Aimé Césaire Immortalized in Paris’ Panthéon

Today, after years of debate, France immortalizes revered Caribbean man of letters and politics, Aimé Césaire with a fresco, a plaque, and commemoration ceremony at the Panthéon. Here is a report translated from France Soir followed by a link to the original and a link to Le Figaro’s 2008 article on the disputes surrounding the choice of the Martinican poet for the French national monument to its greatest minds:

A plaque in Aimé Césaire’s name will be inaugurated on Wednesday in the Panthéon. A ceremony will be held to mark this event. [France] has long sought the solution for permanently rendering tribute to the Martinican poet. The creation of a monumental fresco, retracing the life of Aimé Césaire, seems the best compromise. The remains of the former deputy member remains in his home in Martinique, but he still has his place in the Panthéon, close to the greatest men [and women] of the nation, along with Voltaire, Pierre and Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, and Émile Zola. 

When he died on April 17, 2008, at the age of 94, the question immediately arose. Should we allow Aimé Césaire in the Pantheon? His Discours sur le colonialisme, published in 1950, in which he establishes a close relationship between Nazism and colonialism, offered a weighty argument for opponents to his entry to the monument on Sainte-Geneviève. But the universal scope of his corpus and the renowned talent of one of the founders of the négritude literary movement, as well as his immense popularity in the Caribbean prevailed. The national ceremony will take place [today] Wednesday at 5:00pm and will be broadcasted on France 2 and France Ô. A schoolgirl will read one of Aimé Césaire’s poems and a documentary on his life will be broadcast, all in the presence of 1,000 guests, including Nicolas Sarkozy.

Marie-Luce Penchard, Minister of Overseas Territories, characterized the event as a “strong gesture for the Overseas Departments, for France. It will educate the youth of France about the great man that Aimé Césaire was and, through him, he who was able to tear down walls, to sing in favor of humanism, to break down prejudices, to raise awareness, and to give strength to face tomorrow.” Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterrand, said, “To recognize one of the greatest voices from overseas is also to pay tribute to the vitality of the cultures of the Overseas Departments, which have continued to influence French culture in its totality.”

For full article, see http://www.francesoir.fr/loisirs/litterature/aime-cesaire-rejoint-pantheon-89100.html

For more on the debates surrounding this decision, see a 2008 article from Le Figaro: http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualites/2008/04/17/01001-20080417ARTFIG00674-aime-cesaire-reposera-t-il-au-pantheon-.php

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