The postcolonial moment is animated by a single, fecund question: What does it mean to begin? Whether it is a vision of cultural retrieval, syncretic memory work, or a first production of the unprecedented, this moment is oriented toward the new as a question of resistance, revolution, and, ultimately, an unshackled future. But, as with any theorizing of the future, this moment is also bound up with the question of memory work: What is the past? And what is the past to the future? This essay takes up the question of beginning in Aimé Césaire's critical work and early poetry. In particular, it explores the relation between apocalypse and prophecy in Notebook of a Return to the Native Land and draws out some of the implications for such thinking after Césaire and négritude. Beginning with that key moment in Notebook in which Césaire demands “the end of the world,” the essay traces Césaire's apocalyptic and establishes it as a precondition of the work of two post-Césairean trends: existentialism (Frantz Fanon) and what I call the Afro-postmodern (Edouard Glissant).

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