Lydia Cabrera’s translation of Césaire’s Cahier


To mark the 110th anniversary of her birth, the Miami Herald has published a brief essay reflecting on Lydia Cabrera’s work, especially on her producing the first translation into Spanish of Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal. Cabrera (1899-1991) was a Cuban anthropologist and poet recognized as one of the early experts on Santería and other Afro-Cuban religions. Her book El monte was the first major anthropological study of Afro-Cuban traditions.

Cabrera based her translation of the Cahier on the 1939 version published by the journal Volontés in Paris. It was published in 1943 under the title of Retorno al país natal and was the first translation of Césaire’s masterpiece in any language. It was moreover, published with illustrations by Cuba’s best-know surrealist painter, Wilfredo Lam and an introduction by Benjamin Péret. Péret wrote that “for the first time a tropical voice resounds in our language, not to season an exotic poetry but to allow true poetry to shine.”

For the essay (in Spanish) go to

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