in world history.
I, for myself, cannot believe that Japan has become what she is by imitating the West.
I do not for a moment suggest that Japan should be unmindful of acquiring modern
weapons of self-protection. But this should never be allowed to go beyond her instinct
of self-preservation. She must know that the real power is not in the weapons themselves,
but in the man who wields these weapons; and when he, in his eagerness for power,
multiplies his weapons at the cost of his own soul, then it is he who is in even greater
danger than his enemiesWhat is dangerous for Japan is not the imitation
of the outer features of the West, but the acceptance of the motive force of Western
nationalism as her own. I earnestly hope that Japan may never lose her faith
in her own soul, in the mere pride of her own foreign acquisition.
The Japanese example played a decisive part in Tagores thinking for it enabled him to better
perceive the intrinsic origins of colonialism and imperialism, as well as the structural violence of
their hegemonic principle.

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rabindrnth tagore

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nobel prize for literature


On 14 November 1913, following the publication of his self translated works in English, Tagore
learnt that he was to become the first non-Westerner to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature,
awarded to him for the idealistic character and accessibility to Western readers of a small
portion of his translated work, including Gitanjali (The lyrical offering) published in 1912 with
the English title Song Offering, and the first French edition translated by Andr Gide and Hlne
du Pasquier. Through his writing, Tagore had transformed Bengali from a provincial language
to a rich, sophisticated and vibrant one, capable of dealing with intricate matters of science,
philosophy, and other disciplines. The language written and spoken today in Bangladesh is
largely as a result of Tagores contribution, having nurtured the culture and traditions of the
Bengali people.
Once it had discovered him, early twentieth century Europe was fascinated by Tagore. Romain
Rolland wrote in his journal, He is very handsome, perhaps excessively so. His whole face
shines with a calm and abundant joy which carries over into all his words. His exchanges
with the periods most eminent Europeans, such as Andr Gide, William Butler Yeats and Ezra
Pound, taught him about the cultural and political debates of the time, in which growing
awareness of the Wests responsibility, its hegemonic control of non-Western peoples, and
its extremist or fascist tendencies were becoming increasingly apparent. Tagore discovered
the new cultural and artistic trends that were revolutionizing science, the arts and literature
such as cubism, surrealism, and psychoanalysis. On the eve of the First World War, with the
backdrop of colonialism, these factors seemed to him to form a crossroads to the greatest
period of transition in history.
In 1915, aware that the orientalist reading of his message by a Western elite was being
integrated into a European vision that reflected the civilizing mission of the West, even aware
in Romain Rollands words of la dgnrescence de lEurope, Tagore hesitatingly agreed
to be knighted by the British crown a title he ended up renouncing in order to condemn the
inhumane methods of colonial repression. A tireless worker for dialogue, his commitment to
the affirmation of Indian identity, and that of the colonized peoples of Asia and elsewhere, is
inseparable from the growing awareness of the need for a rational modernization of Indian
social and cultural practices.

rabindrnth tagore

against the iron shackles


and united with mahatma gandhi
for indias independence
When he published a political essay in 1904 in favour of Indian independence, Tagore was
one of the very first anti-colonial voices. He became convinced early on that imperialism
and colonialism, which up until the nineteenth century were European phenomena, were
becoming worldwide realities.
For this reason, the foundations of his vision were laid down, where social and educational
action and literaure were inseparable, dedicated to the dual conquest of political liberty and
the emancipation of people through struggle against oppression, and through education.
For Tagore, these objectives were inextricably linked to encounters with other peoples and
cultures in the construction of the human universal, freed not only from domination but also
from nationalism. Tagore adhered to this dual paradigm with exceptional constancy and an
indestructible ethical conviction, even at the price of incomprehension of his own people
as well as Western critics. This anti-colonialist and anti-nationalist attitude was sometimes
misunderstood by several countries, even his compatriots.
Although he was not a purely political player, the poets strength of conviction and humanistic
commitment was rooted in the Indian reality, and as an informed analyst of the world, he
nourished both culturally and philosophically the Indian independence movement and anticolonialist action against the iron shackles of the British Raj.
Tagores influence was particularly evident on the most emblematic of his fellow-countrymen,
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (18611944); apostle of civil disobedience, of satyagrah, on
whom Tagore bestowed, for the first time publicly, the respected title Mahtm (great soul) with
affection and esteem. In the service of their common ideal resistance to oppression, conquest
of independence, peace between peoples their friendship bequeathed to India a twin legacy
inseparable from its national identity and its international projection. Tagore was fully supportive
of Gandhis action against British domination, particularly the civil disobedience campaigns
carried out in India, although he disapproved of certain dogmatic archaism. For Gandhi he was a
model, a point of reference that was especially precious because of their indissociable presence.
Gandhi also acknowledged in Tagore the inestimable privilege of a great poet.
Having welcomed them one after the other to Paris, Romain Rolland wrote in February 1923,
One does not know which to admire the most, the saint or the wise genius. India enjoys the
unique fortune of possessing these two great men at the same time, each of whom is the
expression of one of the faces of the most high truth!

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routes around the world


Fired by an insatiable thirst for travel, Tagore travelled the world and visited more than thirty
countries between 1878 and 1932, where he met non-Indian audiences, thus deepening his
experience of the worlds diversity while observing other cultures. In the course of his study
trips to Europe (France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Russia, Romania, Hungary, Greece), the Americas
(United States, Argentina), the Middle East (Iran, Iraq), Asia (China, Japan), and Africa (Egypt),
he took up many invitations. Enjoying worldwide celebrity, he gave many lectures in which
he condemned the realities of colonial oppression and the perilous risks of nationalism,
highlighting Western contradictions. Whereever he went, he initiated a dialogue on an equal
footing with the colonial powers, sharing his views on Indian civilization, nationalism, war and
peace, cross-cultural education, freedom of thought, the importance of critical rationalism, the
mission of science, and the need for the universal.
The profound intellectual exchanges he enjoyed with a number of his important contemporaries,
including William Butler Yeats, Graham Greene, Romain Rolland, Henri Bergson, Albert Einstein,
Robert Frost, Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells, enriched his opinions of the
worlds geopolitical context, and the growing materialism and spiritual failings of the industrial
and consumer revolution occurring in the West.
There was a time when we were fascinated by Europe. She had inspired us with a new hope.
We believed that her chief mission was to preach the gospel of liberty in the world.
We had come then to know only her ideal side through her literature and art.
But slowly, Asia and Africa, have become the main spheres of Europes secular activities,
where her chief preoccupations have been the earning of dividends, the administration
of empires, and the extension of commerce.
He saw the danger of fascism, which he condemned, especially in his published article of 20 July
1926 following his meeting with Mussolini. These opinions sometimes disagreeably surprised
Western audiences who were inclined to see in the monstrous flux of boundless India only the
mystico-religious expressions of an ancestral Asian heritage as it was perceived by Western
minds and looked at him solely as the perfect incarnation of the wise man of the East to satisfy
ltroite coupe, in Andr Gides words, within the principles of the European orientalist tradition.
These journeys were also an opportunity for Tagore to familiarize himself with advances in
Western science for the benefit of Indian society. Convinced that the true pulse of India was
in the villages, in 1921 Tagore and the agricultural economist Leonard Elmhirst whom he had
met on a trip to the USA founded in Surul, a village near the Sriniketan ashram, the Sriniketan
Institute for Rural Reconstruction, which was subsequently renamed House of Peace by Tagore.
He recruited specialists, donors and official supporters from many countries to introduce new
scientific knowledge into India.

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freeing india
from the caste system
and religious sectarianism
In the early 1930s, convinced of the abnormal caste consciousness in India, and the inhumanity
of the untouchables' fate beyond colonial domination, and which formed an obstacle to the
building of the Indian nation, Tagore did everything in his power to ensure that the humanity
and rights of the Dalits, or the untouchables, was recognized, calling on the authorities and the
people to accept them.
In a similar vein, in the constant struggle against prejudices that were the cause of social
and religious exclusion, Tagore became involved in the opposition to the mounting sectarian
violence between Muslims and Hindus, and the emergence of an Indian nationalism committed
to a future state that was hegemonically Hindu; he foresaw the political and human risks of the
clash between Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism.
These fratricidal aberrations, which claim to be the acme of spiritual sectarian observance,
(which) like a voracious parasite, feeds on the religion whose appearance it takes on
and sucks it dry in such a way that one does not notice that it is dead [...] turn it into
a fortress into which retreats its demonic instinct to fight, its pious vanity
and its violent scorn for the credo of its neighbour.
Anticipating the consequences that would ensue on both sides as a result of definitive borders
established solely on religious difference, he took a stance against all forms of religious
extremism so that a multi-ethnic and multi-faith India could play the full role to which it was
assigned in terms of modernity and the universal, not least because of the infinite wealth of its
human resources and the depth of its spiritual values and civilization.

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rabindrnth tagore

a truly living legacy


In his penetrating, objective approach to the contradictions of his time in India, Asia and the
West, Tagore was one of the most luminous analysts at the beginning of the industrial era. He
gives us a dynamic reading of India and the world that denounced and fought against colonial
domination, and one that anticipated the geopolitical development of modernity, postulating
the humanistic responsibility of all peoples in eradicating social, ethnic, religious and cultural
divisions.
An indispensable worker for his countrys accession to political and national independence,
and cultural maturity, his committed struggle throughout his lifetime to enable the Indian
people once freed from the iron-grip of colonialism to accept themselves in their ethnic,
cultural and religious diversity is expressive of a lucid approach to history. Tagore neither
feared the risk of incomprehension and solitude by his family nor ostracism by the other in
affirming his convictions.
I know my voice is too feeble to raise itself above the uproar of this bustling time,
and it is easy for any street urchin to fling against me the epithet of unpractical.
It will stick to my coat-tail, never to be washed away, effectively excluding me
from the consideration of all respectable persons.
I know what a risk one runs from the vigorously athletic crowds in being styled
an idealist in these days, when thrones have lost their dignity and prophets
have become an anachronism, when the sound that drowns all voices
is the noise of the market-place.
Rabindrnth Tagore passed away in the house where he was born on 7 August 1941, 22 Shravan
1348 in the Bengali calendar, six years before Indias accession to independence. He did not
witness the moment when the British government, having emerged from the Second World
War with little or no means to face a new colonial war, ended up conceding independence to
India in August 1947, not without having assessed the long lasting impact that the centre of
instability and tensions on the Indian sub-continent would experience in open conflict since
its establishment in 1950.

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The admiration inspired by his words on such themes as responsibility and dialogue, and
the spiritual musings of the one Indians so respectfully call Gurudev are forever present.
During the difficult period preceding independence, the works of Tagore were banned by
the central government. The people of Bangladesh protested and Tagore became a symbol of
both its cultural identity and the political struggle of the people. A patriotic song Amar Shona
Bangla composed and set to tune by Tagore, inspired the people and was spontaneously sung
time and again. Later, it was chosen as the national anthem of Bangladesh when it became
independent in 1971. Moreover, Jana Gana Mana, one of his compositions, was chosen as
Indias national anthem by the constituent assembly on 24 January 1950.
With an active and still present consciousness, Rabindrnth Tagore bequeaths to us
philosophical poetics that deal with issues connected with the political responsibility of
societies to whom he proposes internal ideals and practices of mutual tolerance and dialogue,
which are proving to be more necessary than ever.
That blazing red glow on the horizon is not the light of your dawn of pain,
O motherland,
Your dawn awaits, gentle and silent, veiled by the Easts patient darkness,
India, keep watch!
Bring your worship offerings to this sacred dawn.
May the first hymn to welcome it spring from your voice.

rabindrnth tagore

selection of works
by rabindrnth tagore
1900 - La Petite Marie and Nuage et soleil, (French edition of novels from Galpaguchchha)
1909 - Santiniketan (La Demeure de la Paix, published in France 1998)
1910 - Gitanjali (Song offerings), (French translation: LOffrande lyrique by Andr Gide, 1913)
1910 - Gora (Fair-faced)
1912 - Jivansmriti (My reminiscences)
1916 - Stray Birds
1916 - Sdhan (The realization of life)
1916 - Ghare Baire (The home and the world)
1921 - The Wreck
1921 Le vagabond et autres histoires, (French edition of Tagores short stories)
1925 - Mashi
1931 - Manusher Dhormo (The religion of man)
1934 - Four Chapters
1940 - Chhelebela (My boyhood days)
2006 - French edition of Histoires de fantmes indiens

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pablo neruda

pablo neruda
1904-1973
My life is made of all lives, the lives of a poet.
I confess that I have lived (Confieso que he vivido), 1974.
Pablo Neruda has revealed many aspects of
his life in diverse autobiographic writings,
wether in prose or in verse, essentially in
his Memorial de la isla negra and in his
autobiographical volume Confieso que
he vivido (I confess that I have lived).
Although the manuscript was interrupted
by his death on 23 September 1973, the
book was published in March 1974, a few
months after his death, giving us valuable
information that sheds light on the life
and work of the Chilean poet, diplomat,
politican, playwright and essayist who
was, one of the most emblematic
intellectual symbols of the twentieth
century in Latin American. He was a fervent
activist for social justice and democracy
and he actively opposed imperialism,
concerned about the defence and recognition
of Amerindian civilizations and dialogue
between civilizations. A man of his time
and place, Pablo Neruda adhered to the
communist ideal during the Spanish Civil
War (1936 1939). This conviction was

reinforced by his adhesion to the Communist


Party which seemed to him under the
imminent threat of the Cold War and the
division of the world between East and
West to be the only bulwark capable of
defending his country, his region and the
world against imperialist domination.
Confronted with the dramatic urgency of
Cold War geopolitics, and despite the facts
and revelations about the abuses suffered
by that ideal, Neruda never abandoned his
stance. Unlike Aim Csaire, he did not
question his acceptance of the communist
ideology, even if some of his texts expressed
disagreement. Like a breath tinged with
romantism, it impregnated his eventful life
as a traveller of the world, and so determined
the political action that ran through his
work, which was recognized very early on,
and which brought together, under the sign
of poetry and passion and with extraordinary
generosity, the characters of the Epicurean
and the militant, the diplomat and the
exile, the thinker and the man of action.

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childhood in araucania
He was born Ricardo Eliecer Neftal Reyes Basoalto on 12 July 1904 in Parral, in the centre of Chile, a
place where the vine grows and there is wine in abundance. His mother, Rosa Basoalto, died scarcely
a month after his birth, and his father, Jos del Carmen Reyes Morales, abandoned the land in
order to survive, leaving the country first for Argentina and finally finding work as a mechanic in
Temuco where he settled and later remarried Doa Trinidad Candia Marverde in 1906. The young
boy developed a profound attachment towards her and later on dedicated the affectionate poem
La mamadre to the woman who loved the child as her own.
The poets childhood was spent ...under the volcanoes, near the glaciers, among the great lakes, the
perfume, silence, interwoven foliage of the Chilean forest ..., in close proximity to nature with the
backdrop of Temuco a small town in south-central Chile and the regional capital of Araucania
an area bordering on Patagonia, the land of volcanoes and vast open spaces interspersed with
huge lakes sculpted into multitudes of bays and inlets, volcanoes topped with their cones of snow,
glaciers with their icy brows, occasionally emerging from the forest, which was surprising in these
extreme latitudes and was an extraordinary haven for plant and animal life on the south Pacific
coast, periodically threatened by the cataclysmic violence of earthquakes.
The geological grandeur of the granite ranges provided an almost illusory landscape, which mirrored,
in the mind of the future poet, the wounded grandeur of Amerindian history. Araucania is the ancient
ancestral land of the Mapuche or Araucanians, proud Amerindian warrior peoples who for a long
time resisted invasion attempts by the Inca, Spanish attempts at genocide, and even the Chilean
governments brutality before falling victim to the violence of Araucania pacification operations in 1880.
The young Pablo, imbued with the din of a huge heart, the palpitation of the universe, attended
Temuco boys school until 1920; source of communication between his poetry and the most lonely
land on the planet where he was soothed by the music of Araucanian names. Passionate about
reading, he wanted to affirm his poets nature from childhood and went forward alone into the
world of knowledge, lone sailor on the tumbling river of books. Author of Never-ending Love Letters,
he wrote that his first poems were fed by that communication, that revelation, that pact with
space, which he later said, have never ceased to exist in my life.

the young poet


In 1917 his first text Enthusiasm and Perseverance appeared in the Temuco newspaper, La maana.
In October 1920, having used various pseudonyms and with his head stuffed with books, dreams
and poems that buzzed about like bees, he finally chose Neruda, baptizing himself by adopting the
pseudonym from the Czech writer and romantic poet, Jan Nepomuk Neruda, one of the most famous

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pablo neruda

members of the School of May and author of the renowned novel collection The stories of Mala
Strana. Another theory claims he has chosen this pseudonym inspiring himself from the musician
couple formed by the violinist Norman Neruda and her companion and musical partner Pablo de
Sarasate. He won first prize at the Spring Festival, became president of Temucos literary club, and at
the same time wrote two unpublished works, The Strange Islands and The Pointless Fatigues. In 1921,
while attending classes at Santiagos Teaching Institute in preparation of a professorship in French,
he won first prize in a competition of the Chilean Students Federation for his poem, The Festival Song,
and began to give public readings of his work under the name, Pablo Neruda, which was now being
recognized in flourishing poetry circles, an activity he undertook with passion throughout his life.
In August 1923 his first collection Crepusculario was published, followed by Veinte poemas de amor
y una cancin desesperada in 1924 , appearing in the newspaper La nacin together with a letter in
which he explained his creative process, under the title Exegisis y soledad, responding to two of
his critics. In 1926 he published Galop mort in Claridad, followed by Residencia en la tierra, Quelques
pages choisies dAnatole France and texts by Rainer Maria Rilke that he translated into Spanish.

honorary consul in asia


Like any young Latin American intellectual, the young Neruda sought to discover the world.
In fact 1927 was a great turning point in his life as he was appointed to a diplomatic mission
ad honorem to Rangoon in Burma as Chilean consul in the hollow of a map, as he said with
humour, referring to the curved part of the globe on which the civil servant first presented his
destination to Neruda. Following a voyage of several months that took him for the first time to
Buenos Aires, then to Europe, Lisbon, Madrid and Paris where he met Csar Vallejo the young
Peruvian poet Neruda boarded ship in Marseille and crossed the Mediterranean en route for
the Red Sea, Djibouti, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Rangoon was the first port of call in a series of postings in Asia in the course of his honorary
consular work. Appointed consul in Colombo in 1928, he attended the Pan-Indian Congress
in Calcutta in 1929 in which Gandhi took part, in an India he saw as a nation plunged into a
struggle for its liberation. During this period of solitary exploration of Asian horizons that were
unknown to him, he experienced the grievance of British and European colonization in Asia.
[] This terrible gulf separating the English colonizers from the vast Asian world
has never been bridged. It has always been protected by an anti-human isolation,
a total ignorance of local values and life.
Neruda, then working on Residencia en la Tierra, confirmed his vocation as a poet of love and women,
as a cultivated, passionate and liberated lover. He married for the first time and transferred to Ceylon
where he discovered the ravages wrought by cultural colonialism and its methods of deculturation.

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Those long periods in Asia inspired his solidarity with the peoples struggle against alienation and
domination, but he was not touched by the beliefs and spirituality of eastern civilizations.
The east impresses me as a large unfortunate human family,
but I had no room in my consciousness for its rituals and gods.

the meeting with federico garca


lorca and spain in my heart
Political changes in Chile gave Neruda the chance to become consul in Buenos Aires, where, on 13
October 1933, he had his first encounter with Federico Garca Lorca, the Spanish poet, playwright,
painter, pianist and composer, and the emblematic founder of the Generation of 1927 with among
others Miguel Hernndez, Rafael Alberti, Manual Altolaguirre, Pedro Salinas, Vicente Alexandre,
Luis Cernuda who are joined by Maruja Mallo as well as painters from the School of Valleca and
surrealists such as Salvador Dal and Luis Buuel. Meeting Lorca, whose poetic genius is so special
in Spanish and world literature, was crucial for Pablo Neruda as it drew him closer to Spain and
love of the Spanish language, transcending the old colonial conflict.
It was with great enthusiasm that in 1934 Neruda settled in Barcelona as Chilean consul, then in
Madrid where Lorcas brotherly friendship opened every door to him. He immersed himself in the
cultural, political and social ferment of Madrid life and he shared in the progressive ideals of the
Republicans political project that supported the fight against ignorance and underdevelopment,
the social and economic inclusion of women, and agrarian reform. Persuaded of poetrys essential
role as a catalyst for change and consciousness-raising, he founded and directed the journal
Caballo verde para la poesa.
In Europe between the wars, peace was directly threatened in Spain where there was a political
head-on clash between General Francos conservative Nationalists and the socialist Republicans.
Following the Republican and Popular Front electoral victory on 18 July 1936, Francos military
and civil revolt triggered the long, deadly civil war whose brutality foreshadowed the worldwide
conflagration of the Second World War.
In August of that year, Federico Garca Lorca was one of the first to be shot at his home near
Granada. His body was thrown into a common grave and his work became entirely banned. Pablo
Neruda was devastated and he joined the republican side, despite his obligation of neutrality
linked to his diplomatic mission. He then began to write Espaa en el corazn (Spain in my
Heart), an extensive poem which was published by various editions and finally incorporated to
the book Tercera Residencia.

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the militant anti-fascist


His anti-fascist activism was unwavering. He campaigned for the support of the Spanish
Republic, and in 1939, when he was appointed consul in Paris in charge of Spanish refugee
immigration to Chile, he took steps to get more than 2,000 Spanish refugees accepted. They
arrived in Chile on board the Winnipeg provided with a brochure entitled Chile os acoge (Chile
welcomes you), written by Neruda and designed by Mauricio Amster, describing the country to
the refugees and assuring them of the solidarity of the Chilean people.
In 1940 Neruda arrived in Mexico City as consul general and worked on the composition of the
Canto general de Chile, conceived as an epic fresco to the glory of Chiles peoples, nature, landscapes,
natural catastrophes, arts and poets. In 1941 he wrote A Song for Bolvar in which he confirmed his
political commitment against oppression. Neruda the poet sought to embrace his continent, travel
and explore it, and sing its praises. His Latin American identity was rooted in pre-Columbian history
and was stirred by the Soviet Unions heroic resistance to Nazi barbarity at Stalingrad. In parallel
with his anti-fascist commitment, his admiration for Stalin and the USSR was strengthened at that
time; for him they symbolized the sole guarantors of freedom. In 1942 his Love Song for Stalingrad,
reproduced in poster form, was pasted on the walls of Mexico City; the New Love Song for Stalingrad
was published in Mexico City in 1943 by the Society of Friends of the ussr.
On his way back to Chile he discovered the Pacific coast countries: Panama and Colombia. In
Peru he went to Machu Picchu where he visited the grand ruins of the Inca Empire the sacred
city, a jewel of Incan architecture and supreme expression of human achievement in harmony
with the environment. He wrote, Machu Picchu is a journey to the serenity of the soul, to eternal
merging with the cosmos, up there we sense our own frailty. From that journey to the indigenous
and pre-Columbian roots of Hispano-American history came Alturas de Machu Picchu in 1945.
Neruda decided to undertake the epic project of extending the Canto general de Chile into a
Canto general that would embrace the whole of Latin America.

communist allegiance
From the onset of the Cold War, Neruda was forced to make an ideological choice. As he became
progressively closer to the Chilean Communist Party, he was elected senator of the republic for
the mining provinces of Tarapac and Antofagasta, devoting himself to improving the harsh
living conditions of the workers in the saltpeter mines. On 8 July 1945 he joined the Chilean
Communist Party. As the Second World War drew to a close, Neruda strengthened his position as
a politically committed poet whose influence radiated over the entire continent. On 28 December
1946 an administrative decision bestowed on him the legal name, Pablo Neruda.

pablo neruda

At the start of the Cold War, the world was plunged into two separate antagonistic East-West
blocs, with Latin America in the Wests camp; Chile was directly threatened with American
domination and was rapidly caught up in the Cold War as an experimental ground for the
hardening ideological confrontation.

comrade nerudas political exile


On 4 September 1946 Gabriel Gonzlez Videla is elected president of Chile, with the support of
the Communist Party and with Pablo Neruda as director of the electoral campaign. In April 1947,
Gonzlez Videla, that Neruda, disappointed, will describe as an equilibrist adept of political
tricks breaks ties with the Communist party and declares it illegal. Neruda the militant communist
took a stance, publishing in El nacional de Caracas a provocative article, Carta ntima a millones de
hombres (Personal letter to millions of people). President Gonzlez Videla took advantage of the
situation to launch political action against the poet, who had made a strongly worded speech in
the senate, later published with the title Yo acuso in the tradition of Zolas Jaccuse. The Supreme
Court approved the decision to remove Neruda from the list of senators, while the courts ordered
his arrest, making Neruda an international symbol supported by the communist bloc.
On 24 February 1949 he covertly left Chile, crossing the Andes on horseback through the southern region
he knew from his childhood. Thus began a life of political exile, with support from his dual commitment
as poet and Communist Party member. On 25 April he attended the First Congress of the Supporters of
Peace in Paris where he was elected member of the World Council of Supporters of Peace. During his
first trip to the Soviet Union, he attended the celebrations commemorating the 150th anniversary of
Pushkins birth and, together with Paul luard, received tributes from the Writers Union in Moscow.
Comrade Neruda visited Poland, Hungary and Finland, and returned to Mexico City where he took
part in the Latin American Congress of Supporters of Peace. With a delegation from the World
Council of Supporters of Peace, he undertook the mission bestowed on him by Joliot-Curie to meet
Jawahardal Nehru in New Delhi in order to win support for the Peace Movement of India, which
had recently been decolonized, and where his poems were translated into Hindu, Urdu and Bengali.
He continued on to China to present the International Peace Prize to Sun Yat Sen.
So all through my life I came and went, changing clothes and planets.
His prestige grew and he became one of the prominent worldwide figures of the communist
intelligentsia, travelling all over Latin America and the world, giving recitals and lectures. With
Picasso and other artists, he received the International Peace Prize for his poem Que despierte el
leador (Let the Woodcutter Awake). Popular editions of the Canto general were published in
large numbers and in many countries: Mexico, USA, China, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Soviet
Union, Sweden, Romania, India and Palestine. Neruda travelled on the Trans-Siberian as far as
the Peoples Republic of Mongolia. In 1951 he gave recitals in Italy where he decided to settle,
until he learned that he could return to Chile following the fall of Gonzlez Videla.

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a committed poet among his peoples


He returned to the land of his birth where the Society of Chilean Writers and the Writers Union
hailed the Canto general, and in 1953 Neruda continued his commitment to the continent by
organizing the Continental Congress of Culture, notably attended by Diego Rivera, Nicols
Guilln and Jorge Amado, among other eminent figures of the American culture.
On 20 December he received the Stalin Peace Prize, and in July 1954 Odas elementales and
Las uvas y el viento were published. The poet Nerudas voice was heard in opposition to
dictatorship and oppression, social and racial exclusion, and the destruction of the heritage
of civilizations and communities by imperalism, whether it was the painful traces left by
the genocides of the European conquest in the fifteenth century or twentieth century social
exploitation, neo-colonialism or imperialism.
An indefatigable lover, he settled with his companion Matilde Urrutia at La Chascona in 1955
one of his two residences, which can still be visited today, as it was converted into a museum
and opened to the public. Political activism and poetic creation were inseparable in the life
of the poet and activist who was dedicated to writing lectures such as How I see my work,
working on the ever important Memorial de Isla Negra published in 1964, and translating
Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet into Spanish. He also took active part in political life by
travelling throughout Chile.
In 1960 he travelled around the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Czechoslovakia.
On 14 December the edition of Cien sonetos de amor (A hundred love poems) was published
by Editorial Losada. Appointed corresponding member of the Yale University Institute of
Romance Languages, he learnt of the publication of the millionth copy of Twenty Love Poems
and a Song of Despair. While in Paris, Roger Caillois translated and wrote the preface for Alturas
de Machu Picchu, which preceded the publication of Louis Aragons Elgie Pablo Neruda.
In the communist nucleus, Neruda divided his time: he wrote Eating in Hungary (Comiendo
en Hungaria) in Hungary with Miguel Angel Asturias, published simultaneously in five
languages; he attended meetings and conferences of the Penn Club of New York; and recorded
his poems at the Library of Congress in Washington. In the ussr he was a member of the
jury for the Lenin Prize awarded to Rafael Alberti; he talked about his memories and read his
poems on radio broadcasts; and then he wrote his only play Splendour and death of Joaqun
Murieta, performed in 1967 by the University of Chile Theatre Institute in Santiago.

pablo neruda

nobel prize for literature


and journeys end
On 30 September 1969 the central committee of the Chilean Communist Party nominated him
as candidate for president of the republic. However, as Salvador Allende had been nominated
as sole candidate, Neruda withdrew his candidature and took an active part in the presidential
campaign for Salvador Allende who managed to unite the left. After Popular Unitys victory
in 1970, Allende became president, and Neruda was appointed ambassador to Paris, while La
espada encendida and Las piedras del cielo were published. On 21 October 1971 Neruda received
the Nobel Prize for Literature, and on 28 October he was elected to membership of the Executive
Board at the unesco General Conference for a four-year term. In May 1972 he began the final
version of his memoirs.
At the height of the Cold War, the ideological stranglehold was tightening around Salvador
Allendes democratic regime, which was exposed to the twin obstacles of the big Chilean and
international trust funds that together were financing the right-wing opposition, supported
by the cia. Neruda fought against the economic embargo imposed by the us in response to
Allendes nationalization of the copper multinationals. He renounced his post as Chilean
ambassador to France and returned home. In 1973 he published Encouragement to Nixonicide
and In Praise of the Chilean Revolution, a book of political poetry that he contributed to the
parliamentary elections campaign in March. He launched an appeal to intellectuals in Latin
American and Europe to prevent civil war in Chile.
On 11 September 1973 General Pinochets military putsch overthrew the Popular Unity government.
President Salvador Allende died and a dictatorship and violent repression were installed.
On 23 September 1973 Pablo Neruda, ill, exhausted and saddened by the recent events, passed
away in the Santa Mara Clinic in Santiago de Chile. His funeral took place with the army in
attendance: the crowds sang, witnesses to the subversive power of poetry, transcending death.
International public opinion was outraged to discover that his houses in Valparaso and Santiago,
where his body had lain, were looted and damaged. On 28 December 1973 the first posthumous
collection was published, The Sea and the Bells, and on 23 March 1974 his memoirs, collated by
his widow Matilde Urrutia and Miguel Otero Silva, appeared with the title Confieso que he vivido
(I confess I have lived).

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68

selection of works
by pablo neruda
1923 - Crepusculario (Book of Twilights)
1924 - Veinte poemas de amor y una cancin desesperada
(Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair)
1926 - Tentativa del hombre infinito
El habitante y su esperanza
1933 - Residencia en la tierra (1925-1931) (Residence on Earth)
El hondero entusiasta
1935 - Residencia en la tierra (1931-1935) (Residence on Earth, volume two)
1947 - Tercera residencia
1950 - Canto general (General Song)
1952 - Los versos del capitn (The Captains Verses)
1954 - Las uvas y el viento (Grapes and Wind)
Odas elementales (Elemental Odes)
1955 - Viajes
1956 - Nuevas odas elementales
1957 - Tercer libro de las odas
1958 - Estravagario
1959 - Navegaciones y regresos
Cien sonetos de amor (One Hundred Love Sonnets)
1960 - Cancin de gesta
1961 - Las piedras de Chile
Cantos ceremoniales

pablo neruda

1962 - Plenos poderes


1964 - Memorial de Isla Negra
1966 - Una Casa en la arena
Arte de pjaro
1967 - Fulgor y muerte de Joaquim Murieta, bandido chileno injusticiado
en California, el 23 de julio de 1853
1967 - La Barcarola
1968 - Las manos del da
1969 - Fin de mundo
1970 - La espada encendida
Las piedras del cielo
1972 - Geografia infructuosa
La rosa separada (The Separate Rose)
1973 - Incitacin al nixonicidio y Alabanza de la revolucin chilena
1973-1974 - Publication of the posthumous works:
El mar y las campanas, (The Sea and the Bells),
Jardn de invierno (Winter Garden),
El libro de las preguntas (The Book of Questions),
El corazn amarillo (The Yellow Heart),
Elega, Defectos escogidos.

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aim csaire

aim csaire
1913-2008
[] we know that the sun turns around our earth lighting the parcel designated by
our will alone and that every star falls from sky to earth at our omnipotent command.
Notebook of a return to the native land, 1939.
Poet, playwright, essayist, politician,
pedagogue, Aim Csaire who passed
away only recently made his lifework
part of the assault on the citadels
of power and exclusion, which he sought
so that humanity in the twenty-first
century could become emancipated
and responsible, as a man with
a transboundary vision of the human
condition. If Tagore provided the key to
the universal based on Indian civilization
and the pan-Asia project, and Neruda
opened the routes of the immense
Andes and southern geology,
Aim Csaire situated at the epicentre
of the re-humanization of the world,
met the huge challenge of the AfricanEuropean-American triangulate.
If I call this enterprise revolutionary, it is
because until this point it was understood
definitively that the black world did not
exist and had nothing to say. From Herder
to Hegel up to Spengler and Toynbee there
have been many attempts, many tries,
at an overview of world history.
And everywhere I find one constant:
the African page remains empty.
This was a colossal task not least because

the voice of Aim Csaire, which arose


from the precarious confines of a volcanic
Caribbean island, would take on one
of the most complex challenges: to bring
about reconciliation and the achievement
of the universal. Csaire was a descendant
of slaves torn from the soil of Africa and a
product of colonial history, but he was also
trained in the Greek and Latin humanities
and was imbued with the most fertile
elements of Western logic, and a supporter
of innovative cultural trends that sought
to refound a universal where still open
wounds of the slave trade and colonial
oppression abounded. Aim Csaires
words are beautiful, as fresh oxygen,
said Andr Breton in 1943, adding, For me
his appearance, and I do not mean only
that day, in his own particular guise, has
the value of a sign of the times, challenging
on his own a period when we think we are
witnessing the general abdication of the
mind, [] a first breath of fresh air, giving
life again that speaks for all of Humanity,
which expresses all its questioning,
all its anguish, all its hopes, and all its joys,
and which would increasingly impress
me as the prototype of dignity.

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unanswered questions
in the homeland
Aim Csaire was born on 26 June 1913 as the youngest in a family of six children in Basse-Pointe
on an old sugar plantation in the north of Martinique. His mother was a seamstress and his father
was a tax official. He attended the primary school in Basse-Pointe, a small town situated between
the still burning lava of the Montagne Pel the majestic volcano that a few years earlier (1902)
had completely destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre and the untamed Atlantic Ocean, which
attacked the rocks in northern Martinique with the seas great hysterical lick.
The young Aim very early on demonstrated a flair for study and a liking for writing and solitude.
He possessed a character marked by an independence of spirit, and he soon sharpened his focus on
colonial society built on the prejudice of colour; he resented the sense of uneasiness and alienation
that this procured, especially as his grandmother Maman Nini one of the tutelary figures from
his childhood still retained recent memories of slavery, and it was she who taught him to read
and instilled in him the virus of memory. Csaire won a scholarship to the Victor Schoelcher high
school in Fort-de-France where he completed his secondary education, while seeking answers to
the questions that arose from life in Martinique.
In September 1931, as holder of a French government scholarship, he arrived in Paris with a letter
of recommendation from his history teacher, introducing him to the administrator of the Lyce
Louis-le-Grand with the purpose of getting him accepted into the schools hypokhgne class to
prepare for the entrance exam to the cole Normale Suprieure situated on the rue dUlm. On the
very first day in the course of enrolment, Aim Csaire would meet a young man from Senegal a
few years older than himself called Lopold Sdar Senghor with whom he would form a lifelong
fraternal friendship. He also met Lon-Gontran Damas from French Guiana, whom he knew from
Martinique. The three founders of the Ngritude movement were thus united.

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studying in paris
between the wars
In Paris between the wars, contradictory realities coexisted. A ferment for literature was building
up with dadaism and surrealism, whose Manifeste exposed the universal structures of creation
in order to propose an appreciation of the world devoid of naturalist and racist prejudice, while
questioning the basis of truth, previously considered in the West as eternal. Ren Maran, author
of Batouala, vritable roman ngre, won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1921. The narrowmindedness of the dominant aesthetic vision had been exposed by the appearance of cubism
inspired by African and Oceanic art and in contrast to the white mans mission of civilizing,
which European ethnocentrism exhibited in Vincennes at the 1931 Exposition Coloniale.
France and Europe were discovering the first jazz rhythms imported by African-American
soldiers under segregation in the US, as well as Josephine Bakers explosive beauty and nights
at the Bal Ngre where the first West Indian and African musicians were daring to play the
rhythms of savages and coloured people. Paris in the 1930s where exoticism brought profits
and negromania was fashionable did not begin to answer the questions about identity that
the young Csaire was intent on discovering faced with the rise of fascist and racist ideologies
that denied African civilizations contribution to world history. Soon Mussolini would invade
Ethiopia the mythical African land and Emperor Haile Selassie would not receive any help
from the League of Nations against colonialist aggression, while Hitler and the German Reich
were refining their military and racist objectives, and the war in Spain foreshadowed the
conflagration of the Second World War, most notably the Guernica bombing of the civilian
population in 1937.
In his contact with young African, American and Madagasgan students, and in his daily
friendship with Senghor and Damas, Csaire discovered the messages of W. E. B. Du Bois,
Countee Cullen, and the Harlem Renaissance. Coming from the other side of the Atlantic, the
young Claude MacKay, Langston Hughes and Richard Wright brought over the manifestoanthology The New Negro, stimulating the pan-African movement, which brought together
students of different origins. The debate gave rise to magazines such as La Revue du monde
noir, founded by the Nardal sisters, and the surrealist and communist Lgitime dfense, which
advocated revolution. In September 1934 Csaire, together with other students from the French
Antilles and Africa, among them Lon Gontran Damas and Birago Diop, founded the magazine
Ltudiant noir, where the word ngritude appeared for the first time - a word invented by
Csaire as a reaction to cultural oppression, and to reject cultural assimilation and promote
Africa and its culture, devalued by racism that was part of the colonial ideology.

aim csaire

75

I WOULD COME TO THAT COUNTRY,


MY COUNTRY, AND I WOULD SAY TO IT:
KISS ME WITHOUT FEAR....AND
IF I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO SAY,
IT IS STILL FOR YOU THAT I SPEAK.

aim csaire

ngritude
Aim Csaire understood that the key to the unease that had haunted him from his
childhood in Martinique was the African component victim of the dehumanization and
racism dominating Africa and all its colonial societies. He also understood that colonialism
excluded whole sectors of humanity and comprised a system of slavery, originating from and
ideologically justified by the sovereign principle of the Western worlds superiority, combined
with an arbitrary hierarchy of races and the omnipotence of the Wests economic and strategic
interests and civilization.
His neologism ngritude was neither based on the determinism of biology [] plasma, soma,
but measured by suffering nor rooted in the erroneous scientific concept of race, even though
he was forced to use the word race for reasons of historicity and understanding. In fact
Csaire declared, I belong to the race of those who are oppressed. Born with the conviction to
overturn the oppression experienced by coloured people, ngritude was defined as any colour
whatsoever solidary with all people. It was first and foremost conceived in opposition to the
colonial ideology of the time, as a project aiming to humanize the world without exclusivity
because it spoke of a persons awareness of their identity and not its negation by another.
Denial that was expressed as contempt and, this was encapsulated in the pejorative use of the
term negro, which stripped the coloured person of any humanity.
The existential challenge to reject insult was an expression of a humanization reconciled with
the universal. It denounced the sectarian, racialized worldview and, together with those that
were colonized and exploited, proposed an active and concrete humanism for all oppressed
peoples on Earth. Aim Csaires principal aim was to restitute the exclusion and alienation
imposed on the negro in the colonization process and thus acknowledge its cause and effect
so that coloured people could reclaim their place in history, redefining from within their
dignity as human beings. Accepted at the cole Normale Suprieure, Csaire was invited by
his friend Petar Guberina to spend the summer of 1934 in his home village of Chibenik on the
Dalmatian coast. There, facing the neighbouring island of Martinska, he began to write Cahier
dun retour au pays natal, a long prose poem he did not complete until 1938, and at the same
time he wrote a thesis Le thme du Sud dans la littrature noire amricaine des usa.

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return home
and the journal tropiques
In September 1939, by way of a teacher, the journal Volonts published the first edition of
Cahier dun retour au pays natal, Csaires first masterpiece whose fiery power and orphic
quest make it a major work.
In 1937 Aim Csaire married Suzanne Roussi, a literature student and compatriot who, according
to Andr Breton, was as beautiful as the flame from punch, and whose works had recently been
published. He became the father of two children, and failed the agrgation exam in literature.
The Second World War had begun and the Csaire family returned to their homeland.
In Martinique he taught at the Lyce Schoelcher, but the combined effects of the embargo
introduced by the us and the Vichy regime further depressed living conditions on the
colony, subjected to a repressive regime. Vichys special envoy, Admiral Robert, even installed
detention camps. In reaction to the alienation and repression, Csaire and his wife Suzanne,
together with other French Antilles intellectuals, founded the journal Tropiques, which defied
the Vichy governments censorship.
The young teacher, Csaire, would soon influence an entire generation of young intellectuals
that included Frantz Fanon, Joseph Zobel and Edouard Glissant. The journal Tropiques, directed
by Aim and Suzanne Csaire, and supported by young intellectuals from the Caribbean, such
as Ren Mnil, Georges Gratiant, Aristide Mauge, and the Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier,
was determined to expose the reality in the region, and enquire, through research in botany,
geography, sociology or history, to create effective solidarity among Carribean peoples and
thus encourage the reappropriation of knowledge and identity. Despite difficulties, Tropiques
was published until 1943.
In April 1941 the transatlantic routes perilous, as a result of the war brought a number
of luminaries to Martinique, namely Claude Lvi-Strauss, the painter Wilfredo Lam, and
most notably, the father of surrealism, Andr Breton who recounted his trip in a short book
Martinique, charmeuse de serpents. When he chanced upon Cahier dun retour au pays natal
on a haberdashers counter, Breton was stupefied and dazzled to discover Csaires voice. A
deep friendship grew between the two poets. In Un grand pote noir, which Breton wrote in
1943 in New York as a preface to the bilingual edition of Cahier dun retour au pays natal, and
in 1944 for the collection Les Armes miraculeuses, he evokes how, in the darkest of the dramatic
days of the war and the depths of despair, he was touched by the regenerative power of Aim
Csaires poetry and the profound respect that immediately inspired him through the poetic
voice of the man who wanted to utter the great negro cry so direct that the earths foundations
will be shaken by it.

aim csaire

During a long trip to Haiti in 1944, Csaire delivered a lecture at Port-au-Prince University entitled
Poetry and Knowledge, which was addressed to a generation of young Haitian intellectuals,
such as Jacques Stephen Alexis and Ren Depestre who were climbing the Csaire Tree, finding
within the key to their struggle against colonization and acculturation. Csaire understood the
immense debt that humanity owed to Haiti. Haiti where ngritude first stood tall and said it
believed in its humanity was henceforth to play a crucial role in his commitment towards the
effective universality of human rights. In 1981 he devoted an historic essay to the pioneering
sacrifice of Toussaint Louverture, an emblematic figure among the heroes who freed themselves
from the ignominy of slavery, and who opened up the universal to all of humanity.

political involvement and


acceptance of the communist utopia
Seeing in him a symbol of renewal, the communist elites co-opted Aim Csaire, who, in 1945,
was elected mayor of Fort-de-France, then deputy for Martinique he held uninterrupted office
until 1993. As with many intellectuals from the South, he shared the belief that the anti-racist and
anti-capitalist legitimacy of communist ideology appeared to be the sole response in tackling the
deplorable economic and social conditions of the post-war era. In 1946 Csaire joined the French
Communist Party, and in 1947 he created the journal Prsence africaine with Alioune Diop.
In 1948 the Anthologie de la nouvelle posie ngre et malgache by Lopold Sdar Senghor was
published prefaced with an important text by Jean-Paul Sartre, LOrphe noir, in which Sartre
acknowledged the white worlds responsibility in the alienation of peoples suffering from colonial
ethnocentrism. At a time when the United Nations was adopting the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, and in strong solidarity with the struggle of colonized peoples, Sartre became
the spokesman for the stance by Western intellectuals in condemning the crime of humanitys
hierarchization of ethno-cultural components.
In the context of the start of the Cold War, like many intellectuals from the South, Csaire was
active in the mobilization of the communist cause. In complete fraternity with Pablo Picasso,
Paul luard and Jorge Amado, he took part in the 1st Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in 1948 in
Wroclaw (Poland), and travelled to East bloc countries where he witnessed the relations between
state authorities and the working class in democracies of the people. However, very quickly he
began to wonder about the contradictions he saw between the communist ideal and the social and
political reality of the people who were subjected to soviet fraternalism. In 1950 he published the
Discours sur le colonialisme in which he deconstructs the logic of the colonial system, denounces
repression of national liberation movements, and the colonial wars in Indochina and Madagascar,
and stresses what he believed to be a close relationship between Nazism and colonialism,
questioning the recurrence of hegemony in the birth of nations. The response received by the

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80

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Discours was unsurprising, and it became the founding text for an anti-colonialist humanism,
turning Csaire, whose power was evident, into the bte noire of conservative authorities and
colonialist thinking.
In 1950 Corps perdu was published, which Pablo Picasso illustrated. The thirty engraved plates
by the founder of cubism revealed the profound convergence that connected the painter of
Guernica with Csaire in creating a new politics based on respect for peoples and cultures, and
in which the specific contribution of Africa and the black world would finally find its place.
In his militant political action and in the French parliament, Csaire acquired the firm belief
that the dysfunctions between the communist utopia and soviet imperialism were increasing.
He accepted the fact that the struggle of colonized peoples against colonialism, and that of
people of colour against racism, were unique, and that discriminatory practices could not be
tolerated, especially between advanced peoples and backward peoples. Even before Stalins
crimes were exposed and confirmed by Khrushchev, it became painfully clear to Csaire that
communist ideology and its practice were turning out to be as imperialist and alienating as
its colonialist, neo-colonialist and imperialist versions because they betrayed the founding
ideal and joined in all the old paths that have led to deceit, tyranny and crime.
Opposed to the French Communist Party on the issue of de-Stalinization, Aim Csaire
resigned from the party in October 1956, writing a letter to Maurice Thorez, which in itself
was a contribution to the progress made by decolonization movements in Africa. Moreover,
setting ideology aside, it raised the question of emancipation and human rights, which were
at the centre of the historic initiative by colonized peoples in their determination to construct
a national identity. As a result, Csaire was forced to endure ostracism from both sides the
communist intelligentsia and the colonial authorities.

aim csaire

the man of culture


and his responsibilities
The cardinal principle in the long fight for the political and cultural liberation of colonized peoples
was political decolonization, but especially cultural, which was for Csaire the starting point
towards the reconciled universal and the emancipation of peoples. Indeed Csaire understood
that the colonial enterprise is to the modern world what Roman imperialism was to the ancient
world: a preparation for Disaster and forerunner of Catastrophe. A meticulous analyst of the logic
of history, he assessed the damage that was an inevitable consequence of colonization: disputes
on geographical borders, unstable boundaries and territories, the lust for natural resources,
competing ideological and geopolitical pressures, manipulation and irresponsibility on the
part of national politicians, and so on. Although Csaire knew that national independence
was an essential path yet fraught with pitfalls, he analysed the limits of the only political
independence that could be prepared by the Man of Culture and his responsibilities, for only
cultural emancipation based on shared belonging to the universal was able to protect both
colonized and colonizers against the recurrence of neo-colonialism, the evils of imperialism, the
flaws of power and the ensnarement of nationalism.
Faithful to this analysis, in 1956 Csaire became a member of the organizing committee of the 1st
International Congress of Black Writers and Artists, which took place at the Sorbonne and was
in direct line with the early twentieth century pan-African conferences in London, New York,
Brussels and Manchester. This first congress was followed by the 2nd International Congress of
Black Writers and Artists held in Rome in 1959, and two Festivals mondiaux des arts ngres in
Dakar (1966), where his friendship with Senghor was further strengthened in the meantime
he had become the president of independent Senegal and then in Lagos (1977).
The challenge of decolonization was then taken up by many European intellectuals, including
Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Roger Bastide, Basil Davidson and Michel Leiris, who gave their
unwavering support. The African Society of Culture was founded following the first congress to
unite in bonds of solidarity and friendship people of culture from the black world and the world,
to help create the necessary conditions for the flowering of national cultures and to cooperate in
developing and cleansing universal culture.

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the lessons of history


Finally, the 1960s was to be the decade of liberation and the end of colonialism throughout
the world. Having followed the struggle for civil rights in the us, many had hoped that the
movement that demolished the legal basis for racial segregation led by the complementary
action of Malcolm Xs combat and Martin Luther Kings non-violent resistance would allow
American democracy to open up to include the men and women whose ancestors had been
slaves; those who had created the nations prosperity, yet had been denied their right to civic
and political citizenship.
Csaire resumed his political commitment and founded the Martinique Progressive Party
(ppm) under which he would prepare and claim autonomy for Martinique; he believed that
the conditions were not yet ripe for political and economic independence. Moreover, the
particularly explosive context of the 1962 Cuban nuclear missile crisis, which diverted the
East-West conflict to the Caribbean, was threatening peaceful coexistence, bringing the world
to the brink of nuclear war.
The 1960s were the years of the Sun of Independence for the people of the African continent,
who were now confronted with planning their own destiny. Csaire made use of the polyphony
of theatrical work to lend support and his fervent solidarity to the first steps taken by the
African nations and their leaders. By 1946 he had already explored the mechanism of theatre
in Et les chiens se taisaient to express the revolt of his first tragic hero, Le Rebelle, an allegory
of redemption and a rejection of hate. Attentive to the pitfalls threatening political regimes
in Africa as they emerged from colonization, Csaire turned to history, took the pulse of the
present, revisited myth, and analysed the deep origins of catharsis as if he were in the agora
where the cities of ancient Greece were freeing themselves from Persian domination so that
he could teach African peoples on the lessons of history.
Thus his theatrical work was born, bearing a philosophy of history that introduced the AfricanEuropean-American triangulate, which embodied a verbal vision in which humour presented
the reverse side of life. Csaire pursued the ideal of transforming the real through consciousness
and reaffirmed his faith in Africa, as well as his lucid vision of the equal presence of all people
in the world, regardless of colour. These dramas, or rather tragi-comedies, were staged by JeanMarie Serreau director, friend and accomplice. It began with La Tragdie du roi Christophe in
1963, which recounted the Haitian epic and was inaugurated at the Festival mondial des arts
ngres in Dakar in 1966, followed by Une saison au Congo, the story of the birth of the Congo
around the figure of Patrice Lumumba, then finally in 1969, Une tempte adapted from The
Tempest by William Shakespeare.

aim csaire

85

denis de rougemont
sonia sekula
marcel duchamp

esteban frances
elisa breton

patricia m.
jackie matisse

yves tanguy
teeny

andr breton

madame nicolas calas

matta
aim csaire

susane csaire
nicolas calas

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aim csaire

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poet and patriarch


From 1958 to 1978 Csaire took up a seat in the French National Assembly as an independent
deputy, then aligned himself with the socialist group from 1978 to 1993. In 1980 he published
the collection Moi, Laminaire, followed in 1992 by Configurations and Comme un malentendu de
salut in 1994.
He was mayor of Fort-de-France up until 2001, where he introduced a cultural policy to bring
culture to the people, because poetry may arise from visiting a nursery or inspecting a sewer,
building a road can just as well lead to the birth of a poem.
Withdrawing from political life and receiving warm international tributes though he did
not seek them Csaire the poet remained above all a simple man, open to dialogue and a
fervent supporter of the re-founding of humanism in the context of globalization. Having lived
through the century, ever-ready to accompany human progress, Aim Csaire stayed true to his
island rock, where he assumed the obvious disproportion between his worldwide fame and the
narrow reality of the place where he lived, the le veilleuse (the island that observes) with which
he maintained an indestructible and umbilical connection. His loyalty to that speck of an island
borne from the spew of the volcanoes, and his unfailing simplicity are the legacies he bequeaths
to humanity, to look the century in the eyes.
Many visitors, intellectuals, artists, and politicians journeyed in pilgrimage to meet him. With
warmth and emotion he accepted the tribute made by unesco on its fiftieth anniversary. The
loss of Csaire on 20 April 2008 at 93 years of age brought immense emotion to those close to
him and the world over.

aim csaire

tagore, neruda, csaire, poetics, humanism and action

90

selection of works
by aim csaire
1939 - Cahier dun retour au pays natal, journal Volonts
1946 - Les Armes miraculeuses
1947 - Soleil cou coup
1950 - Corps perdu, illustrated by Pablo Picasso
1960 - Ferrements
1961 - Cadastre
1976 - uvres compltes (complete works, 3 volumes)
1982 - Moi, laminaire
1990 - Configurations

Theatre
1958 - Et les chiens se taisaient
1963 - La Tragdie du roi Christophe
1966 - Une saison au Congo
1969 - Une tempte daprs La Tempte de William Shakespeare: adaptation pour un thtre ngre

Speeches and essays


1948 - Esclavage et colonisation, Victor Schoelcher et labolition de lesclavage
1950 - Discours sur le colonialisme
1962 - Toussaint Louverture, La rvolution Franaise et le problme colonial

aim csaire

91

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4
FIVE CONVERGENT
THEMES
among the works by tagore,
neruda and csaire we can
identify at least five great
convergent themes that
resonate their message and help
to shed light on current issues.

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five convergent themes

1
poetry and art: a life force
Tagore, Neruda and Csaire defined
themselves above all as poets.
But do we hear the voice of poets
in the triumph of materialism and
consumerism that are typical of our age,
and which today appears to have
lessened the attention of poets words?
Yet poetry comes to us intact from
the depths of time as a primordial
communion through which the most
profound human aspirations to spiritual
elevation are expressed and shared,
an interpretation of chaos and the quest
for meaning. Since the appearance
of poetry, which was often linked to the
great founding myths, and throughout
human history in all civilizations, poetry
has expressed an individual aesthetic
message and an aspiration for the cohesion
of societies, but it also expressed a radical
critique, a humour and a resistance
to domination. Poetry and art alone can
speak of the repressed, the buried,
which they unearth from the magma
of consciousness, from the labyrinth
of memory or sensibility, and they proffer
contagious, regenerated, vibrant everyday
language and the human spirit.
Its etymology can be traced to the Greek
word (poiein), meaning create

and do; like other languages of art,


it is a life force that can withstand the iron
of barbed wire and the suffocation caused
by restrictions, solitude and servitude.
Well aware of this ability, the first reflex
of dictators is often to silence poets
or to force them into their service.
Art and poetry remain the irreplaceable
bearers of mediation between human
beings and the world. Reinventing
humanism might allow for a better
interpretation of poetry so that
it is better understood in all its forms,
seeking to encounter new accents
of orality that reflects the dreams
and revolts of youth.
It could allow for poetic and artistic
creation to nourish other sources
of knowledge that are concerned with
the quality of life on Earth and its spiritual
dimension so that it might make material
development compatible with lifecycles,
the mysteries of the sacred,
the brotherhood of humanity,
or the rhythm of natures forces.
How can we instill a new love of poetry?
To rediscover the poetic quality of life
and its disturbances; was it not said that
there was little need for a poet who
did not throw one into confusion.

poetry and art: a life force

95

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five convergent themes

tagore:
where experience finds
a poetical form
Rabindrnth Tagore was first and foremost a poet.
Consciously or unconsciously, I may have done many things that were untrue,
but I have never uttered anything false in my poetry that is the sanctuary
where the deepest truths of my life find refuge.
Whether it was his closeness to the rural world of the village, or the lessons learnt from
national politics, every experience became the foundation of Tagores creative writing in its
poetical form and sense.
I run through time and, O my heart,
in your chariot dances the poet who sings while he wanders.
For him, poetry was always connected with transcendence. He believed that the most
fundamental need for an individual was to achieve the union of beauty and goodness, as well as
an understanding of the mysterious, troubled connections within the fundamental aspects of life.
I am overwhelmed by this awareness of the baffling mystery within me
which l can neither understand nor control. I cannot see, nor am I consulted about,
what surges in my heart, what flows in my veins, what stirs in my brain.
The poets or artists mission is to resolve that mystery and, according to Tagores concept of infinite
love for life and nature, poetry was the way to access the aspect of divinity which has its unique
place in the individual life, in contrast to that which belongs to the universe. His poetry is inhabited
by a spiritual quest that tries to achieve the human, and establish the souls dialogue with the
divine and the infinite in the impalpable and almost amorous ecstasy of a mystical journey whose
profound, intuitive meaning is expressed by poetry alone.
Man is not complete; he still has to become so. Natural man strives to increase
his possessions. We cannot acquire a thing but to the extent of our needs;
our function is no longer to acquire but to be. The river can become the sea,
but it will never be able to make the sea part of itself. If, by some convergence
of circumstances, it comes to surround a vast stretch of water and so claims
that it has absorbed the sea, we know immediately that it is not true
and that the flow of the river still seeks its rest to which no limits can be assigned.
The profound spiritual dimension of his poetics has its source in eternal India, but also a strong
polytheistic inspiration connects it with the most ancient religious traditions, the Rishi and
Upanishads, which rise above material life, philosophy and religions, science and art. Beneath the
transparent cloak of the poetic word, this message, which is often too great to be expressed solely

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five convergent themes

by human speech, appears in Tagores inspiration through music, drama and dance. This means
he had been presented in the West as a powerful poetic wave that draws its strength from the
Ganges and the quintessence of mystical poetry.
Some Western intellectuals were determined to see even when Tagore was still alive only the
poets allegiance to orthodox Hindu faith and Indian spirituality, as imagined by Western orientalism,
or occasionally as caricatured by some young Bengali poets. However, the spirituality of Tagores
poetry transmits first of all an involvement in his century through an unconventional synthesis
of Hindu, Muslim, Mughal or Persian traditions. But Tagores poetic quest gives a meaning to the
endless activities. [] towards the perfection of being and gives the imperfection of becoming
that quality of beauty which finds its expression in poetry, drama and art. This quest is above all
human as for him it is a matter of revealing the visible and the invisible that human beings also
carry within themselves, and which radiates their presence in the world, as it illuminated Tagores.
I am sure that it was the idea of divine humanity unconsciously working in my mind
which compelled me to come out of the seclusion of my literary career
and take my part in the world of practical activities.
In the poet Tagores spiritual vision, which was opposed to extremist religiosity, the direct relationship
between human beings and the divine was without anguish, plunging into the various roots of
philosophy. Far from being a simple vision of mystico-religious poetry, it expresses his personal
journey through complex experiences as much religious as metaphysical of a man seeking
friendship with other people in order to discover and share the secret of the vital, universal force.
I have no sleep tonight.
Ever and again I open my door and look out on the darkness, my friend!
I can see nothing before me.
I wonder where lies thy path!
By what dim shore of the ink-black river, by what far edge of the frowning forest,
through what mazy depth of gloom,
art thou threading thy course to come to see me, my friend.
For Tagore poetry has its source in divine love as much as in contemplation of nature and a
love of human beings. Although subjected to the abomination of power and poverty, beyond
the limits of a painful, suffering ego, he believed humans aspired to a spiritual vision. Poetry
unlocks in the human soul the path to the self-fulfilment of love the purpose of every human
relationship with others and the world.
When a man feels life and the soul of the whole world beating in his soul, he is free. []
Then he knows he is part of those sumptuous celebrations of love,
he is a respected guest at the festival of immortality.
Letters, short stories, essays, novels and drama allowed him to express his convictions
and his responses in various forms, but always with a spiritual and poetic dimension, and
through poetry he could express his joy in observing love within nature, whether in pain from
witnessing suffering or in protest against wrong doings or in support for a humanitarian cause.

poetry and art: a life force

Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!


Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut?
Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!
He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the pathmaker is breaking
stones. He is with them in sun and in shower, and his garment is covered with dust.
Spirituality was embodied in Tagore, and to him, poetry is in and for the world. He believed
that the spiritual dimension of poetry nurtured practical views about nationalism, war and
peace, cross-cultural education, freedom of the mind, rational criticism, the need for openness,
and the aspiration to go deep into other cultures vision to improve mutual understanding
and overcome alienation and oppression. His patriotic poetry inspired the national struggle
and moved it forward. But his poems and songs, remarkably free of chauvinism, were full of
his love and concern for the human being, which was more fundamental to his being than his
commitment to nationalism or any ideology for that matter.
A poem must be animated by one complete idea. Each phrase of the poem touches
on this idea. When the reader grasps this idea which infuses the whole work,
his reading becomes full of joy for him. Each aspect of the poem takes on a radiant
meaning in the light of the whole. The progress of the soul is like a perfect poem
which, once brought into being, lends meaning and gladness to all its movements.
With his deepening sympathy for the suffering of millions in his country, the poet Tagore
emerged as a critic of imperialism, militant nationalism, dehumanization and isolationism.
He leaned towards a new international liberalism, and became a harbinger of hope through
his literary and musical creations and his reformist actions in politics and education.
I have spent my days tuning and untuning my lyre.
In the last years of his life, the Second World War sadly reminded him of the agony of the
Great War, which had thrust him into the public arena to preach the message of poetry for
peace. This situation made him all the more sad as he was too frail for activism. The sense of
helplessness was compounded by his loss of faith in modern civilization of the day.
Today, mans achievement
Is an ugly mockery
Announcing itself everywhere
The face of a monster.
Must I have to witness this ugly nightmare
By lighting a stormy lamp
In the twilight hour of my life?
Indias struggle for freedom, mans lust for gold, womens ambition, tragic heroines, romance,
frustrated hopes, ghosts, the limitations of human judgement, colonial rulers intransigence,
inhuman exploitation of the vulnerable, the helplessness and apathy of village society, for
Tagore all human experiences are ripe for poetic expression of activist humanism.
When life has lost its grace, come to me in an explosion of song.

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five convergent themes

neruda
the public service poet
Neruda tried to turn his labyrinthine life into a concrete expression of his initial vocation: to
become a poet in order to express the essential magnetism of the relationships concealed in
nature and between beings.
Man is deeply inclined towards poetry, from which liturgy, the psalms
and the essence of religion emerged. The poet delved into the ways of nature,
and in the earliest ages he became a priest to preserve his inner vocation.
Thus, in modern times, the poet acquires the titles handed to him on the street
by the people so that he can defend his poetry. The secular poet of today continues
to be a member of an ancient priesthood. Long ago, he made a pact with the darkness,
yet today he must interpret the light.
Neruda wanted above all to be the poet of his times, in his country, Chile, and then his
continent. A poet among poets; an existential role he assumed from his early youth as a shy
adolescent. Dressed in ritual black from my tender youth like the real poets of the last century,
he intended to devote his life towards highlighting the increasing need in the twentieth
century for people to use poetry as a vehicle to uncover their history, reach for their destiny,
and assume their identity. In his view, it was the poets mission, even if he is burnt to a crisp
in that secret brazier, to reconstruct the link between people and their history by reconciling
people with poetry without borders. If in his first book he retains an Epicurean image, the
poets words will arrive transferred into the goblet of other languages like a wine that sings
and spreads its bouquet into other places on earth, it was first of all for his native land that
Neruda wished to fulfil his destiny.
My poetry and my light have evolved like a river of America, like a torrent of Chilean
waters, born in the secret depths of the southern mountains, ceaselessly guiding
the current towards an outfall into the sea. My poetry did not reject anything
that the current carried with it; it embraced passion, developed mystery
and made its way into the hearts of the people.
For Neruda, because poetry had a wide reach it had to cover all the subjects on Earth, the
political chant, the image laden language of metaphor, the simple, day-to-day message, and
the love poem. Entire collections such as Veinte poemas de amor y una cancin deseperada or
Cien sonetos de amor have elevated Neruda as one of the twentieth centurys most authentic
love poets, singing of the beloved and, in the purest romantic and lyrical vein in the Iberian
tradition, enjoying their bodys material, sensual ecstasy, the felicity of the amorous union of
flesh, the polyphony of the thousand emotions in the experience of absence, presence, pain
and passion, or tenderness.

poetry and art: a life force

The light that from your feet rises to your hair,


the swelling that envelops your delicate form,
is not of mother of pearl, never of cold silver:
you are made of bread, of bread beloved of fire.
Flour raised its harvest with you
and it grew encouraged by the fortunate age,
when the grains mirrored your breasts
my love was the coal working in the earth.
It is probably down to his choice of poetic materialism that we attribute to Pablo Neruda one of
the most daring attempts at desacralization that poetry has ever known. Because of his vision of
the world, the poet chose to describe the chaos, the tumult of things, the simultaneous emotions,
the excessive, the monstrous, and the common everyday occurrences.
To the question:
Can poetry be of service to our fellow humans? Can it be part of peoples struggles,
I had really looked around enough in the domain of the irrational and the negative.
I had to stop and seek the path of humanism, which has been banished from
contemporary literature, but is deeply rooted in the human beings aspirations.
Neruda replies that his poetry is a public service, that it is defined by the indissociable bonds
between writing and commitment, humanism and poetic materialism, and that close bonds
connect epic and lyricism. Poetry is always an act of peace. The poem comes out of peace as
bread comes from flour. For Neruda the poem is a song that is shared as bread should be shared
like a familiar light that illuminates the most material and earthbound elements of existence
with a naked, intense language, for it is above all the ideology of language that creates the gulf.
His use of metaphor retains a traditional character so that comparisons between parts of the
female body and elements in nature can be drawn.
However, this poetic materialism carries a sense of immaterial elation originating from
nostalgia and personal emotion. Captivated by the grandeur of the epic, his poetry illuminates
from within its own words in a manifestation of the imaginary that speaks of:
all the colours of the rainbow. [...] Poetry is not static matter but a fluid current
that very often slips through the hands of the creator himself. Its raw material is made
of elements that are both real and unreal, existent and non-existent.
Neruda saw the mythology of the pote maudit as a bourgeois strategy to insulate poetry from
the people in a ritual imposed by a certain class, a certain society that he disapproved of, and
thought of as the old backward-looking middle class who were incapable of sensing the future
and living in the present. All Pablo Nerudas actions were aimed at the struggle against the
destructive, authoritative power of the bourgeois and the capitalist that wanted nothing more
than to silence meaningful poetry.

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poetry and art: a life force

Poor poets whom life and death


pursued with the same gloomy tenacity
and are then enshrined with impassive pomp
branded by the toothmarks of funerary rite.
That dogmatic dominant and conservative class concerned with maintaining its formality
imposed by an unwritten law that, the poet must be tortured, suffer. He must live in despair, he
must write tirelessly his song of despair, which Neruda rejected:
We poets have the right to be happy provided we are one with our peoples
in their fight for happiness. As poets we have ordered on the instant the revolt of joy.
The writer who is damned, the crucified writer are joining the rite of happiness
in this twilight of capitalism.
Neruda fully immersed himself in the communist ideal, opposed to a maudlin vision of a
conservative poetry, hostage to the elitist aesthetic, with the rebellion of joy, and sharing of,
the shared song. He provocatively affirmed:
I cast the black monarchy down,
the useless hairpiece of dreams,
stepped on the tail
of the imaginary reptile,
and set out the elements
water and fire
in harmony with man and the earth.
I want everything
to have
a handle,
everything to be cup or tool.
I want through my poetrys portal
to come the folk to the hardware store.
As far as Nerudas poetic subject is concerned, he should melt into the collective being, become
an invisible man whose song combines with the song of all human beings. Neruda confessed
in his Memoirs that his greatest pride was helping poetry to become respected by the people,
I have come through an arduous lesson of aesthetics and search,
through the labyrinth of thewritten word, to be the poet of my people.
That is my reward []
On the subject of peoples who like the Chilean and Latin American people were colonized
and whose identity was stolen by domination and imperialism, the poem should aspire to an
historical realism, using the methods of revolutionary romanticism. It should restore historys
protagonists, even if they are unknown, with the heroic dimension of their sacrifice, which had
been denied by the enemies of yesterday and today, whose crime should be condemned with
implacable harshness.

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five convergent themes

Land, people and poetry are one and the same entity linked by subterranean mysteries.
It is by placing oneself at the service of people that poetry projected in the light of hope and
optimism will find re-acceptance among human beings.
We are the chroniclers of a delayed birth. Delayed by feudalism, backwardness, hunger. It
is not only about preserving our culture, but freeing it with all our strength, nourishing
it and allowing it to flower.
Colonization, exploitation, acculturation, Neruda explored all subjects in order to draw them
from the shadows, including the most prosaic, the most obscure, the most humble ones.
There is no anti-poetic material having to do with our reality.
And we must accomplish this task.
The most obscure facts about our peoples must be brandished in full light;
our plants and flowers must be written and sung about for the first time.
Our volcanoes and rivers have been left in the dry spaces of textbooks;
may their fire and their fertility be delivered to the world by our poets.
Flora, fauna, volcanoes, rivers ... nothing is overlooked in the texts written and often recited
by Pablo Neruda who cherished the orality of poetic recitation, for instance in the many
readings and recitals he gave in Latin America, Europe or the US. The incantatory dimension
of the poem is part of the generosity of the word, whose power to awaken is infectious and
irreplaceable in the struggles for political liberation:
I was the last one to speak. When my name and that of my poem
New Song to Stalingrad were announced, something incredible took place:
a ceremony I will never be able to forget. No sooner had the immense crowd heard
my name and the poems title than they fell silent and took off their hats.
They removed their hats because after that strident political language,
my poetry was to speak, and through it, poetry itself.
I witnessed, from the height of the dais, the massive motion of hats:
ten thousand hands that descended in unison like an indescribable oceanic surge,
a silent tide, a black foam of dignified reverence. And so my poem grew and acquired,
like never before, its voice of war and liberation.
The voice of the poet, whose body is destined for the earth, continues beyond the communion
of the moment. It opens the window of unreality and the absolute. The poet captures in his
flesh, in the fruits of the Earth, the delicate curves of a womans body, or the stones of Las
alturas de Machu Picchu, the messages that survive the centuries. Beyond life his chant reflects
death, in which it is a repository, declaring:
I have been reborn many times, from the depths
of defeated stars, reconstructing the thread
of eternities.

poetry and art: a life force

csaire
the poetry of saying no
to the shadows!
[] Just as man needs oxygen to survive, he also needs art and poetry.
Indeed, he knows that, contrary to the claims of conceptual thought and ideology,
it is through art and poetry that the dialectic of man and the world is re-established.
Through art, the reified world becomes again the human world, the world of living
realities, the world of communication and participation. From a disparate collection
of things poetry and art remake the world, a world that is full, complete and harmonious.
That is why poetry rhymes with youth. It is that strength which restores to the world its
primordial vitality, which restores to each thing its aura of the marvellous by relocating
it with the original totality. So much so that saving poetry, saving art, equates absolutely
to saving modern man by repersonalizing man and by revitalizing nature.
From his earliest work, poetry was the founding voice for Aim Csaire. Poetry and art are
forms of total communication, beyond common language, viscerally connected to all who
participate in a creative urge, in dialogue and the universalization of values for the liberation
of the human and the peoples humanization.
[...] I maintain that poetry, true poetry, is truth, that it is the Truth, fundamental,
the truth from the depths of being.
The word, the poetic diction is the first conquest to spring from colonial oppression. More
than anyone else the colonized individual feels the incompleteness of humanity. Following
alienation and faced with the process of dehumanization, the act of rebuilding is like emerging
from the depths of history, from the hell of humiliation or misery.
In the bleak early dawn those lands without stelae, those paths
without memory, those winds that scribe no wax,
does it matter?
We would speak. Would sing. Would cry aloud.
Voice that swells, voice that spreads, you would be our property,
our direction marker.
Mere words?
Oh yes, words!
The first line in Calendrier lagunaire reads, ... jhabite une blessure sacre [I inhabit a sacred wound].
The fire of revolt remains unquenched after three centuries of simmering heat during which a
people and its memory were excluded from the human race, expelled from world history. After a
long night of humiliation only poetry could accompany le Rebelle, the emblematic hero of human
dignity, so that he could win freedom and rehabilitate himself by transcending hate.

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poetry and art: a life force

[...] We are the historical result of all Historys acts of violence, frustrated by our countries,
frustrated by our languages, frustrated by our religions, frustrated by ourselves.
That is what decided my poetic vocation. My poetry has no other meaning.
It is a matter of reconquering, reappropriating...
[...] Here poetry equals insurrection.
The truth is that, for nearly a century now, poetry has been going at a breakneck speed,
an explosive speed ... our heritage has been fevers, earthquakes, and poetry must not stop
proclaiming it in order to be valid. We intend to remain faithful to poetry,
keep it alive: like an ulcer, like a panic, images of catastrophe, falling and deliverance,
endlessly devouring the liver of the world.
In this sense art and poetry are political catalysts that open peoples consciousness to one
another, making minds permeable to the diverse visions of the world, making them porous to
all the breaths from the world. Albeit from a simple breath, they postulate other civilizations
with an equal belonging to humanity.
with a lick of sky on a lump of land
prophet of islands lost like loose coins
no sleep no waking no fingers no bait-lines
when the tornado passes ratting bread from the huts
Poetry is the Arme miraculeuse [miraculous weapon] against the deterministic, mechanistic,
specialized logic that breaks the springs of being, with its operational value: with its dual face
of nostalgia and prophecy, it offers salvation because it recuperates Being and intensifies life.
It is no surprise that other poets, at various moments in history, have asked the same question.
Among them Csaire was happy to quote the German romantic poet Hlderlin who said, The
poet retains the trace of the gods who have withdrawn, and shows his mortal brothers the
way back An art of the depths, poetry occupies the dimension of the sacred for it liberates
the human being from the narrow limits of individualization, the degradation of ancient
solidarities, the weakening of meaning.
I would recover the secret of great communications and great combustions.
I would tell of the storm. I would tell of the river. I would tell of the tornado.
I would tell of the leaf. I would tell of the tree. I would be drenched by all the rains,
dampened by all the dews. I would flow like frenetic blood on the slow current
of the eye of words, like mad horses, like fresh children, like clots, like curfew,
like remains of temples, like precious stones remote enough to discourage miners.
The person who could not understand me would not understand
the tigers roar any better.
What purpose does the poet serve in a world that seems to distance itself from poetic diction?
The question is taking on a fresh relevance in the context of todays world. For Csaire reification
does not only affect colonized people, struggling to reconstitute their fallen humanity. The

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five convergent themes

process of degradation of the reified human being threatens all people when they find themselves
exposed to the yoke of hegemony, imposing its alienating values on cultures be they the dominated
or the dominant. Taking into consideration the efficiency of materialisms power to contaminate, its
arrogance and its messianic character, Csaire the poet understood the seriousness of the threat
represented by materialism, controlling and spreading, unimpeded over nations and peoples of
both the North and South. Speaking from experience as one who was colonized, he anticipated the
reification of the consciousness and its effects on the logic of humanity reduced to monologue.
At the opening of the first Festival mondial des arts ngres in Dakar in 1966, Csaire lucidly and
objectively observed,
Whether we like it or not there is at the present time an eminent, tentacular civilization.
Because it is clear that now we have entered the era of the finite world ...
Still more, with modern European thought was borne a new process ... a process
of reification, that is, the thingification of the world ... The consequence you know,
it is the appearance of the mechanized world, the world of efficiency but also the world
in which people themselves become things. In short we are facing a gradual devaluation
of the world, which leads quite naturally to an inhuman world on whose trajectory lie
contempt, war, exploitation of humans by humans.
Because it awakens consciousness and nourishes the mind, the miraculous weapon that is the
poem must be heard. For Csaire it is a priority against the spectre of de-culturation created by
poverty and injustice. Artistic and poetic creativity is the way to reconquering meaning. Today,
even though the thread may appear severed, poetry in all its forms oral and written still and
always will show the way.
Lets go down again
the patient path weve used
deeper than the roots the path of the seed
the arbitrary miracle shuffles the cards
but no miracle occurs
only the strength of the seeds
in their obstinacy of dying
to speak is to go where the seed will go
deep into the black secret of numbers.
In opposition to the omnipresence of the machine, the hypertrophy of profit, the collapse of
hope, it is from art and poetic diction that the essential addition to being emerges.
If we needed proof I would say that we have only to realize that never has the need
for poetry been felt so much, never have people given themselves up, never clung
to poetry so desperately as a last plank of salvation, as emerging from those periods full
o sound and fury called wars, as that war, be it hot or cold, precisely emerging
from those periods when non-communication and thingification are exacerbated
to an utterly intolerable degree. The salvation of the world depends on its ability
to hear and listen to those words.

poetry and art: a life force

For Aim Cesaire the function of the poet and artist is to respond to a duty to illuminate in the
midst of the worlds torment.
The poet is that very complex and very simple being, very young and very old,
who at the edges of dream and reality, between absence and presence, sees and receives,
as internal cataclyms suddenly erupt, the password of complicity and power.
In opposition to silence, their mission is to shed light on the underside of things, to say no
to the shadows, to pass through the illusory looking-glass of possession, and make accessible
ontological fullness reconstituted.
The poets social function is a duty of diction in order to prepare for the coming century. For
Aim Csaire, this duty is part of the oral traditions of Africa, which are alive in Caribbean and
centro-American expressions. But poetry also emerges from the orality of all cultures, be they
rural or urban, from North or South, as an individual and collective challenge that refutes the
abdication and disappearance of values. Poetry reveals its multiple facets and the mobilizing,
regenerative power of diction all over the world when, in music and rhythm, it speaks of the
youth of the world, and responds to the moral insistence not to be silenced, to give voice to
resistance and bring hope.
The person with the charge of speech knows instinctively that their speech
is universalizing and that beyond individual uniqueness, beyond difference,
there is the community of all human beings.
The operative re-humanizing dimension of poetry contributes towards the universal, it is poetrys
mission to occupy the streets, the squares, the walls to stimulate a vast movement for life, bound
to an encounter with the other and to necessary reconciliation. Because poetry can revive
memory, revolt, joy or myth, it conjures up the fragmentation and denial of human strength.
Poetry is fulfilment. Fulfilment. Of people on a worldwide scale; a dizzying expansion.
And we may say that all great poetry, without ever ceasing to be human,
at a very mysterious moment stops being strictly human and starts to be truly cosmic....
Big with the world, the poet speaks...

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2
for a new pact of meaning
between humanity and nature
The need to rethink the representation
of humanity, its activities, and its place
in the natural environment in which
it is an integral part, is the subject
of increasing international awareness
and debate. By their humanist
commitment, Tagore, Neruda and Csaire
realized the crucial need to align the
material and collective development
of humanity with nature long before
the ecological and environmental
question had become the serious and
pressing issue that it is today.
Their pioneering visions remind us
that human beings respect
and love for nature have long united
the wisdoms of Western and non-Western
civilizations, whether Hindu, African
vitalist or traditional Amerindian,
from an infinitely large cosmos to
an infinitely small drop of water or a leaf.
It is true that through their respective
homelands, they were confronted with
the apocalyptic imminence and power
of earthquakes, such that their
interpretation of history and their deep
understanding of spiritual forces probably
provided them with their anticipatory
vision with regard to human induced
catastrophes. When humanity claims
to be able to control natural phenomena
and cycles with economic, technological
and scientific misjudgment, yet questions
the division caused between humans
and the environment as a result of
the excesses of industrial development.
The current ecological mobilization

is a result of environmental dysfunction


that is widespread on a global scale.
Natural sites have become degraded,
ecosystems have become contaminated,
and increasingly frequent human errors
have caused catastrophes from chemical
pollution and deforestation, wreaking
havoc and devastation. Given the modest
results of political decisions and
the markets cynicism, these controversies
seem to denounce this growing awareness
as another dogma that only feeds
new sources of profits, and sparks
scientific rivalries and political hype.
Nevertheless, after nearly two centuries
of frenetic and irresponsible activity,
the consequences of an anthropocentrism
based on commerce is there for all to see,
and is clearly wrong.
We are at the dawn of a new consensus
on the environmental issue at the
geopolitical level, but not without
a good dose of genuine fear,
contradictory over-cautiousness
and commercial exploitation.
It thus appears essential to go beyond
the materialist and political approach
and sign a new pact with nature
that is not restricted to an immediate
utilitarianism or a temporary measure
to offset a looming disaster. This pact
of meaning is pivotal in order to engage
in a humanistic, sustainable review
on the meaning of development,
which Tagore, Neruda and Csaires
convergent message urges us to do,
as soon as possible.

112

five convergent themes

tagore
and maya, mother nature
Rabindrnth Tagore believed that nature and culture were intimately linked. On one level,
he considered culture as a physical response to the beauty of nature; and at another, as an
emotional or spiritual response. His conception of nature as a permanent creative movement
reflected his cultural background.
Necessity seems to be the only thing in nature for which everything moves
and works; the bud becomes the flower, the flower becomes the fruit,
the fruit becomes the seed, the seed becomes a new plant and so it goes;
the chain of activity goes on without interruption.
It was in remaining loyal to the Indian tradition of the Upanishads, while being appropriately
informed about the choices and processes being introduced by industrial civilization whose
beginnings he had observed in the West, that Tagore analysed the materialistic rupture with
living things. He foresaw the gravity of the ecological issues that would one day challenge
the world as a result of the Western conception of modernity and progress as an end in itself.
Where human beings wish to walk only the tightrope of humanity, where the arrogance of
human beings, who saw themselves as superior to the natural elements and in its frantic search
for profit, were propogating a predatory approach, sacrificing communities in the process and
contemptuous of nature, which was only nurturing the rupture between humanity and the
world in all its destructive facets.
When, through the mental and physical barriers that we erect, we bluntly separate
ourselves from the inexhaustible life of nature, when we become just men,
and no longer man in the universe, then we create fearful problems
and when the fount of their solution has run dry, we essay all sorts of artificial processes,
each of which brings with it a rich harvest of interminable difficulties.
For Tagore, human societys progress had to keep alive the intimate relationship between the
individual and the universe, while respecting the activity and rhythm of the universe with
otherwise irreversible consequences. If humanity can use natural forces for its own ends, it is
solely because its power is in harmony with universal power; in the end the aim of its effort
can never be in contradiction with the one manifested in nature. Tagore vigorously denounced
material and industrial progress that planned the exploitation of others, which he understood
was inseparable from the pride of having destroyed nature. When human beings consciousness
is limited only to the immediate neighbourhood of their human ego, the deepest roots of their
nature do not find the soil natural to them.

for a new pact of meaning between humanity and nature

Based on such a clear vision, ecology and the environment enjoy a central place in Tagores
writing. His discourse is replete with references to the planet Earth and its flora, as well as the
vast universe and its stars. His poetry constantly refers to humanitys bond with the earth. To
him, the earth was not a remote and abstract phenomenon.
I feel the tenderness of the grass in my forest walk
The wayside flowers startle me
That the gifts of the infinite are strewn in the dust
Wakens my song in wonder
I have seen, have heard, have lived; in the depth of the known
Have felt the truth
That exceeds all knowledge, which fills my heart with wonder
And I sing
In the imagery he used to describe nature, he often made reference to a mother, the cosmic
Maya in Hindu mythology, where motherhood represented the Earth and the guiding force
granted to human beings by universal nature. For Tagore, who was a holistic thinker, likening
nature to motherhood was a way of stimulating compassion for ecology; he never lost sight
of the whole even when concentrating on the parts. He saw human beings as part of the
universe, not separate from it, and believed that humans should live in harmony with its natural
environment.
Black moonless night
Has imprisoned the world, plunged it into nightmare
And this is why
With tears in my eyes, I ask:
Those who have poisoned your air, those who have extinguished your light,
Can it be that you have forgiven them?
Tagore knew that deforestation was occurring not just in India, but also in the Americas as part
of the Western conception of development, which had dominated the industrial revolution.
The West glories, it seems, in thinking it can tame nature as though we were living
in a hostile world, where we have to tear all our necessities from a strange and
recalcitrant environment. In the life of the city [...] there results an artificial disjuncture
between itself and universal nature within whose womb it reposes.
Aware of the global dimension of the problem, he forewarned of the need to protect forests
from human greed everywhere in the world. In the days when global warming was unknown,
he was sensitive to the dangers of atmospheric warming in India as a result of deforestation.

113

O YOU SHAGGY-HEADED BANYAN TREE STANDING


ON THE BANK OF THE POND,
HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THE LITTLE CHILD,
LIKE THE BIRDS THAT HAVE NESTED IN YOUR
BRANCHES AND LEFT YOU?
DO YOU NOT REMEMBER HOW HE
SAT AT THE WINDOW
AND WONDERED AT THE TANGLE OF YOUR ROOTS
THAT PLUNGED UNDERGROUND?
THE WOMEN WOULD COME TO FILL
THEIR JARS IN THE POND,
AND YOUR HUGE BLACK SHADOW
WOULD WRIGGLE
ON THE WATER LIKE SLEEP STRUGGLING
TO WAKE UP.
SUNLIGHT DANCED ON THE RIPPLE LIKE
RESTLESS TINY SHUTTLES WEAVING
GOLDEN TAPESTRY.
TWO DUCKS SWAM BY THE WOODY MARGIN
ABOVE THEIR SHADOWS,
AND THE CHILD WOULD SIT STILL
AND THINK.
HE LONGED TO BE THE WIND AND BLOW
THROUGH YOUR RUSTLING BRANCHES,
TO BE YOUR SHADOW AND LENGTHEN
WITH THE DAY ON THE WATER,
TO BE A BIRD AND PERCH ON YOUR
TOPMOST TWIG,
AND TO FLOAT LIKE THOSE DUCKS AMONG
THE WEEDS AND SHADOWS.

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five convergent themes

Relying on imagery borrowed from Hindu mythology, he insisted that the atmospheric
warming of deforested regions in northern India was exceeding its tolerable limit. In India,
the point of view was different; human beings and the world were lumped together in a single
great truth. Tagore made repeated references to humanitys rapacity and its exploitation of
nature for selfish gain. In an article Palliprakriti (Natures nature), he also highlighted the fact
that depleting the Earths soil and stripping the Earths forest cover were the main reasons
behind atmospheric warming. In a poem Swargo hothey biday (Farewell from Heaven), written
as early as 1895, he wrote:
Ah, mother,
pauperized, afflicted, tearful, tarnished earth,
after so many days at last today my heart
stirs with weeping for your sake, alas!
It was at his school, in the rocky laterite soil of Santiniketan, that he introduced Briksha Ropan,
a tree planting festival as well as Halakarsan, a plough ceremony to celebrate the first draw of
the plough. These initiatives were borne from Tagores organic conception of nature, and which
were attempts to draw attention to the damaging effects of industrialism on the planet in the
absence of ecological considerations. He voiced this anxiety when he wrote:
Give back those woods, take away these cities.
Together with the practice at Santiniketan of teaching under the trees in the embrace of nature,
with the students feet touching the soil and their heads under the sky in a training of the
senses, these festivals inspired respect for the omnipresence of nature.
How one likes the light dancing from leaf to leaf.
A major genre of Tagores poetic output is the song dedicated to the flowers, trees, skies and
air quality that characterize Indian seasons. While depicting the changing beauty of Bengali
landscapes, such poems encourage respect and an appreciation of the intrinsic values of natural
phenomena, in contrast to the capricious and unpredictable limit of humanitys action, purpose
and vital need. In the geographic context of India, Tagore could not forget that tornadoes
often occurred during pre-monsoon months and that the Indian subcontinent had a history of
devastating earthquakes. He thus considered nature as a potentially explosive environmental
structure that could destroy the most vulnerable human existence, like the terrible earthquakes
that shook the Shillong Plateau in 1897 and Bihar in 1934.
Then came an angry uproar. Torn-off scraps of cloud hurried up from the west
like panting messengers of evil tidings. Finally, lighting and thunder,
rain and storm, came jostling together and executed a mad dervish dance;
The bamboo clamps howled as the raging wind swept the ground like
a giant snake-charmers pipe, and to its rhythm swayed hundreds and thousands
of crested waves, like so many hooded snakes.

for a new pact of meaning between humanity and nature

An opportunity arose for him to live in the countryside to supervise Hindu and Muslim farmers
living on his familys agricultural estates in east Bengal. These years brought him into intimate
contact with nature and the lives of ordinary folk. During most of that time, he lived and sailed
on his boat Padma, cruising the rivers and observing life through the portholes of his boat,
where a whole new world of sights, sounds and sentiments opened up before him. The exterior
world of nature fascinated him and it became a source of deep reflection in his works. For
example he wrote:
Once again I wake up when the night has waned
When the world opens all its petals once more,
And this is an endless wonder.
His experiences of a powerful, generous nature inspired Tagore to write a large collection of
personal reinterpretations of Indian classical melodies or ragas that evoke in a spiritual way
the cosmic dimension of nature. Beyond the beauty of his native Bengal, he lived and wrote
about the common land that human beings from East to West had to share, with the strong
sense of a shared humanity and proactive responsibility.
Those who are close to the spirit of the earth, those who are made and shaped by her,
and who will find their final rest in her, of them I am the friend, I am the poet.

117

118

five convergent themes

neruda
and his pact with the earth
In Nerudas work, nature is not simply a landscape, it is the place of the cohabitation by night
of lives and deaths it is the matrix, the material mother. It determined the poets song, and
beyond that, the relationship between humans and nature became a symbol and model for the
rapport between beings.
In the core of his memory, his pact with the earth was signed like an initiation rite.
[] my poetry was born between river and hillside, it borrowed the rains voice
and like wood it was impregnated with the forests. [...]
My life is a long winding journey, which returns to the southern forest, the lost forest.
His geological poetry speaks of the universe in powerful metaphors, unleashing images and
rhythms.
Hold my hand in this rupture of the planet
while the scar of the purple sky fades to a star.
Ah! but I remember, where are they?, where are they?
Why does the earth boil, gorging on death?
O masks beneath the devastated dwellings, smiles
that have not touched the horror, creatures dismembered
under the beams, blanketed by night.
The pact on which Nerudas edifice rests is situated both in the domain of poetic creation and
the humanistic consciousness, demonstrating humanitys acknowledgement of its material
origin, and so the dependence on the world of the earth or sea that he transforms.
In chalky, barren lands
borderedby the sea, along
the rocky Chilean coast,
at times only
the radiance of your offerings
reaches the empty
table of the miner.
Neruda is fascinated by the infinite diversity of the world: plants, insects, shellfish, fruits, books
and objects of all sorts, animate or inanimate beings nothing escaped his curiosity. Pablo
Nerudas poetry can marvel before the beauty of an object, but does not stop at its colour or
form. The Nerudian poetic subject travels within objects in order to grasp their material essence,
as in his Oda a la manzana (Ode to the apple).

for a new pact of meaning between humanity and nature

You, apple,
are the object
of my praise.
I want to fill
my mouth
with your name.
I want to eat you whole. []
Compared
to you
the fruits of the earth are
so awkward: bunchy grapes,
muted
mangos,
bony
plums, and submerged
figs.
You are pure balm,
fragrant bread,
the cheese
of all that flowers.
Exiled from his continent, in Las uvas y el viento Pablo Neruda presented himself as the son
of vast solitudes with virgin forests, majestic volcanoes and untamed rivers, in contrast with
Europe and its age-old urbanization, its twisted streets and solemn libraries, a deserted world
but still populated with injustice and suffering.
Arboreal America,
wild bramble between the seas,
from pole to pole you pitched and tossed,
green treasure, your dense undergrowth.
The night germinated
in cities of sacred pods,
in sonorous timbers,
outstretched leaves covering
the germinal stone, the births.
Green womb, seminal
American savannah, dense storehouse,
a branch was born like an island,
a leaf was shaped like a sword,
a flower was lightning and medusa,
a cluster rounded off its resume,
a root descended into the darkness.

119

120

five convergent themes

Against todays industrialized massacre, humanity is faced with the first great ecological
catastrophes in which it contemplates from space the planet it inhabits, becoming conscious
of its position as an earthling, and thus taking stock of its life and era in an apocalyptic vision.
Everything breaks and falls. Everything vanishes and passes by.
It is the pain that howls like a madman in the woods.
The loneliness of night. The loneliness of my soul.
The scream, the howling. There is nothing left on earth!
A dream haunts Nerudas poetry, that of a man whose activity and work would not be
antagonistic to his natural origins nor harm the elements of nature in the life before him.
The earth made man its punishment.
It deposed beasts, abolished mountains,
scrutinized the eggs of death.
The childhood home could be an example or symbol in the heart of the southern forest, from the
simple construction of a pioneers house, the tree-house in Fin de mundo. It is this rootedness to
the earth that Neruda the traveller often uprooted by exile evoked.
My soul! My soul! Root of my wanderthirst,
droplet of light that wards off the attacks of the world.
My flower. Flower of my soul. Land of my kisses.
Bell-peals of my tears. Whirlpool of my whispers.
Live water that runs its complaint through my fingers.
Blue and winged like the birds and the smoke.
My nostalgia, my thirst, my angst and my fear gave you life.
And you burst into my arms like the fruit in the flower.

121

122

five convergent themes

csaire
in the very navel of the world
Aime Csaire was born in the foothills of Mont Pele, a few years after the violent eruption
in 1902 of the volcano that guarded his native island, and which destroyed the neighbouring
town of Saint-Pierre.
A Russian writer is marked by the steppes, a Nordic writer is marked by the snow,
I am marked by the natural world of Martinique. I am tempted towards pantheism,
I would like to be all things! I would like to be all the elements.
But its true, I have always been fascinated by the tree.
All that is part of my image world [...]
The Antilles are never just about the mountain, about the water
and the mountain first. Very early, for me, the mountain became the volcano.
In that as well, you find a precise process of geographical determination [...]
We are all children of the volcano...
The islands geography was, in his opinion, the first point of anchor because people originated
from their geography and this would ensure that their corporal condition lay in communion
with, and absorbed into the very navel of the world. This coming together is that of the
individual, the laminaria seaweed clinging to its rock in order to whip the ocean still harder,
or the fromager-baobab rooted in the still smoking lava to spew its serrated branches towards
the immemorial sky. The fact is every island calls, every island is widowed, even if for
Csaire nature was first and foremost his home island, paradoxical, contradictory, absolute,
welcoming, cramped, grandiose and unstable. ...And my unfenced island, its clear audacity
rising up behind that polynesia, a geography of suffering, of cosmic risk, of the nights baleful
tongue, the wound embedded in the flesh of the triangular route across the Atlantic:
no bit of world that doesnt bear my fingerprint
Island scar upon the waters
Islands traces of past wounds
Crumbs of Islands, shapeless Islands.
In the eternity of the elements, catastrophe awaits. Cyclones, tornadoes, eruptions, tsunamis,
floods and earthquakes threaten at any moment to obliterate the blue sky, and the palm tree
into oblivion. The poet thus perceives nature in its unpredictable, dual dimension. A violent,
arid, incendiary, cataclysmic nature that can occasionally destroy people, in contrast to a
maternal nature that is nourishing, tender, regenerative, fragile, green and sublime, whose
generosity and splendour poets acknowledge and in which they must live, respecting the
complex equilibrium they cannot control.
Things, things, its to you that I turn
my limp face of violence torn in the depths
of the whirlwind

for a new pact of meaning between humanity and nature

my gentle face of frail coves where waters warm


I am Terror, it is I who am
brother to the volcano of wordless certitude who ponders the indefinable sure.
Humanity has no other choice than to live in total harmony with its natural source. The
animism or vitalism that beats in Csaires thought is seeking the path that enables him to
marry those living flows, irrigating his communication with his roots, with the nourishing sap
of a nature that nourishes humanity, not only healing but regenerating it in the immensity
from the infinitely small and the infinitely large. In us the people of all times. In us all
humanity. In us the animal, the vegetable, the mineral. Human beings are not only human.
They are a universe ...
The large-scale nature of the Tropics frees it from the narrowness of his island, that little
elliptical trembling nothing, projecting it towards an infinite elsewhere, porous to all the
breaths of the world. Belonging to nature, understanding it is a capillary immersion in
consciousness so as to better emerge and rediscover the living harvests of Memory.
What are you
You who understand what the islands say
What message do you bring to us in violence and kindliness
But that, within a voices reach
Within reach of hand, of a conchs call
Within reach of heart and bravery
A word afar a word on high raises the sword tree and the hope
Sword floating upon the abyss.
Nature is a school of life, or even the school of life, and its observation is within the reach of
all of us. Borne from the spewing volcanoes, the poet encounters and observes every leaf,
every tree trunk, every sewer, every junction on his territory, particularly each tree because
for him A tree is a whole morality: rooting, shooting up, unfolding, flowering, pollinating,
germinating to return to its initial root. That is the cycle of life; a lesson offered to humans.
In us the people of all times. In us all humanity. In us the animal, the vegetable,
the mineral. Human beings are not only human. They are a universe ...
It is in the immersion, the knowledge and the experience of belonging to the earth, through
proximity or distance and interwoven with daily gestures, that the human race can live in
peace with the order of things, with the generosity and empathy of space and time, becoming
imbued with the cosmic energy that governs the universe to which it belongs.
According to Aim Csaire, for millennia at its gentle magical pace human history has been
advancing. It does not command the elements nor does it attempt to measure the force of the
volcano, unleashing of the ocean, or the arrival of the tornado. On the scale of the elements in
the cosmos, the wisdom of peoples has for a long time known that it is just a half sleep of an
island, so troubled on the sea. But this cosmic force is also the fertile Mother Earth, frentically

123

124

five convergent themes

agitating the pollen in a disproportionate coexistence that determines the human dimension
in its weakness as much as its greatness.
[...] an astounding mobilization of all human and cosmic forces...
the precious whirlwind: the I, the self, the world... Everything has the right to life.
Everything is called. Everything waits...
In the twenty-first century, despite advances in science, earthquakes remain the ultimate
test for human societies, which they must accept in solidarity and dignity, with courage and
stoicism to continue on the road for years and centuries.
[] towards the place where looms the inexhaustible injunction
men cast before the knotty jeering of the hurricane,
since Elam, since Akkad, since Sumer.
Putting aside this unsurmountable paradigm and its inevitable consequences, the inherent
vulnerability of humans is made worse not just by their inability to communicate the
celebration of natures powers but, more importantly, because of their irresponsible actions
breakdowns and dysfunctions addung to the cosmic risks of hurricanes or earthquakes
that cause predictable catastrophes with real but immeasurable consequences. The inability
to coexist with the other species in the animal, plant and mineral kingdoms that share the
same climatic cycles is a moral catastrophe awaiting humanity since the begining of time.
These combined crimes expose humanity to the implacable wrath of Nemesis as it projects
humanity into excess and exposes it to the absurd demonstration that nature remains the
inexhaustible sap of all material progress.
There are many texts in which Csaire urges us to rediscover the wisdom of a human
presence and action that is in harmony with nature, for instance, in the collection Les Armes
miraculeuses (1944), in Les Forts vierges he denounces some of the excesses of urban sprawl
and evokes, in a bitingly sarcastic tone, the catastrophes invented and caused by humanity,
for example, in the concrete jungle of modern megacities:
I am not of those who think that a city should not keep rising till it falls in ruin
one more round the waist, the neck. The floor will be the trigger for the headland;
I am not of those who fight against the spread of slums; one more shitty job
and it will become a real mire. Sure, the power of a city is not in inverse ratio
to the dirt that grimes its washerwomen, for me I know well the basket
where my head will never roll again.
Csaire denounces the Promethean anthropocentrism expressed in a shortsighted vision of
development that is being realized at the expense of the environment, destroying natures
cycles in all its forms. This materialistic attitude, bordering on blindness, no longer respects
living things, and in the guise of knowledge and modernity reveals its needy ignorance. It is
felt by the poet as a deviance of a civilization that also colonizes nature to which it applies its
self-destructive principles of conquest and destruction, without the realization that this will
lead to its own demise.

for a new pact of meaning between humanity and nature

A civilisation which shows itself incapable of solving the problems caused by the way
it works is a decadent civilisation.
A civilisation which wilfully shuts its eyes to its most crucial problems is a civilisation
already smitten.
A civilisation which finds ways to get around its principles is a moribund civilisation.
In this context, human arrogance is threatening individual and collective survival. The
weakness of many human beings is that they do not know how to become a stone or a tree.
Csaire the poet and activist fully understood the reductive effect of this predatory double
paradigm, which carries with it a geological anger in the face of this devastation. All the more
irresponsible extending the logic of colonialism at the service of hegemony that it adds
to other political, social and cultural dysfunctions, affecting the global community both in
terms of economic and social relations as well as cultural and ontological values. He sees the
self-destructive mechanism of a society mirred in an erroneous conception of development,
leading to the very heart of the Souths agony and misery because it threatens values, creation
and culture in what they possess that is most durable, most essential.
The meteorites embraces
the fierce disembowlment of volcanoes from where
eagles play
the thrust of sub-continents straining they too
against submarine passions
the mountain sending its cavalcades of contagious
rocks bounding down at full gallop
my voice that grasps angers
suns to calculate my beingnatal nativecyclones of violet cyclopeswhat matters
the insolent emberflint held high to kindle the nightexhausted by doubt
about revivingthe strength to see tomorrow dawn.

125

126

127

128

five convergent themes

3
emancipation from oppression:
in reciprocity and rights
Working in conflict or post-conflict
areas to build the reconciled
universal does not mean forgetting
peoples struggles for liberty
and dignity. Emancipation
of peoples, civic peace, social justice
and dialogue in reciprocity and rights,
these are the goals that have guided
several generations of men and women,
often at the cost of blood and sacrifice,
who have fought to win and share
political, social, economic and cultural
rights, and participate in the universal.
These are the foundations on which
Tagore, Neruda and Csaire were
committed, as active visionaries,
proposing a dialogue based on
the integrity of the human being,
despite the difficult historical
and geocultural contexts and
as different as they were in Asia,
the Indian sub-continent, Latin America
or the Caribbean at the crossroads
between Europe and Africa.
Their project was not to put history
on trial, but to contribute
to the emancipation of peoples
by freeing them from political
oppression while eradicating
the moral or intellectual servitude
that threatens us all.
The anti-colonial struggle of these three
men, who spoke from the South,
was a fight by determined humanists,
convinced that rule of law would prevail
over exclusion, sectarianism, extremism,

racism or intolerance, and that


the inalienable values of a responsible
universal were not the prerogative
of a few people or the monopoly
of a few groups within society.
These goals are still a long way off
in the current global context,
which sees the culmination of a process
set in place since the birth of industrial
civilization, and where a number
of factors lead us to the conclusion
that the current crisis is global
and systemic, because it is the product
of contradictions that stem directly
from the logic of colonialism
and imperialism, multiplied
by technological, consumerist
and materialist expansion.
Economic war, social exclusion, religious
and civilizational conflict, environmental
risk or the society of vigilance comprise
the different facets of a unidirectional
universalization, spreading anguish
and revolt among hundreds of millions
of human beings caught in
an iron grip between segregation
enclosed in the private sphere
and dilution in the universal.
The North and the South both seem
to raise the same question that Tagore,
Neruda and Csaire placed at the heart
of their humanistic involvement:
how can we build a just global society
in which each person commits
to sharing with others a Universal
of rights, dialogue and meaning?

130

five convergent themes

tagore
from colonial
to global subject l
Tagore was one of the first voices to promote a modern national consciousness in India in
opposition to British colonialism, this prison covering the whole country. From 1904 he wrote
about the repercussions of British colonization that from a Western perspective saw Indian
social customs as degenerate and barbaric in its ambition to colonize the country and subject
India to its dominant interests.
Abhorring Indian culture as a whole, the civilizing mission of the British colonial mindset
managed to stigmatize this aspect of Indian heritage branded as a sign of the inherently
oppressive and unfree nature of the entire cultural tradition of the country. During the eighty
years of Tagores life, the confrontation between India and Britain was narrowly averted by the
gradual adjustment of Indian life at various levels. British culture dominated the interaction
between these cultures within a colonial system that operated according to the rules of
domination, exploitation and repression.
The Jallianwallah Bagh massacre took place on 13 April 1919 when British troops opened fire
on a peaceful gathering in a garden called Jallianwallah Bagh in Amritsar, killing and
wounding hundreds of unarmed Indians who had assembled to protest against the Rowlatt
Act. This act of violence deeply shocked Rabindrnth who arranged for a public protest,
writing an historic letter to the viceroy on 31 May 1919 relinquishing the knighthood he had
accepted from the government in 1915.
The enormity of the measures taken by the [British] Government in the Punjab
for quelling some local disturbances has, with a rude shock, revealed to our minds
the helplessness of our position as British subjects in India.
The disproportionate severity of the punishments inflicted upon the unfortunate
people and the methods of carrying them out, we are convinced,
are without parallel in the history of civilized governments,
barring some conspicuous exceptions, recent and remote.
Considering that such treatment had been meted out to a population,
disarmed and resourceless, by a power which has the most terribly efficient
organization for destruction of human lives, we must strongly assert
that it can claim no political expediency, far less moral justification. []
One of the main features of the struggle for emancipation was its dignified resistance to the
Westernization of Indian thought and practice to conform with the views of the invading British,
who were draining Indias economy through unfair colonial trading, and even went so far as to
conscript Indians into the British-Indian army to bolster British influence around the world.

emancipation from oppression: in reciprocity and rights

The very least I can do for my country is to take all consequences


upon myself in giving voice to the protest of millions of my countrymen,
surprised into a dumb anguish of terror.
The time has come when badges of honour make our shame, glaring
in their incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part wish to stand,
shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen,
who, for theirso-called insignificance, are liable to suffer
a degradation not fit for human beings.
Two of Tagore's more politically charged compositions, Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo (Where the
mind is without fear) and Ekla Chalo Re (If they answer not to thy call, walk alone), earned mass
appeal. Despite his complex relationships with Gandhi, Tagore was instrumental in the process
of emancipation, which finally lead to national independence thanks to struggle and dialogue.
This dual strategy overcame colonialism and division between East and West, past and present,
tradition and modernity. Tagore captured the worlds colonial history with great clarity:
The first invasion of India is an exact parallel to the invasion of America
by European colonizers; the latter also had to cope with the virgin forest
and a pitiless struggle against the native peoples.
What strikes us about the genius of Tagore was the way in which he overcame the isolation of a
colonial subject by making it a universal subject. All his arguments were drawn directly from
his experience of the social and natural environment in which he lived 150 years ago. They
explain his stand against colonialism, social and racial discrimination, and dehumanization,
and adhere to his firm belief in the relationship linking human beings to their environment.
When we observe the brutalities into which this nationalism of theirs breaks out,
instances of which are so numerous the world over - in the late war, in the lynching
of negroes, in cowardly outrages allowed to be committed by European soldiers upon
helpless Indians, in the rapacity and vandalism practised in Pekin during the Boxer
War, by the very nations who are never tired of vulgarly applying barbaric epithets
to each other according to the vicissitudes of political expediency and passion.
Thus Tagore's political thought was complex. He opposed imperialism and supported Indian
resistance, but he denounced Hindu nationalism. He advocated self-reliance and intellectual
edification of the masses as an alternative, stating that British imperialism was a political
symptom of our social disease and urging Indians to accept that there can be no question of
blind revolution, but of steady and purposeful education. Having lived and experienced the East
and West made him all the more convinced of the need to reconcile the values of universal and
diversity through dialogue. This led him to seek a more fundamental openness to the other, to
create a form of humanity whose advances in science and technology and economic development
could only be understood through dialogue and a respect of values.
It is preferable for the commerce of the mind that variously situated peoples should
bring to the great market of humanity different products, each of which complements
the others and is needed by them.

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five convergent themes

This concern is reflected in the relationships Tagore had with other leading contemporary
intellectuals of the time, including H. G. Wells, Romain Rolland, Victoria OCampo and Okakura
with whom he discussed the issues of racial pride and superiority between nations, which
complemented his condemnation of narrow-minded nationalism wherever it was found in the
world. Tagore chose the difficult middle ground between radical modernism and proud
traditionalism in the face of scorn and threat from both sides.
It was my conviction that what India needed most was constructive work
coming from within herself.
Although he was an outspoken critic of colonialism exercised by the British Empire, he did not
want that to interfere with his mission to break away from the isolation imposed by colonial rule
and militant nationalism.
Even though from my childhood it has been my conviction that my countrymen
will truly gain their India by fighting against the education which teaches
them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity.
Even as the First World War was raging, Tagore condemned the war and militant nationalism in
the series of lectures he delivered in Japan and in the us during 191617.
The problem of this new age is to help build the world anew.
Let us accept this great task. [...] All other things can wait.
We must make room for Man, the guest of this age,
and let not the Nation obstruct his path.
Protagonist of his time, his embrace of global emancipation and inclusive universalism had a
decisive influence on the ideas adopted by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru for Indias
future as a liberal, secular democracy. As precursor, Tagore anticipated with great clarity the
serious threats that nationalism would bring to the edification of any nation, particularly in
India. Protesting against the fascist tendencies of the Indian nationalist movement, he repeatedly
voiced his opposition to all forms of totalitarianism, whatever their origin. He described it as a
manifestation of unreason, as a fundamental source of all blind powers that drive us against
freedom and self-respect. The construction of a nation on that basis is the worst form of cancer
to which humanity is subject.
But his mind became troubled when he sensed that human character in the modern world was
constantly influenced by political concerns and unbridled competition with its neighbours. He
realized that mechanization and aggression imposed on the vulnerable and subjugated by the
dominant had developed rapidly, not only in the economic domain but also at the heart of human
society in nations.
Men do not believe in the wisdom of the soul. Their minds are filled with mutual
suspicion and hatred and anger, and yet they try to invent some machinery that will
solve the difficulties. They ask for disarmament, but it cannot be had from the outside.
They have efficiency, but that alone does not help. Why? Because man is human,

emancipation from oppression: in reciprocity and rights

while machinery is impersonal. Men of power have efficiency in outward things;


but the personality of man is lost. [...] I have felt it, and I have said to myself,
I have repeated that song: Where shall I find him? Not in the machinery
of power and wealth shall I find the humanity of the world. If he is not in the heart
of a civilization, where is he? The great man, the harvester, the music-maker,
the dreamer of dreams, where is he? You fight against evil, and that is a great thing.
Tagore was one of the initiators of the Dclaration pour lindpendance de lesprit led by Romain
Rolland and other Western intellectuals, which was perhaps the first organized attempt to
mobilize intellectual international opinion against war.
Barriers of national segregation must be broken through, superstitions of religions
and social incompatibility must be relentlessly fought against.
Tagore was never indifferent to the need to bring democratic change and human rights to an
unequal and unjust world. Social justice was far more important to him than political freedom.
Those of us in India who have come under the delusion that mere political freedom
will make us free have accepted their lessons from the West as the gospel truth
and lost their faith in humanity. We must remember that whatever weakness
we cherish in our society will become the source of danger in politics.
The same inertia that leads us to our idolatry of dead forms in social institutions
will create in our politics prison-houses with immovable walls. The narrowness
of sympathy which makes it possible for us to impose upon a considerable portion
of humanity the galling yoke of inferiority will assert itself in our politics
in creating the tyranny of justice.
The poem Gitanjali (An offering of songs) was penned in English (the French version was prefaced
and translated by Andr Gide) and demonstrates, better than anything, his aspirations for
universal political and cultural emancipation:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into narrow domestic walls;
Where the words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms into perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason
Has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father
Let my country awake.

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five convergent themes

neruda
maintaining revolutionary
consciousness
Though struggles for emancipation are inevitable, Neruda believed that division and disunity
could not be humanitys definitive face. I never understood the struggle except for it to end.
In the conflicts peoples have engaged in for their freedom or their dignity, whether in
America, Europe or Vietnam, Nerudas poetry conjures up fully the confrontation between
colonizers and colonized, exploiters and exploited. I am here to tell the story, he says in the
introductory poem of the Canto general. Neruda recounts the story so as to oppose the silence
or manipulation, which is marked by violence and struggle, and no mitigating circumstances
can excuse the massacres from Cholula to Guernica, from Pisagua to Hiroshima that have
sadly manifested in the history of humanity.
We know the Araucanians were conquered, annihilated or forgotten and that history
was written by the conquerors or those who profited from the victory.
In condemning the conquest of America as the first stage of its alienation, the poet of
Espaa en el corazn and Incitacin al nixonicidio y elogio de la revolucin chilena knows that
dialogue is impossible in the face of repeated barbarism, be it fascist or imperialist.
The butchers razed the islands.
Guanahani was first
in this story of martyrdom.
The children of clay saw their smile
shattered, beaten
their fragile stature of deer,
and even in death they did not understand.
They were bound and tortured,
burned and branded,
beaten and buried.
And when time finished its waltzing spin,
dancing in the palm-stands,
the green salon was empty.
Nothing remained but bones
rigidly arranged
in the form of a cross, to the greater
glory of God and mankind.

emancipation from oppression: in reciprocity and rights

From his experience in Asia of the colonialism suffered by the peoples of the countries
where he spent several years, he could only draw one irrevocable conclusion: that terrible
gulf separating the colonizers [] from the colonized [] has never been bridged. It has
always protected an anti-human isolation, a total ignorance of the local values and life. The
dominant power on leaving its colonial empire said farewell to its former subjects without
bequeathing to them schools or industries, houses or hospitals; nothing but prisons and
mountains of empty whisky bottles.
Historians have already told the story but it is often told to serve the colonizers and their
perspective of alienation. The poet on the other hand intends to tell the story from the
perspective of its anonymous victims, by replacing its habitually ignored protagonist, the
people, at the centre of the historical process. From the Araucanian warrior to the roto
(average joe) from the pampa, from the ruins of Macchu Picchu to the Chuquimata saltpeter
mine, an American identity is built which, because it is founded on collective struggles and
hopes, unites the Latin American people in dialogue with all peoples on Earth.
[] as if I rode at anchor here with you,
and tell me everything, tell chain by chain,
and link by link, and step by step,
sharpen the knives you kept hidden away,
thrust them into my breast, into my hands,
like a torrent of sunbursts,
an Amazon of buried jaguars,
and leave me to cry, for hours, days and years,
blind ages, stellar centuries.
For a long time the loneliness of his southern adolescence, then the solitude he chose in
the East, distanced him from the idea of humans as collective beings defined by a number
of rights, making them co-reponsible for their fellow beings. Pablo Nerudas life and poetry
were deeply committed to the socialist ideal of human rights, remaining faithful to that
ideological idea taken from its humanistic source and pre-Stalinist reality in the profound
belief of change brought about by revolutionary consciousness, in solidarity with all peoples
[] attacked by ferocious invasions, surrounded by implacable colonialists, obscurantists
from every part of the world and of every stripe [].

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emancipation from oppression: in reciprocity and rights

But for Neruda, in the struggle for the emancipation of the great unfortunate human family, in
which even colonialism has its exceptions, not everything was confrontational. The necessary
struggle also brought about unity. The human and fraternal other, was omnipresent. In his
eyes peoples were not guilty of the crimes carried out in their name. From this militant belief
and the bonds between the Chilean experience and that of other peoples, other cultures and
other struggles, Nerudas humanism acquires a universal dimension. The fascist aggression
against the young Spanish republic deeply wounded Neruda, a wound that would never heal
and would definitively seal his destiny as a poet. The world has changed and my poetry has
changed, bordering on a cry of revolt and hope, he wrote in Espaa en el corazn:
And you will ask: why doesnt his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?
Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!
Neruda as poet and man had a hatred of fascism in equal measure. How can we distinguish
between poem and act? Strengthened by his communist belief, which he never renounced
throughout his entire life, Neruda fought tirelessly against fascism a brother to racism.
On 18 June 1947, senator Pablo Neruda spoke in defence of the Communist Partys struggle
alongside the people. It was during the months preceding the passing of a law that outlawed
the party and ordered the prosecution of its activists, among them the poet who was forced
into exile; he fled on horseback over the steep roads of the Andean range. In the senate Pablo
Neruda proclaimed:
The Communist Party arose out of the peoples guts and has been an essential force for
social progress, defence of our countrys sovereignty and the civic education
of the masses.... We Chilean communists will carry on with more determination
the struggle on our territory for a more dignified life for the Chilean people
and we salute all peoples struggle for their liberation in the four corners of the earth.

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five convergent themes

The man and the poet were indivisible and, having created the Chilean section of the
Intellectuals Alliance for the Defence of Culture and become its president, he travelled across
the entire country to denounce the rise in Hitlers Germany of the vile beast. Was it the man
or the poet who, surrounded by a few friends, solemnly presented to the Santiago National
Library the German books that Nazism had just banned? Was it the man or the poet who one
morning in 1942 saw his Canto de Stalingrado covering the walls of Mexico City? In Santiago
100,000 people answered Nerudas call to protest against the anti-Jewish pogroms that had
recommenced in Germany.
Only their resistance was their way,
and isolated they were like broken pieces
of a star, without mouths and dull.
Together in the oneness made silence,
were fire, the song indestructible
the slow tread of man upon the earth
converted to deep places and battles
They were the dignity that fought
what was trampled, and awoke,
like a system, the order of the lives
that knocked at the door and sat
in the central hall with their flags.
Chile still today has its excluded people: the Araucanian Indians. The poet, who celebrated
the resistance of the Araucanian people against the Spanish invader in his Canto general, did
not miss the chance to protest against the fate imposed by the government on the countrys
Indians.
From his gleaming nakedness,
his golden breast and pale waist,
or from the mineral ornaments
that brought the dew his skin,
they led him by the threads of his rags,
gave him lifeless trousers ,and so attired
his patched majesty came to parade through
the air of the world that was once his.

emancipation from oppression: in reciprocity and rights

For Pablo Neruda exile was an opportunity for enrichment. He expanded his space, forming
bonds between the Chilean experience and those of other peoples, other cultures and other
struggles. Space connected with the history of time to honour the fortitude of those like
Toussaint Louverture who had a sense of repsonsiblity and the heroic courage to pave the
way for Latin American peoples to free themselves against colonial domination without
having received any distinction, which Neruda tried to make up for two centuries later.
Toussaint Louverture binds
the vegetal sovereignty,
the shackled majesty,
the mute voice of the drums,
and he attacks, blocks the way, rises,
commands, repels, defies
like a natural monarch []
In the pain of political exile Nerudas poetic humanism acquired a universal depth that was
put to the service of the communist ideal, which he did not disavow despite the factual
evidence of the decline of Maoism and Stalinism, as it remained for him the only force that
kept up the resistance and the anti-fascist struggle of the Spanish civil war, or the Latin
American struggle against imperialist domination and social exploitation.
Come closer, hat-in-the-dust,
burnt shoe, plaything,
posthumous mountain of eyeglasses,
better still, rise from your ashes
man, woman, city.
That constistency of his commitment demonstrates the intense participation in the struggle
for peace in the eyes of the militant communist that was Neruda, initimatley connected
with the struggle against the political and social ills of imperialism and colonialism. Against
those who pretended [] to put up stages where a few delicately white snobs appear in
society, gesticulating in front of pure Aryans or sophisticated tourists, he delighted in his
autobiography in the hope of a universal reconciled through emancipation and diversity.
Fortunately it is already only the past, and the United Nations is each day filling up
more and more with black and oriental representatives; the foliage of the races
of humanity, in which the sap of intelligence is rising, is in the process
of revealing all the colours of its leaves.

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five convergent themes

csaire
our very hour has struck
In his first work, Cahier du retour au pays natal, the young poet Csaire declared his commitment
to the emancipation of all people in the reconstruction of a human community that was
wounded by an oppression that first affected its victims, but also ultimately their oppressors.
The purpose was objectivization and not objectivity, which was impossible. His tragic hero,
King Christopher, summarized the goal with these words: Im talking of coming back up from
the depths, gentlemen, and woe betide those whose foot stumbles an order he addresses first
to the Blacks, against inequality of which they were victims, but also to all those who lacking
in privilege, their burdens unlifted, have known deportation, slave-ships, servitude, a collective
reduction to the state of animals, total exploitation, insult on a vast scale and who have borne,
slathered on bodies and faces, the all-denying gobs of spit.
A luminous continuity is expressed in Csaires work and life with regard to building and
sharing the universal, in memory, reciprocity, dialogue and the respect of rights. From his arrival
in France at the age of nineteen in 1932, the young Csaire forged both his distinctive identity
and his vision of the universal as a historical quest shared by all people. In the same movement
were defined the weapons of his fight against the errors and crimes of history: colonialism,
exploitation, discrimination, segregation, racism, and so on.
Black youth wants to be active and creative. They want to have their own poets
and novelists who will speak to them directly, who will tell of its griefs and its glories;
they want to contribute to the life of the world, to the humanising of humanity;
and to do that, once again, it must preserve itself or rediscover itself:
that is the very essence of self-being...
[] The clan of the Elders cries: assimilation, we reply: resurrection.
What does Black youth want? To live.
For to be a self, one must fight against oneself: we must destroy indifference,
root out obscurantism, cut off sentimentalisation at the root.

emancipation from oppression: in reciprocity and rights

The struggle against oppression and for humanization is first and foremost to reconstruct
black identity, but this fight is unfinished given the permanence of social and legal prejudice
and economic exclusion, and because ones appearance and skin colour are still criteria that
reveal intolerance, xenophobia, racism and discrimination. He began by a simple observation:
the recurrence of this particular exclusion was typical of the oppression of millions on the five
continents, whose humanity was, is and will continue to be trampled.
Is this nothing? People massacred in India, the Muslim world emptied of itself,
the Chinese world soiled and distorted for the better part of a century, the Negro world
disqualified from dignity; mighty voices stifled for ever; homes and families gone
with the wind; all this wreckage, this waste, humanity reduced to a monologue,
and you think that there will be no payback for that ?
These words by Aim Csaire are brusque and greatly displeased conservative authorities, even
helping for a long while to demonize their author. Replaced in the actual global context, they
connect with the recurrent malfunctions in a world where colonialism is being recycled, where
the logic of domination is being reproduced and repeated, where globalization banishes borders
and solidarity and where systemic oppression threatens identities, both North and South, which
in turn withdraw, clash and worsen. A vicious cycle in which globalization may get mired if we
remain simple spectators of this deterioration.
And in coming I would say to myself, addressing my heart as well as my soul:
make sure you dont cross your arms in the sterile stance of the spectator, for life is not
a theatrical show, a sea of pain is not a stage, a man who cries out is not a dancing bear.
From 1939 before the Holocaust, and the many crimes committed against humanity throughout
the twentieth century, Aime Csaire chose his side, that of suffering humanity, still and forever:
[] just as there are hyena-men and panther-men,
I will be a Jew-man, a Kaffir-man
a Hindu-of-Calcutta-man
a vote-denied-Harlem-man / famine-man
insult-man, torture-man...
The only struggle for the emancipation of humanity is that of universal solidarity:
My mouth will be the mouth of sufferings which have no mouth, my voice the freedom
cry of those who languish in the dungeons of despair [] in the world there is no
wretched victim of a lynch-mob, no wretched victim of torture in whom I am not
murdered and humiliated.

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emancipation from oppression: in reciprocity and rights

From the emotion of texts written by youth, the humanization of all people guided all Csaires
poetic and political work. With his friends, Lopold Sdar Senghor at the Lyce Louis le Grand,
Lon Gontran Damas, and other young students from Africa and the US, he discussed the evils
of colonialism and the rise of fascism with a clear conscience, that the fight was part of all
struggles in the history of humanity past, present and future.
This was how Csaire defined ngritude:
my negritude is not a stone whose muteness is shoved against the clamour of the day,
my negritude is not a cataract over the dead eye of the earth,
my negritude is neither tower nor cathedral,
it plunges into the crimson flesh of the sky,
it plunges into the blazing flesh of the sky,
it pierces the opacity of oppression with its patient right hand.
Priority was thus given to the primacy of political, cultural, economic, and social emancipation
and dialogue on purely political independence, which was one of the primary means, necessary
but insufficient, to rediscover dignity, shared responsibility and reconciliation through the
realization of universal human rights according to the great glow that rose from the torch
kindled in 1789 and which has not ceased to camp along the horizon of all peoples, because it
brought to all, whatever their race or their colour, not only the salvation of a free people, but
even more, the great message of brotherhood.
With regard to Toussaint Louverture, the hero of the Haitian fight for the dignity of Haiti where
negritude stood erect for the first time and said it believed in its humanity..., he represented for
Csaire the symbol of rights in his heroic effort of universality.
When Toussaint Louverture came, it was to claim at its face value the letter
of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, it was to show that there was no pariah race,
that there was no country beyond its bound, that there is no people that is excluded from it.
[...] Toussaint Louvertures struggle was the struggle to transform a right on paper
into a real right, a struggle for the recognition of humanity.

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More than two centuries following Toussaint Louvertures most emblematic sacrifice of them
all, emancipation, dialogue, liberty and equality still remain a distant ideal. Csaire questioned
the unfinished context of democracy and decolonization, reminding the decolonized of the
inevitable responsibilities that fell upon them in their own process of emancipation and
inherent responsibility.
Men of Africa, and you especially, politicians of Africa because you have the greatest
responsibility, make good for us the politics of Africa, make for us an Africa
where there is still reason to hope, still ways of achievement, still reasons to be proud.
Purging the memory to remove passion is that not one of the keys to Csaires way of effectively
obtaining reconciliation and assuming ones place in the re-humanized universal? Without a
doubt. And by what means can the right to participate in the universal be conquered? What
about armed struggle? Some chose this route among his companions of uprising and hope, for
instance, Frantz Fanon who took part in the Algerian war. We should note that Fanon, the author
of Peaux noires et masques blancs and Les Damns de la terre, submitted his early manuscripts to
Csaire. In a poem from the collection Moi, laminaire Csaire pays him a warm tribute:
Fanon
I salute you
you strip away the prison bars
you strip away the executioners sneer
flint warrior
spat out
from the maw of the mangrove serpent
Aim Csaire wanted to believe in democracy and republican dialogue to the end; these were
his domains of struggle in the institutional route he chose to take, notably as a parlimentarian.
His interventions as a deputy brought fear to the French National Assembly as he openly
condemned, without political rhetoric, the unequal treatment of certain ethnic, cultural and
faith groups in a biased social and political logic, even in the democratic and republican context.
Violence committed against the least member of the human race damages all humanity.
The struggle, the age-old struggle for liberty, equality and fraternity is never wholly won,
and everyday it is worth the cost of waging it.

emancipation from oppression: in reciprocity and rights

Should we believe in utopia? Why not, if you believe in people, because there is room for
everyone where victory is won. For Csaire, in the face of reality, utopia gave him the strength of
commitment and the amplified force of transformation. This motivated the young intellectual
in the post-war period to favour the communist ideal to which he adhered in 1946 with hope,
and without accepting its indoctrination, as he explained in La Lettre Maurice Thorez (1956), a
text that explained the reasons behind his later resignation.
The doctrine and the movement should be shaped for the people, and not the people
for the doctrine and the movement. Naturally this is not true only for communists.
If I were a Christian or a Muslim, I would say the same thing.
No doctrine has any value except when rethought by us, converted to meet our needs.
[] That seems to go without saying. And yet in practice it doesnt.
For Csaire the outcome of the stalinist betrayal was bitter. Without a doubt, the lessons learnt
from his intransigent conclusion resided in his anticipation of the various pathologies that
resulted from any totalitarian vision, whether they arose from political, cultural or economic
oppression. Confronting the test were peoples and individuals who had indestructible ideals
carried by the sacred fire of resistance against all forms of oppression, which was believed to
have disappeared but had remained intact under such fire.
There are volcanoes that die
There are volcanoes that remain []
But we must not forget those who are not the least of them
volcanoes that no ridge has ever marked out,
but whose rancour grows great in the depths of the night.
There are volcanoes whose vent is the exact
dimension of the ancient rent.

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This inferno was kept alight by the wounds of history or the realization that oppression
develops from hegemonic aspects of economic and technological globalization, and identical
and implacable logic. Faced with this reoccurrence, hatred of the other remains nonetheless the
supreme threat, and whatever the legitimate reason historically, its principle threatens peace,
which in turn results in a radicalization of exaggerated and sectarian demands for independance.
my heart, keep me from all hate
dont make me that man of hate for whom I have but hate,
for if I take my stand with that one race
you know well my tyrant love
you know its not through hate of other races
that I want to be hewer of that one race
that what I want
is for the hunger of the world
is for the worlds thirst
to declare it free at last
to bring forth from its shut-in intimacy
the sweet taste of the fruits.
For the fire of revolt and the experience of oppression do not justify all excesses and all acts of
violence. They cannot legitimize the blind abomination of terrorism or aggression. They also
require awareness without precluding anything. To understand is not to absolve. By standing
up against all forms of actual oppression that undermine the basic human rights of people in
Africa, America, Asia, Europe or elsewhere, Csaire urges us to remain vigilant yet human and
generous in order to create a new goodness:
no way must the world be yielded up to the assassins
of dawn
to death-life
to life-death
the slaps in the face that come at dusk
the roads hang down from their flayers throats
but dont believe its the long way round
its just that the signs were stolen by night
[...] trifling with appearances
but also with the breasts that nourish rivers
and the sweet calabashes in the palms of open hands
a new horizon of goodness is growing.

emancipation from oppression: in reciprocity and rights

In Aim Csaires work the principal idea of emancipation from oppression is that the universal
cannot at all be attained by the denial of the individual but by deepening and transcending
the individual according to Hegels notion to acknowledge the other and together, through
dialogue and sharing, achieve the universal.
It is the journey to the depth of the self that allows us to discover the elsewhere
and the whole.
Throughout his long life Csaire remained a tireless fighter in the awakening of consciousness.
We should listen to Le Rebelle faced with his liberation in his tragedy Et les chiens se taisaient:
Hating is still being dependent; and personally I have refused once
for all to be a slave.
The daily challenge of and commitment to emancipation for each and every person is to accept
and transcend the conflicting tensions governing the human community.
There are two ways of losing yourself:
by a walled segregation within the particular, or by dilution within the universal.
My concept of the Universal is that it is a universal enriched by all that is particular,
by all particulars combined, the coexistence and deepening
of all things particular.

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five convergent themes

4
knowledge, science and ethics
From the life and work of Tagore,
Neruda and Csaire there emanates
one vision that anticipates links between
science, human beings and ethics.
A vision that is especially valuable
because the poets are not in any way
practitioners of science and technology,
disciplines that are today making huge
advances, and because we are precisely
at the moment when all of humanity
is questioning the benefits and risks
of that dizzying potential on which
it increasingly depends. The question
goes further than methodological
aspects alone, or the means employed.
It is a crucial, ethical challenge for
humanism in the third millennium,
which requires us to reconcile forms
of knowledge and rehabilitate the
universality of the cognitive approach
in order to bring together, on the basis
of the liabilities, achievements and
immense potential of science and its
technological applications, the thousand
and one expectations of a common
humanity. It is even more crucial because
of the radical changes that took place
during the second half of the twentieth
century in the rapport between the
individual and society, and the rise
in connectedness between science,
technology and economics on the one
hand, and between society and the rest
of the biosphere, a holistic interdisciplinary
concept, on the other; all of which present
urgent and inevitable challenges.
Tagore, Neruda and Csaire hailed
the formidable explosion of knowledge

brought about by the development


of scientific thought and technology
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The three poets believed that it was an
essential but not exclusive part of the
adventure of human knowledge, which
must also be nourished by the imaginary
inseparable as it is from life. Furthermore,
their geocultural origins nurtured their
interpretations of the great opportunity
that advances in science offered the
emancipated, cohesive human community
that they so wished for. Ethics is its first
and ultimate affirmation, and it is through
ethics that science manifests the effort
of human intelligence so that the methodical
understanding of reality may also conciliate
members of the human race by spreading
knowledge. Because they asked the
difficult question about links between
ethics, science and freedom, making them
inseparable from the foundation
of intellectual and moral solidarity, Tagore,
Neruda and Csaire illuminate unescos
action in a pluridisciplinary approach.
The ethics of science and technology
has become a priority for unesco since
the creation of the Programme on the
Ethics of Science and Technology and the
establishment of the World Commission
on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge
and of the Technologies (comest) in 1998.
Given the upheavals caused by the impact
of scientific and technological advances on
human development, society and the
planet, the individual messages of the
three authors reinforces thinking on these
international and cross-cultural issues.

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tagore
for sharing human knowledge
Science has given man immense power.
The golden age will return when it is used in the service of humanity.
The call of that supreme age is already heard.
Man must be able today to say to it, 'May this power of yours never grow less;
may it be victorious in works and in righteousness!
Fascinated by the rapid proliferation of scientific discoveries, Tagore invited a number of
Western scientists to visit the university he had set up in Santiniketan and share their
knowledge of fundamental and applied sciences in the development in India, which was on the
path to national independence. His intellectual exchange and correspondence with Einstein is
extremely rich, and the project should seek to look into it in more depth.
Tagore considered the diversity of humankind as a source of wealth, but did not support the
tendency in modern civilization to harmonize the world through a colonized vision of sciences
and techniques. As such, he disagreed with any pretension to create a new universal humanity
by scientific order that did not sufficiently take into consideration or acknowledge individual
morpho-psychology as intrinsically different, but complementary. He did not agree that science
could create a unique human civilization from individual peoples and civilizations; individual
civilizations could not be merged into a universal whole, even if it seemed to be a natural destiny
for humankind to pursue unity as a moral and philosophical goal.
In his vision there was no contradiction between national cultures and scientific development
in colonized countries.
Let the mind be universal. The individual should not be sacrificed.
Tagore believed in the development of all sciences, in accordance with the needs of the people,
whether for human and social sciences, so as to deepen particular cultural and historical roots,
to adjust geographical adaptation to the physical world, and to understand the laws governing
the natural elements. Tagore advocated the application of Indian science for the benefit of
humanity, and defended the idea that all forms of knowledge could be commonly implemented.
He wrote,
We have omitted to do so that our water-courses and pools have run dry;
malaria and disease, want and sin and crime stalk the land; a cowardly resignation
overwhelms us. Whichever way we turn, there is the picture of defeat, of the penury
due to the depression of defeat. Everywhere our countrymen are crying, We have failed.

knowledge, science and ethics

Scientific research is as urgently needed to create new fundamental disciplines in the acquistion of
knowledge as to produce appropriate practical applications that can immediately conribute towards
reducing and eradicating poverty in cities and villages, as well as improving living conditions
throughout society by providing food and health, and meeting all types of concrete needs.
International and national cooperation is a chief asset in the construction of new terms of
negotiation between East and West. I believe the unity of human civilization can be better
maintained by linking up in fellowship and cooperation of the different civilizations of the
world. It is crucial not to consider science as a sterile measure imposing on the diversity of
humankind.
In his work in favour of rural reconstruction, Tagore experienced the importance of teaching
science and applying it in everyday life for the sake of technological progress.
If we can possess the science that gives power to this age,
we may yet win, we may yet live.
But Tagore was well aware that the modern era had brought technological progress that
multiplied working capacity through the machine, but had likewise increased the scope for
profit coupled with the greed for gains. This disrupted the balance, not only between city
and village but between different parts of the world. The poor came to be exploited for food
and community work, while the powerful enjoyed the benefits that machine-driven progress
provided. In a message written for the inauguration of the institute founded by his friend and
internationally renowned scientist, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Tagore reiterated his position that
science must be used for the good of humanity.
I can only bless this institution from that obscure distance where the multitude
of the uncared-for generations of this country have helplessly drifted to the pitiless toil
of primitive land-tilling. I offer my salutation to the illustrious founder of this Institute,
humbly sitting by those who are deprived of a sufficiency of that knowledge,
which only can save them from the desolating menace of scientific devilry and from
the continual drainage of the resources of life, and I appeal to this Institute to bring
our call to science herself to rescue the world from the clutches of the marauders
who betray her noble mission into an unmitigated savagery.
When Tagore began his work on rural reconstruction on his familys agricultural estates in east
Bengal, during which time he lived closely with the peasants, he declared that their miserable
economic and social condition would not change unless science and the application of modern
agricultural methods were introduced into their lives. In 1906 he arranged to send his eldest son
and another student from his Santiniketan School, who was the son of a family friend, to study
agriculture and animal husbandry at an agricultural school in the us.

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five convergent themes

It has been my earnest desire for long that we in this country should deal
with the problems of agriculture in a big way. I had sent some of our young men abroad
to study agriculture so that on their return home they might tackle this problem
and thus serve their motherland.
From his long and deep experience of Indian cognitive and intellectual thought, he was able
to establish the limits and differences in the interpretation of natural phenomena, physical
experiences, and biological facts. Tagore had a special interest in the progress of the human
sciences in fostering societys inner knowledge of cultural, linguistic and historical heritage
so as to understand its specific circumstances and thus formulate criteria that would serve a
reasoned and appropriate modernization. We have to create the new psychology needed for
this age. We have to adjust ourselves to the new necessities and conditions of civilization. For
Tagore, knowledge and study had no barriers, and the development of scientific knowledge
determined the conditions that would respond to the challenges of modernity.
Tagore discussed the issue of tradition and modernity with Gandhi, but he could not accept
Gandhis radical rejection of Western thought and the benefits of science, which he believed
was the condition of building a new India. He was aware of advances in science and was able to
adopt them with a deep understanding of their methods and purpose.
Secular knowledge was in possession of the European thinkers and scientists and we in
the East who need it must seek their help If we are biased against Western science only
because it belongs to the West, we shall not only deprive ourselves of the principles it has
to teach, but pull down our own Eastern spirituality.
Tagore assessed the ethical responsibility of science in the context of global geopolitics.
Dominant nineteenth century science undoubtedly created a spirit of race superiority in the
West, and he believed that when the East assimilated physical science, the tide might turn and
take a normal course.
Those who are deprived of a sufficiency of that knowledge which only can save them
from the desolating menace of scientific devilry and from the continual drainage
of the resources of life, and I appeal to this Institute to bring our call to science herself
to rescue the world from the clutches of the marauders who betray her noble mission
into an unmitigated savagery.
Tagore believed that modern science was not just a European and Western privilege. He
was aware that successive tests and particular circumstances had prevented some Eastern
countries from implementing their own scienctific discoveries, which were later adopted by
the West. He anticipated that Japanese, Chinese or Indian scientists would one day receive the
recognition they deserve.
What a wonder: an everyday fruit becomes an undiscovered world which all the science
in the universe is unable to measure without the humble human senses!

knowledge, science and ethics

neruda
science, an irevocable hope
[] a world orbiting around its sun, that scientists still havent discovered, they who are
surrounded by instruments, yearning for eternity but lacking the sense of taste.
Scientific and technological progress was part of the backdrop against which Neruda constructed
his poetic materialism and his wish to describe the world through observation:
The idea of a central poem that would bring together historical effects, geographical
conditions, life and our peoples struggles came to me as an urgent task.
Pablo Neruda was as an attentive observer of the spectacular geological and topographical
structure of the Andes, and thus began his Canto general. And it was while studying the ruins of
history and the sociological and anthropological analysis of the Spanish war that Neruda was
made aware of humanitys creative power: what humans had built through their knowledge
and effort had been reduced to a pile of ash. By tragic paradox, the ruins were the source of a
celebration that they attempted to deny:
Like bud or breast
they raise themselves to the sky, like flower that rises
from the destroyed bone, so the shapes
of the world appeared.
How long until you are clocks! Aluminum
of blue proportions, cement
stuck to human dreams!
In Nerudas vision of technological progress and observation there was no rift between the
sources of scientific knowledge and the subjects who exploit and express the inspiration of
poetry: it is from them that the poet obtains his power to transform the real.
I look at the sea with the utmost indifference: the indifference of oceanography,
which knows its surface and depths; without literary pleasure,
but with a certain delectation as a connoisseur, the palate of a cetacean.
Indeed it was the sea, the southern ocean and its frozen yet fertile seas, and his observation of
the great aquariums in Madras, Naples and Copenhagen, that particularly fascinated Neruda,
who mentions them at length in his memoirs: It is plankton that interests me, that nutritious
water, molecular and electrified, which gives the sea a colour like purple lightning. He knew
about all the species, their routes and nutrition.

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The home it constructs, the atom isolated by science, and the blossoming flower were all born
of the same need. Human beings who are fulfilled in their work, participate in the universal
crecimiento (growth) a keyword in Nerudas lexicon. And thus they could not break its
fundamental laws, as if the frontier of knowledge was also inherent in the search for the
secret mystery of life.
But do you know whether death
comes from above or below?
Where does the rainbow end
in your souls or the horizon?
There is no disparity in Nerudas work in the exploration of biodiversity. Inspired and in awe of
natures generous gifts, he observed in Maya lands in Mexico the unfathomable mysteries of
water that foresaw the very recent experiments in organic chemistry and quantum physics that
sought the scientific key to mineral and living matter with advances in the nano-sciences and
nano-technologies, toward frontiers of the quantum universe.
So on the sacred wells, over thousands of years, primitive religions believed
in the mystery of secret water, unfathomable water.
Neruda is a poet immersed in the breath and diversity of the world: plants, insects, shells, books,
objects of all kinds, nothing escaped his curiosity. His home-museum in Isla Negra bears witness
to this, as if the poet, discoverer and explorer wished to develop a museographic vision and thus
reveal the objective correspondence between the objects. He combed the worlds beaches in
search of small examples of empty shells left on the sand with each fresh tide. Over more than
twenty years, he accumulated more than 900 shells, with 400 different specimens of rare or
lesser known varieties, which were exhibited by the Instituto Cervantes in Madrid in January
2010, showing the collection the poet gave to the University of Chile in 1954.
[] The best thing I collected in my life is my shells. They have given me the pleasure
of their amazing structures, the moonlike purity of their mysterious porcelain []
His insatiable curisioty for objects was coupled with an obsession for mathematical proportions
which appeared in his texts, and was reflected in the shells as a metaphor for the diversity of
life within limits of an accessible reality. Pablo Nerudas poetry can marvel before the beauty
of the object, but it does not stop at its form or colour. Converging with scientific investigation,
Nerudas poetic subject travels within the object in order to grasp its material essence:
I asked each thing
if it had
anything else,
anything more that its structure,
and so I learned that nothing was empty:
Everything was box, train, boat loaded
with multiplicities []

knowledge, science and ethics

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five convergent themes

Not only was he intent on giving a voice to their silence, but he was interested in them as
creations, he wondered about their genesis and their workings, and he placed this knowledge
at the service of the widest number of people. Whatever sense Neruda saw in his poetic quest,
founded on a particular use of language, he did not compare it with the scientists quest. In his
book Odas elementales he chose to celebrate the lab assistant, and when he wrote of the beauty
of a pharmacy, it was not a departure from his fundamental poetic project the celebration
of the totality of human experience. Among the immense library he gave to the University of
Chile, including his shells, there were many scientific works.
We know from the Canto general that when he was exiled from his homeland, the poet only
took two books with him, the Physical Geography of the Republic of Chile (1875) by Amado Pissis,
and the Book of the Birds of Chile (1946) by Johnson and Philippi.
It would be a vain search to look for a trace of rejection or distrust towards scientific and
technical progress in Pablo Nerudas poetry; he who was so enthusiastic about having shared
the cosmonauts moment in Moscow. But for him, true science was one that served life. When
he wrote his Ode to the atom it had only been ten years since the atom bomb fell on Hiroshima.
The poem reserves a large space on the horror of the event, but nevertheless ends with an
exhortation addressed to the atoms peaceful, fertilizing power.
Atom,
overflowing
cosmic cup,
go back
to the peace of the cluster,
to the speed of happiness, go back to the womb of nature.
At the origin of his faith in scientific and technical progress, rooted at the heart of his utopian
universalism, Nerudas work reveals his firm belief, despite all the risks, in the scientific mission to
include all peoples in its relationship with future generations as members of the human family
in which humanism will triumph. His conviction was basic and ultimate, and transcended his
ideological faith:
I write these lines knowing quite well that over our heads, over all our heads,
there hovers the danger of the atomic bomb, nuclear catastrophe that would not leave
anyone or anything on the earth. In any case that does not cool my hope.
At that critical moment, in that dying blink, we know the ultimate light will shine
into our half-open eyes. We shall all understand each other.
We shall go forward together. And that hope is irrevocable.

knowledge, science and ethics

csaire
there is room for everyone
where victory is won.
Aim Csaire placed science and technology at the epicentre of challenges facing the twentyfirst century, which confronted the human family.
A view of the world. Yes. Science offers us a view of the world.
But a summary one. A surface one.
Physics can classify, can offer explanations, but the essence of things escapes it.
The natural sciences classify, but the quid proprium of things escapes them.
As for mathematics, the element which escapes its abstract logicians activity is the real.
It is not at all a matter of refusing the contributions made by science, but of appreciating their
greater responsibilities in a world where risk is unavoidable. History is always dangerous,
and it is up to us to establish and readjust the hierarchy of risks. With regard to the benefits
scientific progress may bring, ethics thus becomes a major challenge. For the universal
proposed by Csaire, knowledge, including science, is a basic human strategy ever since the
appearance of the species. Knowledge has a soul and is embodied. Science is not the entire
sum of knowledge. Without ethics all knowledge, however essential and innovative it may be,
is not free from threats.
The history of the human, as well as the exact sciences, bear the marks of extremely
questionable ideas that weigh heavily on sciences historical role, which seemed to Aim
Csaire to justify and quite rightly so in-depth and rigorous inquiry. For example, it is
essential not to reproduce, under any pretext, the shock of the great betrayal by a number of
scientists who, for predatory interests, sold the idea that the West invented science, that only
the West can think; that at the frontiers of the Western world begins the shadowy kingdom of
primitive thought which is incapable of logic.
Indeed how can we forget, for example, the state of world divisions and the reoccurrence
of racial prejudice, as well as the damage wrought by the objective reach of the bad work
carried out by very respectable scientific theories that formualted a hierarchy among human
beings that justified racism, the destruction of numerous peoples, and their enslavement.

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Csaire the young poet replied to the Nazis who used craniometry and anthropometry to
distinguish Aryans from non-Aryans, in his first work:
I defy the craniometer. Homo sum etc.
And that they do their jobs, betray themselves and die
So it must be. So it must be. It was written in the shape
of their pelvis.
Indeed craniometry or craniology is a good illustration of the culpability of the pseudosciences. The discipline that in the first half of the twentieth century claimed that anatomical
variations existed between human brains from different ethnic origins, legitimizing the
creation of a hierarchy of human beings according to race, and the identification of criminal or
social temperaments based on cranial measurements. Its disciples also formulated scientific
hypotheses, which in turn determined characteristics for classifying intelligence and moral
behaviour, despite quite inconclusive empirical proof to that end. This did not prevent people
making use of the theories over a long period to justify racist policies towards the Irish, who
were seen as similar to... black Africans and therefore considered as inferior races, and whose
skulls were said to be the same shape as the Cromagnon, recalling those of monkeys, and
thus proved their inferiority. Fairly recent theories also insisted on the pointlessness of higher
education for women, whose small brains would never be capable.
The Discours sur le colonialisme harshly recalls the responsibilities of the human sciences
when they serve oppression, profit and alienaton in this way: Psychologists, sociologists, etc.,
their views on primitivism, their biased investigations, their partisan generalizations, their
tendentious specializations.... Csaire continues sarcastically, Do I need to say that it is always
from far above that the eminent scholar looks down on native populations, who have not
participated at all in the development of modern science?
Today vigilance is still the watchword, ensuring that deviant attitudes are eradicated, despite
the progress of scientific realities and ongoing economic, financial or political pressures.
Admirable! everyone wins: the big companies, the colonials, the government, except the
Bantu of course. Following the justification of erroneous concepts about primitives, what
is the current situation with regard to the fate of human beings in statistics, the various
experiments, and the great market of science and technology? The question mark remains.
Shall we find, or not, the secret of a society where science will stop separating
humanity from the universe, humans from themselves and their fellows,
isolating humans in order to better kill them off, destroy them?

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Aim Csaire deeply admired science, to which he expressed huge gratitude for the positive
solutions brought about by scientific and technological progress in alleviating repeated
human suffering through the ages. But that knowledge must be reconciled with the
intelligence of all people, both North and South, as in his view, The mistake would be to think
that knowledge waited for the methodical exercise of thought or experimental scruple to
appear. Csaire was a forerunner of the cross-disciplinarity that ushered in the contemporary
movement of holistic thinking, and the pluri-disciplinarity that brought together a group of
poets, philosophers, anthropologists and ethnologists, and scientists from every field. Just
like Tagores founding initiative in creating Visha Barati, and the universities of Santiniketan
and Sriniketan, the journal Tropiques set up by Csaire aimed to initiate a role for scientific
method in rehabilitating the accumulation of objective knowledge on local heritage through
geography and botany, and to explore the vegetation of the Caribbean environment, to
get to know generic and scientific names, the role of ecology, and to give importance to
agronomists, to acquire information about the properties of plants, the mangrove: that
tropical phenomenon, the pre-Columbian fauna of the French West Indies or the history of
the Carribean context.
It would be particularly dangerous to isolate science in an ivory tower. The issue concerns all
areas of scientific research and discourse: the human sciences, the physical sciences, and the
sciences of living things, as well as fundamental and applied research. Scientific achievements
and methods should be explained and made accessible to the greatest possible number of
people in order to stimulate and justify the admiring fascination to be found in the rich use of
medical and botanical terms in Csaires poetry, as a poetical tribute to the solutions science
provides to disease, elephantiasis, malaria, smallpox, bedsores, pustules, scales, blemishes,
vomito negro
words, oh yes, words ! but
words of new blood, words which are which are
tidal waves and erysipelas
malarias and lavas and bushfires
and flamboyant flesh
and flare-ups in cities...
For the first time in the history of the species, humanity was in a position to intervene
scientifically and technically in the fundamental processes of life and death, which once more
involves the equation of the individual and humanity confronting the benefits of innovation.
But experience of the recent past offers sufficient retrospection to optimize sciences effective
contribution towards building humanism and the universal. Thus, the more the fields and
branches of science and technology gain in efficiency and sophistication, the more ethical
responsibility is essential given the proliferation of discoveries, knowledge and applications that
may make science both the end and the means of producing a selfish, disembodied knowledge.

knowledge, science and ethics

walking across the poor-knit fracture of the continents


(no use traversing the length of the Great Rift Valley
inspecting all the cross-breeding, examining the bone beds
from ancestors on down, there is always a missing link)
walking and telling oneself that it is impossible that the supercharged atmosphere
tapped by the lightning-conductor birds
has not been conducted away elsewhere
at any rate somewhere a man is awaiting it.
It is in this spirit that Csaire alerts us to the marked trend towards the all-science, the
irresistible expansion of all-technology, behind which we glimpse implacable modern
forms of dehumanization, if scientific knowledge and the lure of technology adopt the aim of
overlooking human beings, trapping the human in a mesh of commercial services and truths,
sometimes surreptiously serving unjustifiable practices.
Facing the ethical challenge, the big question for Csaire is that of expanding scientific realities
conceived first as those of the physical quantifiable world, capable of being broken down,
controlled and mechanized by the techno-sciences, backed by mathematics and geometry,
but also neutralizing the negative aspects concealed within the scientific and technical
instrument to exorcize the disaster of the machine, yes, never seen, the machine, but for
flattening, grinding, numbing peoples. It is crucial to avoid materialistic dogma, transforming
into ideology a certain despotism in modern science, for in order to acquire that impersonal
knowledge that is scientific knowledge, the human being is depersonalized, deindividualized.
A complementarity must unite the poet and artist with the scientist because, like the
germination of scientific knowledge, poetry is an operational intuitive magic. Csaire thus
urges scientists to remain sensitive to the poetic, to the marvellous rapture, before the mystery
and profundity of animate or inanimate nature, before which reason bows down.
In a text written in his youth Posie et connaissance, and delivered in a speech in 1944, Csaire
established a relationship between science and poetry with these words:
Poetic knowledge arises in the great silence of scientific knowledge.
Through reflection, observation, experience, people confused by the facts end up
mastering them. Then they can find their way in the forest of phenomena.
They can use the world. But they are not kings of the world for all that.

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knowledge, science and ethics

163

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5
the educational issues
Which form of education is needed
to reinvent and to engage once again in
the Universal? By transmitting data,
conveying values, training the person,
rekindling memories, revealing talents,
opening up to the other, adapting
to innovation? Questioning the
relationship between the dominant and
the dominated, the legacies of Tagore,
Neruda and Csaire are strongly pedagogic
and teach us that all knowledge and all
cultures are of equal significance in terms
of organic symbols depicting the diversity
of peoples and civilizations. They help
to define the mission that is embodied in
education in order to, build in the mind
of human beings a world order that finally
makes compatible the urgent demands
of the universal and the individual.
If it is true that the turn of the twenty-first
century has been called the Knowledge
Society, the era of the Internet and
associated web tools has allowed us to
become virtual authors, as well as holders
and beneficiaries of the most formidable
accumulation of knowledge that has ever
been made available to humankind in its
entire history. Never has the distinction
made by Montaigne between une tte
bien faite (a well made head) and une tte
bien pleine (a full head) been as applicable
as it is today to distinguish the contents
of uses by exercising a critical capacity,
at a time when formal education, school
or university, is no longer the only place
of education far from it. Faced with
the new and infinite jungle of data, the
challenge is to awaken the conscience
and the foundation of humanism and
the advance of men and women towards

a human community where there


is an awareness of the values of justice
and dialogue, resistance to enslavement,
but also learning that responsibility is
the only safeguard against the many
dangers of acculturation, alienation,
sectarianism or brainwashing.
Every persons right to education is
enshrined in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, the conventions to
eliminate all forms of discrimination
against women, the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, and the Millennium
Development Goals. However, the list
of obstacles remains a long one: schools
that are often lacking in resources,
an inadequate public offering, a growing
commercialization of education,
indoctrination, and so on. Much remains
to be done to provide access to a
responsible education for all that promotes
the development of mental and physical
aptitudes, inculcates respect for human
rights, cultural values and their diversity
in a spirit of understanding, peace,
tolerance, gender equality, friendship
between all peoples and ethnic, national
and religious groups, and finally to instill
respect for the natural world. For Tagore,
Neruda and Csaire education comes from
an exchange of knowledge and experiences
the need for which transcend
particularities in a multipolar world, like
a passport to social inclusion, economic
integration and cultural dialogue.
How, on the basis of their message, can
education share, classify, deepen and
transmit content, experiences, and values
of the inestimable heritage that nourishes
the reconciled Universal?

the educational issues

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five convergent themes

tagore
education across barriers
In every nation, education is intimately connected with the life of the people [...]
The age of narrow chauvinism is coming to an end for the sake of the future,
the first step towards this great meeting of world humanity will be taken here
in these very fields of Bolpur. The task of my last years is to free the world
from the coils of national chauvinism.
Tagore believed that all social and individual problems, such as poverty, religious discord and
disunity, could be resolved through education. Born in a colonized India, Tagore lived in the
tumult of a dynamic world when the so-called unchanging East' had stirred. Even as a patriot,
Tagores national commitment was inclusive thanks to the highly cosmopolitan environment
of his family home where he delighted in obtaining knowledge from a multitude of sources.
His political philosophy was universalist as be believed it was essential to drink from the
fountain of universal knowledge. From his early works on Bengali and Anglo-Saxon literature,
Dante and Batrice, Ptrarque and his Laure, the lovers of Goethe, he asked:
Should my pleasure of learning stop with Bengali literature because I was born in Bengal?
Am I not a citizen of the world? Isn't the creation of the philosopher, the poet,
the scientist as much for me as it is for somebody else?
His priority was to rid India of its isolation.
India has been cut off from the world's scholarship, treated only to trifles
in the name of education and relegated to a perennial primary school.
We now want freedom from this spiritual and intellectual humiliation.
He was against an over-attachment to the past. In other words he struggled against those
elements of patriotism and nationalism that could spread xenophobia; this made him a
universalist. He consistently urged his compatriots to reform their own society and not to
expect goodness from a foreign government.
I believe that all human problems find their fundamental solution in education
I know that all the evils, almost without exception, from which my land suffers
are solely owing to the utter lack of education of the people. Poverty, pestilence,
communal fights and industrial backwardness make our path narrow
and perilous owing to the meagreness of education
I repeat that our education is the thing we should first of all take into our hands.

the educational issues

Tagore summoned his compatriots to turn to the villages, where the majority of Indians lived,
dedicating his efforts on raising awarness among them. He put his faith firmly in education
as a way of achieving this. He participated in the edification of the nation in the domain
of education. Tagore was opposed to national isolation whether in the name of nationalist
causes or social exclusion.
Such idealists I have often met in my travels in the West, unknown persons
of no special reputation who suffer and struggle for a cause most often ignored
by the clever and the powerful.
Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru regarded Tagore as the conscience of India, who
stood up against the enemies called Bigotry, Intolerance, Ignorance, Inertia and other members
of that brood.
With Tagores unflinching enthusiasm, together with the relationships he cultivated
throuughout the world, Visva-Bharati prospered in the first thirty years of its history from
19201930 to bring its contribution as much as possible given its limited resources to the
universal community of knowledge. Tagores final years were difficult due to the complicated
context of the Second Word War. During his final speech, entitled The Crisis of civilisation,
pronounced on 8 May 1941 at his eightieth birthday, he wrote that the flame of his convictions
would not be extinguished:
As I look around I see the crumbling ruins of a proud civilization strewn like a vast heap
of futility. And yet I shall not commit the grievous sin of losing faith in Man.
I would rather look forward to the opening of a new chapter in his history after the cataclysm
is over and the atmosphere rendered clean with the spirit of service and sacrifice.
Perhaps that dawn will come from this horizon, from the East where the sun rises.
A day will come when unvanquished Man will retrace his path of conquest,
despite all barriers, to win back his lost human heritage.
The educational institution he founded in rural southern Bengal still exists today and is known
as Santiniketan. Tagore began by founding a school in 1901, later adding an international
university and an Institute of Rural Reconstruction in 192122. The entire institution the
school, the university and the centre for rural reconstruction make up what is todays VisvaBharati University at Santiniketan and its twin Sriniketan, situated two kilometres away from
Santiniketan. They are based on the founders conviction that a school and university must be
connected with the life of its people in association with a larger humanity.

167

the educational issues

This experiment was an indigenous attempt in adapting modern methods of education in a


truly Indian cultural environment. Elucidating his position, Tagore wrote:
If ever a truly Indian school is established it must from the very beginning apply
its acquired knowledge of economics, agriculture, health and all other everyday
sciences in the villages. Then alone can the school become the centre
of the countrys way of living. This school must practise agriculture, dairy-keeping,
and weaving by the modern methods. And to obtain its own financial resources
it must adopt cooperative methods bringing together students, teachers
and the people living around.
There were several principles in Tagores commitment to education. One was to keep it free
from racial and national prejudice, while ensuring that the children at the Santiniketan school
grew up with the knowledge that they belong to a wider humanity comprised of varied peoples,
ranging from the local villagers to visiting foreigners from around the globe who were invited
by Tagore to teach in his school. Having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Tagore
was able to mix the local and global context, using his international contacts, to present Visva
Bharati as a meeting place where scholars of the East and West could share their knowledge
and discourse on their respective concepts, particularly in terms of their differences.
In his letter to Thomas More, written in Santiniketan on 1 May 1914, Tagore wrote:
All the same, nay, all the more, your literature is precious to us. []
Literature of a country is not chiefly for home consumption. []
The Western literature is doing the same with us, bringing into our life elements some
of which supplement and some contradict our tendencies. This is what we need.
It is not enough to charm or surprise us we must receive shocks and be hurt.
This objective also underlined the combination of disciplines studied at his school and
university, ranging from the study of Vedic and classical Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, to the
study of Europe, China and Japan. The aim of the Santiniketan experiment was to encourage
the freedom of thought and reasoning.
The Santiniketan school must be made the thread linking India with the world.
We must establish there a centre for humanistic research concerned with the worlds
peoples. [...] I have taken courage to invite Europe to our institution.
There will be a meeting of truths here.

169

170

five convergent themes

This spirit of connecting with a larger humanity, and the realization that India was a part of
the same humanity as any other country in the world, led to his growing impatience with
anachronistic tradition. In his struggle against Indias internal contradictions, Tagore argued
that only education could link people and civilizations.
I represent in my institution an ideal of brotherhood,
where men of different countries and different languages can come together.
I believe in the spiritual unity of man and therefore I ask the world to accept
this task from me. Unless it comes and says, We also recognize this ideal,
I shall know that this mission has failed.
Indians must evolve with the rest of humanity and try to eradicate the injustices and
discrimination that exist in orthodox Hindu society. Men were punished for slaughtering a
cow, but not for killing a fellow human being. Contact with the lower caste was an offence
against society, but destroying a rivals property was not. A criminal had nothing to fear so
long as he married off his daughter according to the social norms. A ceremonial bath in the
Ganges nullified all crimes big and small. Tagore wrote that in such a society, human beings
were treated like cogs in a machine, angrily asking: was it Gods intention that we should be
Hindu and not human?
We have come to this world, to accept it and not merely to know it.
The highest education is that which does not merely give us information,
but makes our life in harmony with all existence.

171

the educational issues

neruda
keeping alive dialogue
between cultures
On the podium at unescos Executive Council, Neruda declared, Education will be our epic! for
he saw education as the noblest task, the best thing humanity has done and can do.
Although as an elected politician or political leader he never found himself directly in charge of
education, Pablo Neruda was nonetheless aware of its urgency in his country and throughout
the world, as confirmed in a speech given at unesco a few months prior to his election to the
Executive Council.
Was the American struggle, at the heart of his lifes great work, not a way for Neruda to satisfy
as a poet that educational duty which he understood as important? By giving the broadest
meaning to his work, we can refer to it as his epic pedagogy that brought to the American
consciousness a continuous revaluation of local knowledge. This pedagogy is part of a poetic
approach that following the terrible ordeal of the Spanish war no longer placed the author at
its heart but its audience the people. The reader interprets the message and as a consequence
expects the practice of simplicity and accessibility.
Indeed, my utmost belief is that the struggle for education and the objectives
set by unesco cannot be separated from the duty to combat and extinguish hereditary
colonialism, the recently acquired neo-colonialism. There still exist both a colonialism
from without and a colonialism from within of social classes who impose
their hereditary rights so as to oppress their own peoples. [...] In consequence,
the movement for education in Latin America must be considered as a revolutionary
phenomenon, linked to the survival of the people, to the national soul
still threatened by its old enemies.
For Pablo Neruda, the American poets primary task and that of all poets from the South, was
that of the pioneer and the educator: to populate with words that vast silent space given to
them by the silence of domination.
I am here to tell the story.
From the peace of the buffalo
to the pummeled sands
of the lands end, in the accumulated
spray of the antarctic light,
and through precipitous tunnels
of shady Venezuelian peacefulness
I searched for you, my father,
young warrior of darkness and copper,

173

174

five convergent themes

or you, nuptial plant, indomitable hair,


mother cayman, metallic dove.
I, Incan of the loam,,
touched the stone and said :
Who awaits me? And I closed my hand
around a fistful of empty flint.
In its immensity, education is a crossroads where most of the great writers of universal poetry
meet. It is not a question of influences but exchanges: a consequence, depending on the scale of
a work, of the great figures of the universal dialogue.
Land, people and poetry are one entity linked by mysterious underground passages.
They embody the mythical power of speech, its ability to keep alive dialogue
between people and their cultures.
Whatever the specificity that Neruda acknowledged in the identity of peoples, the fundamental
project was to transmit the celebration of the totality of human experiences. The book had a
dual and contradictory function because following in the steps of imperialist acculturation
and alienation he feared the book could enclose the human spirit by the printers poison.
In one of his Odes to the book, he reognized the double material and intellectual existence:
Book
beautiful
book,
little forest,
leaf
after leaf,
your paper
smells
of the elements,
you are
daily and nocturnal,
grain,
ocean

the educational issues

He wanted a book that was open to life, to play an integral part of the movement to keep
knowledge alive in order to pass it on to future generations, as he wrote in his Second Testament.
I leave my old books, collected
in corners of the globe, venerated
in their majestic typography,
to the new poets of America,
to those who'll one day
weave tomorrow's meanings
on the raucous interrupted loom.
The need to pass on knowledge and teaching for action is inseparable from self-discovery,
experience of the other, knowledge of history, and understanding the reality through books.
Book, let me go. It is at the heart of the poets mission, as an echo of the great movements that
form human societies.
We
the wandering
poets
explored
the world,
at every door
life received us,
we took part
in the earthly struggle.
What was our victory?
A book,
a book full
of human touches,
of shirts,
a book
without loneliness, with men
and tools,
a book
is victory.
He ends his Canto general with these words: Here Ill stop (1949).
This book ends here. It was born
of fury like a live coal, like expanses
of burned forests, and I hope
that it continues like a red tree
propagating its transparent burn.

175

176

five convergent themes

the educational issues

csaire
education to look
the century in the eyes
From the moment his first work Cahier dun retour au pays natal was published, Aim
Csaires poetic brilliance was a lesson in the human. Education was the backbone of societies
emancipation, serving as a bridge to the ontological, social, cultural and political inclusion of the
human being in a world common to us all. The more sombre the period, the more vital education
becomes as a lesson in solidarity, humility and generosity. Thus, faced with the horrors of war,
Csaire begins his introducution to Tropiques with the following words:
Wherever we look, the shadows vanquish. One after the other homes fade away
amidst the cries of men and howls of wild animals. Yet we are among those
who say no to darkness. We know that the salvation of the world depends on us too.
That the earth needs any of his sons. The most humble. The shadows vanquish...
Ah, all hope is not too much to look across the century!
Men of good will will bring a new light to the world.
Indeed educating is not strictly limited to instructing or teaching, for they are merely associated
with passing on to future generations a body of knowledge useful to the group or the nation, or
even simply for social mobility. Educating also means ensuring that every man and woman can
fully develop their physical, intellectual and moral capacities in order to be able to participate
as a responsible citizen in the life of humanity and the changes required by a new universal.
Each one contributing his own special thing: patience, vitality, love, will-power too,
and rigor, not to mention the dreams without which mankind would perish.
The ethical conditions of learning determine the acquisition of knowledge. In this process of
exercising responsibility, the union formed between the teacher and student constitutes a
duality that gives sense to the educational act for all of us, men and women, of all ages and all
civilizations.

177

178

five convergent themes

Thus in Une Tempte, we can hear the dialogue between Prospero, the dominating master,
with Caliban, who he wants to maintain in a state of subjugation by perverse and misguided
eduction adapted to his condition of slavery:
[] You could at least thank me for having you taught to speak at all.
You savage a dumb animal, a beast I educated, trained, dragged up
from the bestiality that still sticks out all over you!
[] You didnt teach me a thing! Except to jabber in your own language so that
I could understand your orders chop the wood, wash the dishes, fish for food,
plant vegetables, all because youre too lazy to do it yourself. And as for your learning,
did you ever impart any of that to me? No, you took care not to. All your science
and know-how you keep for yourself alone, shut up in big books like those.
Because of this, and even when knowledge is transmitted effectively, the hegemonic school is
a tool of enslavement, like the colonial school, which we should not forget in order to better
eradicate its assimilationist, alienating principles:
And neither the teacher in his classroom nor the priest at catechism will be able to get
a word out of this sleepy black boy, despite the energetic methods they all apply
to drum them into his shaven skull, because his voice of inanition has been mired
in the marshes of hunger...
In the twenty-first century, education is no longer compatible with the continuing poverty,
exclusion and hunger of millions of human beings. The keyword in all educational systems
is responsibility, and states must ensure the public provision of education, not the formal
statement of principles that is often betrayed by reality, but a determined, democratic and
permanent action. Responsibility is also in the hands of economic authorities, intellectuals,
churches and faiths, and the media at a time when the sophistication of information
technology eliminates the obstacles of time and space.
The issue is a crucial one. The heavy responsibility inherent in the education of people is
personified in the ultimate sacrifice by King Christopher:
And here I stand like a schoolmaster brandishing my rod in front of a nation
of sluggards! Gentlemen, please understand the meaning of these sanctions.
Either we smash everything down, or we raise everything up.
The appeal of smashing down can easily be imagined. Everything knocked down,
naked bareness. Indeed, that is one kind of freedom. The land is still there,
and the sky; the stars, the night, we Negroes with our freedom, our roots,
our wild banana palms. Thats one way of looking at it.
Or else, we raise up. And you know what comes next. So, we must bear the burdens,
we must carry the load: higher and higher. Further and further.
I have made my choice.
We must carry. We must march.

the educational issues

Csaire the poet, mayor of Fort-de-France, was a masterly teacher in the educating of
consciousness, and an example of openness to self and to the world. This vocation complements
that of founder and builder of primary and secondary schools environments of learning and
the exchange of experience and knowledge. Csaire placed education at the heart of the life of
the citizen, of the res publica, and the regeneration of the human condition, like a worker intent
on his task of building the consciousness of peoples patiently, humbly. Education and culture
will enable each person to question the world and to construct their own place for themselves.
This assumption is the pedagogic mission he assigned to his drama in which his heroes, like
King Christopher and Patrice Lumumba, have the hardest task of all, the task of transmitting
the elementary facts, the lessons of history, in order to rehabilitate and reconcile knowledge
borne of equivalent experiences of life, study, nature, thought and art. Education is a framework
for the reconstruction of the diversity of geographical and historical reality, from out of the
profound knowledge of each and every persons particular circumstance and constraints.
But the real accomplishment of the educational mission is meaningful only through the
transmission of values, similar to King Christophers Herculean and unfinished task of building
a state: Do you hear! To be done over again! To be rebuilt! All of it. Earth and water. Putting
the road through. Remaking the land. The hero of Csaires drama accepts the sacrifice of his
life, because the educators task is never over. It is connected with the future of human history,
greater that the life of the poet or his heroes:
Because they have known abduction and contempt, the contempt that comes
from a spit in the face, I have striven to give them standing in the world,
to instruct them how to build their dwelling-place, to teach them how to stand firm.
The task of education is universal, and educating the people, whether rich or poor, is the
first duty to assess the price of sacrifice and liberty, to build in their minds the conviction
that the existence of a human community, rich in ethnic and cultural diversity, depends on
everyone. Against the fragmentation of the human community into monads, where every
person becomes a prisoner of blindness, ignorance, enslavement, hatred of self and others,
education serves as a bridge because it enables consciousness to open up to the reciprocity of
knowledge, the achievements of the past, and the dangers of the present. To educate people is
above all to prepare them for the most difficult of conquests: the one waged against oneself,
the danger of self-confinement, as described in Hors des jours trangers:
my people
when
away from the days of strangers
will you bud on your rejoined shoulders
a head that is yours alone
and your voice

179

180

five convergent themes

with short shrift given to traitors


to masters
bread restored land cleansed
land given
[...]
people of unhappy broken sleep,
people of chasms reclimbed
people of bad dreams tamed
people of night, lovers of furious thunder
tomorrow will be higher sweeter broader
and the torrential swell of the land
under the lifegiving plough of the storm
It is through education that we can build the slow process of reconciliation with the former
enemy, tormentor or the former victim, to achieve le rendez-vous du donner et du recevoir,
which L.S. Senghor described. To be operational, the education Csaire dreams of must above
all broaden human consciousness, having found in himself the ability to access the deepest
sources of the worlds knowledge and beauty.
Education transcends the boundaries between generations, just as it builds bridges
between peoples, and between fields of knowledge, which are equally reconciled. More than
a quantitative transmission of data, exclusively reserved for educational establishments
whose norms reproduce those of the social sphere, the type education referred to by
Csaire is maieutic, a human re-birth for those prepared to make a contribution towards
the Universal.
Being engaged means for the educator being part of a social context,
being the peoples flesh, living the problems of ones country intensely
and standing up for it ...
Together, educators and educated, teachers and students are part of the edification of a
responsible society that the poet so desires, a society such that there the antimony between
order and liberty will be resolved otherwise than verbally.

the educational issues

Just as Rabindrnth Tagore was determined to evade the pitfalls of identity in an India in
the throes of decolonization, and Neruda who refused the veil of the victim, Csaire did not
hide the fact that the responsibility that fell on everyone was immense.
Not only at the national policy level of those countries labelled as poor, less advanced,
emerging, rich, developed or powerful, but also within societies, whether rich or poor, on all
citizens regardless of social class, generation, ethnic and cultural identity.
[...] I am thinking of an identity that its not archaizing,
eating up the self, but eating the world, that is, taking over the whole present
to better re-evaluate the past and further to prepare the future.
For in the end how should we measure the road already covered if we know
neither where we come from nor where we want to go.
Our engagement has meaning only if it is a question of re-rooting,
granted, but also self-fulfilment, going further and conquering
a new and wider brotherhood.
Poetry? Politics? Lets say that Csaire spoke of a chain of solidarity and fraternity linked to
education and all that is human, as expressed in the poem Maillon de la cadne:
with bits of string
with lumps of wood
with all the left-over bits and pieces
with the underhand blows
with the dead leaves shovelled up
with the shreds of sheets
with the torn lassos
with forced open links of chains
with the scattered bones of moray eels
with conch shells
with flags and tombs stripped of their wreaths
through cyclone
and whirlwind
to build you.

181

182

183

5
conclusion

184

conclusion

an innovative programe
at the service of an original
and complex mission
Following the longstanding legitimation of unequal relations, todays generation now knows
that there is only one way to share and prolong life in a fragile, finite world, to reinvent modes of
participation and responses to change and that it is to build a modernity characterized by processes
of universalization whose multiple entry points are united by a common concern for solidarity.
Beyond their individual meanings, the combination of the three works by Rabindrnth Tagore, Pablo
Neruda and Aim Csaire projects each of their messages in the same space in the rapprochement
of cultures. At the confluence of different currents of thought and experience, reflection and
creation, Tagore, Neruda and Csaire embody humanism in action, having foreseen the great global
upheavals and the introduction of a pragmatic vision of universalization imbued with the diversity
of Asian, African, American, Caribbean and European experience without hierarchy or exclusion.
By adopting this programme, the Member States of unesco sought more than a single project
of cultural exchanges. The aim is to launch an ambitious and dynamic project that has a broad
openness to dialogue and innovation, inscribed at the very heart of the Organizations multifaceted
mandate, combining education, sciences, culture and communication. The programme should
therefore embrace all disciplines of knowledge, transmission and artistic creation, which, in the
mind of people, have an irreplaceable part to play in building a reconciled universal.
To reconcile does not mean to erase collective and individual liabilities or to throw oneself into
the future, all the more daunting in an era where human beings are being faced with new daily
challenges presented by urban life, work, wealth, poverty, the market, borders, the planet, and
so on. But by re-evaluating the heritage of the great geocultural regions of Asia, Africa, America,
the Caribbean and Europe, the project has the combined objective of proposing platforms for
mediation and convergence where the memories of both North and South can affirm their
coherence and complementarity, giving rise to an international, durable dynamic intellectual
and ethical response demanded by the global crisis.
On the one hand, this project is structured on the specific corpus represented by the sum of the
three works and constellations, offering concrete content that lies beyond the sole normative
patterns of domains and sectors of activity, while at the same time nurturing experience and
substance and thus fulfilling a mandate of intellectual vigilance, part of unescos mission,
but is also crucially urgent on the world stage. On the other hand, it gives back to the arts and
humanities expresessions of the wealth of individual creation comprising global cultural
diversity the major role we expect of them in international life.

conclusion

looking ahead
to accept the challenges
of our era
From the moment, Irina Bokova, Director General of unesco, took up her post, she strongly
welcomed the reactivation of the ideals that led to the Organizations creation based on
the twofold conviction that a peace founded on the economic and political agreements of
governments alone would not be capable of gaining the unanimous, long-lasting and sincere
support of peoples, and that consequently that peace must be established on the foundation
of the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity. At the centre of the threats stated in the
preamble of the Constitutive Act, there appears the mutual incomprehension between peoples
(which) has always throughout history been at the root of suspicion and mistrust.
For unesco, the only global organization dedicated to education, science and culture, the priority
is to make every effort to ensure that this century is amicable, peaceful and responsible. In each of
our actions and thoughts we should reflect on the effects of our actions on the seven generations
to come so that compassion and seeds of peace may flower. Such is the recommendation that
closes every meeting of the Iroquois tribal council. Indeed it is for all people to revive the chain
of predecessors, contemporaries, brothers in struggle, opponents heirs who, together, determine
the dimension and strength of memory, anticipation and reality.
In this vital, unifying commitment, the life and works of Rabindrnth Tagore, Pablo Neruda
and Aim Csaire show us the way. Magnified by the contagious, regenerative force of poetry,
it shows us that no human can live in isolation. Projecting into the future, Member States have
recognized the light of the modern passer-by whose work, commitment, thoughts and action,
appeals to all types of artistic and intellectual expression, which the genius of cultures has
developed throughout the ages and which still radiates today.
At a time when emerging polarities expose new geopolitical balances, cultural and intellectual
geography, driven by dynamic networks of relationships, connections and fertilization, reveal
the complexity of the world, which conceals a treasure trove of experience and potential. Let
us make sure that these combined sources of energy enable us to build the reconciled and
humanistic universal with the cooperation of all, and that it is worthy of the promises and hopes
of the third millennium.

185

186

188

6 resolution of the
general conference
Rabindrnth Tagore, Pablo Neruda and Aim Csaire for a reconciled universal
Resolution adopted on the report of the CLT Commission at the 17th plenary meeting, on 23 October 2009.
Having examined document 35 C/53, which highlights the interdisciplinary and intersectoral
contents of the works of Rabindrnth Tagore (1861-1941), Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) and Aim
Csaire (1913-2008), emphasizing the originality of each set of works, while exploring the close
relations between them, for the development of a universal which matches the expectations of
peoples, in particular through the strengthening of bridges between cultures and civilizations,
1. Recognizes the importance of the works of these three figures and the pivotal, pioneering and
topical exemplarity of their message, for enhancing unescos efforts towards a reconciled universal;
2. Emphasizes the relevance of this programme, whose innovative character updates unescos
interdisciplinary action in response to the context of the global crisis, and recommends the
attachment to it, in the future, of authors, creative workers and scientists whose message could
enrich and expand the envisaged set of themes;
Taking into consideration the celebration of the International Year for the Rapprochement of
Cultures in 2010, which provides a suitable opportunity for the launch of a programme of activities
focusing on the works of Tagore, Neruda and Csaire, and on the constellation around them;
3. Encourages Member States and public and private institutions to implement 180 ex/Decision
58 and, in particular, to initiate publishing, translation and research programmes in national
languages, in order to promote the tangible and intangible heritage of these works, in strict
observance of the rights of copyright holders and their legal successors, and to act as national,
regional and international relays which can give substance to the programme and its theme, in
all the requisite dimensions, with special emphasis on youth;
4. Endorses 180 ex/Decision 58 of the Executive Board and approves the launch of this
programme in the 2010-2011 biennium and its integration into the efforts to implement the
Medium-Term Strategy (C/4) within a particular interdisciplinary operational framework which
is appropriate for sustained action;
5. Invites the Director-General to submit to the Executive Board at its 184th session specific
proposals for the implementation of interdisciplinary and intersectoral programmes in
connection with the work of these three authors, providing them with resources from the
regular budget, and to mobilize, with the support of a high-level sponsoring committee, the
additional extrabudgetary funds required for major international mobilization.

190

acknowledgements

To the participants of the expert meetings that took place at unesco in March 2009 and January
2010, Azarie Aroulandom, Tapas Bhatt, Justine Bertheau, Jean Bessire, Lyne Rose Beuze, Patrick
Crowley, Bikas C. Sanyal, Uma Dasgupta, Doudou Dine, Michle Espanet, Jacques Martial,
Catherine Mukherjee, Prithwindra Mukherjee, Ernest Ppin, Sharmila Roy Pommot, Grard
Lamoureux, Adama Samassekou, Alain Sicard, Raul Silva-Cceres, Annick Thbia-Melsan,
for their support, commitment, and contribution through their expertise and thought to the
intellectual foundations of this pamphlet.
We would also like to thank the Permanent Delegations of Bangladesh, Benin, Chile, France and
India to unesco for officially presenting the project at the Executive Board and the General
Conference of unesco.
We are also appreciative of the legal claimants of the three authors and their families, as well as
the institutional and academic partners which include the Visva Bharati University, the Pablo
Neruda Foundation and the Municipal Service of Cultural Action of Fort de France, Martinique,
who have all brought their full support in the research and transmission of the iconographic
support composing this text.
We thank Mr. Ren Depestre for his unwavering support, expertise, his cross disciplinary
thinking, and precious memories, which we were honored to share.
Our full acknowledgement goes to His Excellency Ambassador Joseph Olabiyi Ya, Permanent
Delegate of Benin to unesco, as well as former President of the Executive Board of unesco (20082009) for the inspiration he gave to this initiative with the aim of diffusing and transmitting, at
both particular and universal levels, the unifying message of a reconciled universal rendering
homage to the three authors Rabindrnth Tagore, Pablo Neruda, Aim Csaire, and all of the
constellations of authors, thinkers and artists who together instill the convergent, inspiring and
renewed path towards new humanism.
Finally, we dedicate these writings to all the past, present and future generations, who carry
challenges and continually renewed ideals of progress. We hope that it brings commitment
to convictions and hopes of a new humanism rooted in peace, dialogue, and comprehension
elevated towards freedom and progress.

192

crdits

Introduction
p. 4 Rabindrnth Tagore Permanent Delegation of India to unesco; p.6 Pablo Neruda All rights reserved; p.8 Aim Csaire unesco

Rabindrnth Tagore
p. 28 Portrait of the young Rabindrnth Tagore Permanent Delegation of India to unesco ; p. 31 The young Rabi Permanent
Delegation of India to unesco ; p. 32 The young poet Permanent Delegation of India to unesco ; p. 35 The poet Tagore in the Gitanjali
years Permanent Delegation of India to unesco ; p. 36 Rabindrnth Tagore visiting Japan in 1916 Permanent Delegation of India
to unesco ; p. 38/39 Manuscript signature of Rabindrnth Tagore in bengali Permanent Delegation of India to unesco ; p. 42/43
Rabindrnth Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi in visit to Santiniketan Permanent Delegation of India to unesco ; p. 45 Meeting
between Rabindrnth Tagore and Albert Einstein Permanent Delegation of India to unesco ; p. 47 Rabindrnth Tagore in the
United States in 1913 Permanent Delegation of India to unesco ; p. 48 Rabindrnth Tagore in the United States Permanent
Delegation of India to unesco.

Pablo Neruda
p. 52 The young Pablo Neruda. On the back of the photography with a joint letter: 1927, June, Santiago, Chile, To my dear father Neftali
Ricardo Pablo Neruda Foundation/ Bernardo Reyes, personal archives ; p. 55 The young poet Pablo Neruda and his sister Laura Reyes
Pablo Neruda Foundation/ Bernardo Reyes, personal archives ; p. 56 Portrait of Pablo Neruda, in indigenous clothing, in Ceylan, in
1929 (Sri Lanka) Pablo Neruda Foundation; p. 59 Pablo Neruda on the Machu Picchu Pablo Neruda Foundation; p. 60/61 Manuscript
signature of Pablo Neruda unesco ; p. 64/65 Continental Congress of Culture in Santiago of Chile, 1953 Pablo Neruda surrounded
of grand figures, notably: on the first row from left to right: Ren Depestre, Nicolas Guilln / on the second row on the left: Jorge
Amado, Zlia Gatta, Diego Rivera Bibliothque francophone de Limoges, Fonds Ren Depestre.

Aim Csaire
p. 70 The young Aim Csaire Assemble nationale-2011 ; p. 73 The student Csaire in Paris All rights reserved ; p.75 Poster of
the Senghor exhibition presented at unesco in 2006 unesco/ Mr Ravassard ; p.76 The young professor Csaire Ministre de la
Culture/ Mdiathque du Patrimoine/ Denise Colomb / Dist. rmn ; p. 80/81 Group of participants to the first Congrs international
crivains et artistes noirs at the Sorbonne University, 19-22 September 1956 ditions Prsence Africaine Communaut africaine de
culture. We may distinguish: First row: Andriantsilaniarivo, Jacques Rabemanjara, Alioune diop, J. Price-Mars, L.S. Senghor /Second
row: Ren Depestre, Aim Csaire / Third row: Frantz Fanon, douard Glissant, Claude Macquet. Parmi les participants: G. Sekoto
(Afrique du Sud), P. Tchibamba (Afrique quatoriale Franaise), Abb Mario P. Andrade, M. Lima (Angola), P. Blackman, G.Lamming
(Barbade), Tibrio (Brsil), Pasteur T. Ekollo, Franois Sengat Kuo, Benjamin Matip, Nyuna, F. Oyono (Cameroun), A.R. Bolamba (Congo
Belge), Bernard Dadi (Cte d'Ivoire), W. Carbonel (Cuba), N. Damz, Paulin Joachim, P. Hazoum (Dahomey), H.M. Bond, M. Cook, J.A.
Davis, W., J. Ivy Fontaine, Richard Wright (tats-Unis d'Amrique), P. Mathieu, Moune de Rivel (Guadeloupe), J. Alexis, R.P. Bisanthe,
Ren Depestre, A. Mangones, E.C. Paul, R. Piquion, J. Price-Mars, E. Saint- Lot (Haiti), Cdric Dover (Inde), M. James, J. Holness (Jamaque),
Andriantsilaniarivo, Jacques Rabemanjara, F.Ranaivo (Madagascar), L. Achille, Aim Csaire, Frantz Fanon, douard Glissant
(Martinique), M. Dos Santos (Mozambique), B. Hama (Niger), B. Enwonwu, L..A. Fabunmi, M. Lasebikan, J. Vaughan (Nigria), Mamadou
Dia, C.A. Diop, David Diop, Diop O. Soc, A. Seck, L.S. Senghor, Bachir Tour, Abdoulaye Wade (Sngal), D. Nicol (Sierra Leone), H. B,
A. Wahal (Soudan), F. Agblemagnon (Togo) Prsence Africaine ditions, 1956; p. 85 Apritif chez Pierre Matisse, New York, 1945
Association Andr Breton/ ABnew Photographies, photographer: Charles Maze; p.86/87 Manuscript signature of Aim Csaire
unesco/ Annick Thebia Melsan ; p. 89 The last years at Fort-de-France, 2008 unesco/ Annick Thebia Melsan.

Five themes of convergence


p. 95 Pastel drawing by Rabindrnth Tagore, inspired from a Malagan masque from New-Ireland, Papua New Guinea University
of Visva-Bharati ; p. 97 Manuscript poem from the book Chitralipi, Permanent Delegation of India to unesco ; p.102 Portrait of Pablo
Neruda Sara Facio; p.106 Le pote couronn, engraving by Pablo Picasso for the book Corps perdu of Aim Csaire and that served as a
poster for the magazine Prsence Africaine during the Congress for black writers and artists, at the Sorbonne, Amphithtre Descartes,
Paris, 19 - 22 September 1956 All rights reserved ; p.111 Lotus flower, Brazil unesco/ Bernard Martinez ; p. 144 Poem The Banyan Tree
by Rabindrnth Tagore Visva Bharati University ; p.115 Banyan Tree, Everglades National Park, usa unesco/ Armelle de Crpy ;
p.121 Volcanoes in Hawai, usa unesco / Thorsell, Jim / iucn ; p.126/127 Mangrove forests, Papua New Guinea unesco / Vanucci,
Marta ; p.129 Manuscript Poem Where the mind is without fear by Rabindrnth Tagore, from Gitanjali Permanent Delegation
of India to unesco ; p.136 Pablo Neruda in front of the George Washington Statue Pablo Neruda Foundation ; p.142 Evocation of
Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803) unesco ; p.149 Plasma Lamp Luc Viatour ; p.155 The Man of Vitruve, Leonardo da Vinci (1485-1490,

193
Venise, Galleria dell' Accademia) Luc Viatour ; p.158 Collection of shells unesco ; p.162/163 La plus grande ouverture sur le cosmos,
mural by Roberto Matta All rights reserved/Photography: unesco/ G. Nicolas ; p.165 Students at Santiniketan Visva Bharati
University; p.168 Santiniketan, eastern Bangladesh Visva Bharati University ; p.171 Teaching and learning under Santiniketan trees
Visva Bharati University; p.172 Pablo Neruda with Greek children in Hungary, 1950 Pablo Neruda Foundation/ Magyar Film Foto ;
p.176 Cover of the booklet Il tait une fois Aim Csaire, for primary school classes Mairie de Fort-de-France, 2008.

Authors citations
Rabindrnth Tagore Visva Bharati
Pablo Neruda Fundacin Pablo Neruda
Aim Csaire p. 71, Discours de Dakar, 1966, in Aim Csaire, pour regarder le sicle en face, under the editorial direction of A.
Thebia-Melsan, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 2000 ; p. 105, Discours de Dakar, 1966, in Aim Csaire, pour regarder le sicle en face,
under the editorial direction of A. Thebia-Melsan, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 2000 ; p. 105, Cahier dun retour au pays natal, Aim
Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions, 1956 ; p. 107, Discours de Dakar, 1966, in Aim Csaire, pour regarder le sicle en face, under
the editorial direction of A. Thebia-Melsan, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 2000 ; p. 107, Soleil cou coup in Cadastres, Aim Csaire
ditions du Seuil, 1982, Points Posie, 2006 ; p. 107, Cahier dun retour au pays natal, Aim Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions,
1956 ; p. 108, Discours de Dakar, 1966, in Aim Csaire, pour regarder le sicle en face, under the editorial direction of A. ThebiaMelsan, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 2000 ; p.108, Chemin, in Moi Laminaire, Aim Csaire ditions du Seuil, 1982, Points Posie,
2006 ; p. 109, Genve et le monde noir in Aim Csaire, pour regarder le sicle en face, under the editorial direction of A. ThebiaMelsan, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 2000 ; p. 109, Tropiques, Aim Csaire ditions Jean Michel Place ; p. 122, Aim Csaire,
Reproduit du Courrier de lunesco ; p. 122, Ferrements, Aim Csaire ditions du Seuil, 1960, n.e., Points posie, 2008 ; p. 122, Cahier
dun retour au pays natal, Aim Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions, 1956 ; p. 123, Paroles dles, Comme un malentendu in La
Posie, Aim Csaire ditions du Seuil, 1994, n.e., 2006 ; p. 124, Magique in Cadastres, Aim Csaire ditions du Seuil, 1982, Points
Posie, 2006 ; p. 124, La fort vierge, Les armes miraculeuses, Aim Csaire ditions Gallimard ; p. 124, Discours sur le colonialisme,
Aim Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions, 1955 ; p.125, La force de regarder demain, in Moi Laminaire, Aim Csaire ditions du
Seuil, 1982, Points Posie, 2006 ; p. 141, Ltudiant noir Droits rservs ; p. 141, Discours sur le colonialisme, Aim Csaire Prsence
Africaine ditions, 1955 ; p. 143, Cahier dun retour au pays natal, Aim Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions, 1956 ; p. 144, Toussaint
Louverture, Aim Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions, 1962 ; p. 144, Discours de Dakar in Aim Csaire, pour regarder le sicle en
face, under the editorial direction of A. Thebia-Melsan, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 2000 ; p. 144, Par tous mots guerrier-silex, in Moi
Laminaire, Aim Csaire ditions du Seuil, 1982, Points Posie, 2006 ; p. 145, Lettre Maurice Thorez Mairie de Fort-de-France ;
p. 145, Dorsale bossale, in Moi Laminaire, Aim Csaire ditions du Seuil, 1982, Points Posie, 2006 ; p. 146, Cahier dun retour au
pays natal, Aim Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions, 1956 ; p. 146, Nouvelle bont, in Moi Laminaire, Aim Csaire ditions du
Seuil, 1982, Points Posie, 2006 ; p. 147, Genve et le monde noir in Aim Csaire, pour regarder le sicle en face, under the editorial
direction of A. Thebia-Melsan, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 2000 ; p. 147, Lettre Maurice Thorez Mairie de Fort-de-France ; p. 147, Et
les chiens se taisaient, Aim Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions, 1956 ; p. 157, Tropiques, Aim Csaire ditions Jean-Michel Place ;
p. 159, Cahier dun retour au pays natal, Aim Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions, 1956 ; p. 160, Cahier dun retour au pays natal,
Aim Csaire Prsence Africaine ditions, 1956 ; p. 161, Jai guid du troupeau la longue transhumance, in Moi Laminaire, Aim
Csaire ditions du Seuil, 1982, Points Posie, 2006 ; p. 161, Tropiques, Aim Csaire ditions Jean-Michel Place ; p. 177, Tropiques,
Aim Csaire ditions Jean-Michel Place ; p. 178, Une tempte, Aim Csaire, ditions du Seuil, 1960, n.e., Points posie, 2008 ;
p. 178, La tragdie du roi Christophe Prsence Africaine ditions, 1963 ; p. 179, La tragdie du roi Christophe Prsence Africaine
ditions, 1963 ; p. 180, Ferrements, Aim Csaire ditions du Seuil, 1960, n.e., Points posie, 2008 ; p. 181, Maillon de la cadne in Moi
Laminaire, Aim Csaire ditions du Seuil, 1982, Points Posie, 2006.

Official documentation
Records of the unesco General Conference; 35th session, Paris, 2009, 35C/ 53
http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001848/184890e.pdf
Records of the unesco General Conference; 35th session, Paris, 2009, vol.1 35C/ Resolution 46
http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001864/186470E.pdf
Decision 180ex/58 of the Executive Board of unesco; 180th Session, Paris, 2008.
http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0016/001625/162500e.pdf

Official website for the programme


Rabindrnth Tagore, Pablo Neruda and Aim Csaire, for a Reconciled Universal
http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/dialogue/tagore-neruda-and-cesaire/
Email: tnc_reconciled@unesco.org

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aim csaire
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