Aimé Césaire, Wifredo Lam, and the Aesthetics of Surging Life
In chapter 2, three sketches drawn by the Cuban painter Wifredo Lam usher us into the shape of fugitive time in Aimé Césaire’s négritude epic Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. Produced for the 1943 Cuban translation of Césaire’s original 1939 Notebook, these drawings—which to date have only been cursorily examined in relation to the poem—allow us to appraise anew a canonical text written amid the incipient rise of fascism in Europe and increasing anticolonial demonstrations throughout the colonized world. Rather than mere illustrations, the chapter shows how Lam’s surrealist, multispecies figurations expand and deepen the images and drama of the poem while bringing into view its temporalities of wounding and desire. Through the interplay of the visual and the poetic, of surrealist image and surrealist metaphor, we gain a visceral sense of how utopian desire emerges from the body in the Notebook.