Today, September 21, marks the birth of Édouard Glissant (born in Sainte-Marie, Martinique in 1928). Writer, poet, and literary critic, Édouard Glissant is one of the most prominent thinkers and influential figures from the Caribbean and the Francophone world. A distinguished professor of French Literature at The Graduate Center (CUNY) since 1995, Glissant has twice been a finalist for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Glissant’s writings focus on the struggle against colonialism, globalization, and their combined effects on the subjugated citizens of the world. Last year, he and fellow Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau wrote a letter to the French Minister of the Interior describing the riots in Paris as a direct consequence of slavery and the effects of European colonialism. It also criticized a new law requiring schools to teach the “positive role of the French presence overseas, particularly in North Africa.” In the widely-published letter, Glissant and Chamoiseau wrote: “Memory faces off with the world’s truths, and the act of living together is now located within the balancing acts of the world’s truths.” Glissant and Chamoiseau were also among the nine Caribbean intellectuals who drafted and co-signed a procamation–“Manifest pour les ‘produits’ de haute nécessité”–published in Le Monde (16 February 2009) expressing their support and defense of the legitimacy of the social movements taking place in Guadeloupe and Martinique.
A prolific writer of poetry, novels, and essays, some of his well-known works include his award-winning novel, La Lézarde (1958), and the groundbreaking works L’Intention poétique (1969), Le Discours antillais (1981), and Poétique de la Relation (1990). This year, he published (with Patrick Chamoiseau) L’intraitable beauté du monde: Adresse à Barack Obama (2009).