Le Grand Camouflage. Ecrits de dissidence (1941/1945), edited by Daniel Maximin and published by Seuil (Paris), gathers the essays written by Aimé Césaire’s wife, Suzanne, between 1941 and 1945, when the couple founded and edited the influential journal Tropiques. The book will be launched on May 7th at the Musée Dapper in Paris. On May 10th, as part of the activities connected to the Kréyol Factory exhibit at La Villette in Paris, the couple will be commemorated during the Aimé and Suzanne Césaire Day. In addition to Suzanne’s essays, which Maximin describes as « the greatest and most luminous texts on Antillean identity besides Fanon’s Peau noire, masques blancs,” the book includes writings by René Menil (co-editor of Tropiques), André Masson, André Breton, and Aimé Césaire.
The essays collected in the volume have a single place of origin-a memorable spring day in April 1942, which the Césaires spent walking on the Absalon forest near the Mont Pelée volcano in northern Martinique with a set of new friends: René Ménil, André Breton, his wife Jacqueline Lamba and their daughter Aube, André Masson, Cuban painter Wifredo Lam and his wife Helena-all of whom later acknowledged that their lives had been changed during that day spent in the moist and luxuriantly tropical forest.
The visitors had stopped in Martinique on their way into exile in the United States with a group that also included Claude Lévi-Strauss and Anna Seghers. Breton, entering a shop to buy a ribbon for Aude, chanced upon a copy of Tropiques, in which he discovered the work of the Césaires and other poems of négritude. The discovery led to many artistic friendships and fruitful collaborations, some of which are evident in this collection.
«Le grand camouflage,» the title essay, was written by Suzanne Césaire in 1945, and is « an echo of that day in the forest, a poetic-political text of great energy, both lyrical and anchored in the geography and anthropology of Martinique. » Together with the other essays collected, Maximin argues, it placed the Antilles on the map of political and literary modernity.
In addition to the seven essays of Suzanne’s gathered here, she wrote a play, Youma, aurore de la liberté, based on the novel by Lafcadio Hearn, which was produced in Fort-de-France in the early 1950s. After that, Suzanne stopped writing, for reasons that have never been revealed. Suzanne and Aimé, who had four children together, separated in 1963, three years before her death from a brain tumor at age 51.
For more information (in French) go to http://www.liberation.fr/livres/0101563563-suzanne-l-aimee-de-cesaire