The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, expressed her “great sadness” at the news of the death of the Martinican writer, poet and essayist, Edouard Glissant, who died in Paris on 3 February, at the age of 83.
“We have just lost a major figure in Caribbean literature, as well as a socially committed writer,” said the Director General. “The prolific writings he has left us are a homage to métissage and to the concept of Creolisation, which were so close to his heart. UNESCO is also proud to be able to count him as a colleague, since he was Editor in Chief of the UNESCO Courier from 1982 to 1988.”
UNESCO pays homage today to its colleague, Edouard Glissant, great defender of globality, the human face of globalization.
“This intermingling, [in the Caribbean] however, was not passive assent to the values imposed,” claimed Edouard Glissant, in an article in the UNESCO Courier published in 1981 under the title “Creative contradictions, the Caribbean genius has given birth to a new civilization”. A year later he was to be appointed Editor in Chief of the magazine, a post he held until 1988. “The Caribbean stands forth as a special setting in which nations and communities interrelate, each with its own originality, sharing nevertheless a common future,” wrote this philosopher of the universal, to whom we owe the concept of ‘Tout-Monde’ (the title of one of his novels, published in 1993). He defined métissage not as a simple mingling of cultures, but as a meeting of differences, thus helping to forge the notion of cultural diversity that UNESCO defends today, just as it did then.
A few months after he took over as Editor of the UNESCO Courier, Edouard Glissant had published an issue entitled ‘War on war; the poet’s cry’ (November 1982), with contributions from internationally renowned writers such as Adonis, Ginsberg, Labou Tan’si, Voznesensky, to name just a few. Soon to follow were ‘Theatre of the World’, ‘Civilizations of the Sea’, “The Artistic Genius of Latin America’, ‘The Story of the Universe’… He had set the tone: The UNESCO Courier was going to establish itself as an open forum for intellectual debate on an international scale. This ‘mark’ of Edouard Glissant remains indelibly imprinted on the pages of our magazine.
In 2006, Edouard Glissant joined celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists, organized with UNESCO support. His skin may have betrayed his age, but his spirit was just as fiery as when, as a young 28 year-old, he had joined the group of black intellectuals in 1956 in vigorous defence of Creole.
Born in 1928 in Sainte-Marie (Martinique), and a pupil of Aimé Césaire at the Lycée Schoelcher in Fort-de-France, Edouard Glissant was actively involved in the struggle against colonial rule, calling for the independence of Algeria. From Un champ d’îles (1953), and La Terre inquiète (1954) to the epic poem Les Indes (1956), his writing speaks of the oppression of the Caribbean people. His novels, like La Lézarde (1958) and Malemort (1975), also evoke a people haunted by a painful history, searching for an identity.
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