Poet and politician Aim Csaire was born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique on June 26, 1913. He attended high school and college in France. While in Paris, he helped found the journal Black Student in the 1930s. During World War II, he returned to Martinique and was mayor of Fort-de-France from 1945 to 2001, except for a break from 1983 to 1984. He also served in France's National Assembly from 1946 to 1956 and from 1958 to 1993. In 1946, he helped Martinique shed its colonial status and become an overseas department of France. Some of his best known works include the book Discourse on Colonialism, the essay Negro I Am, Negro I Will Remain, and the poem Notes from a Return to the Native Land. He was being treated for heart problems and other ailments when he died on April 17, 2008.
Aime Cesaire is most well-known as the co-creator (with Leopold Senghor) of the concept of negritude. A member of the Communist party and active supporter of a progressive Socialist movement in his native Martinique, Cesaire wrote Notebook of a Return to the Native Land at the end of World War II. Clayton Eshleman, Professor of English at Eastern Michigan University, has published eleven books of poetry since 1968. He has translated works by Antonin Artaud, Bernard Bador, Michel Deguy, Vladimir Holan, and Pablo Neruda. He is also the foremost American translator of Cesar Vallejo (with Jose Rubia Barcia). Annette Smith, born in Algeria, is an Associate Professor of French at the California Institute of Technology. Eshleman and Smith translated Aime Cesaire: The Collected Poetry (1985).
Andre Breton, poet, novelist, philosophical essayist, and art critic, is considered the father of surrealism. From World War I to the 1940s, Breton was at the forefront of the numerous avant-garde activities that centered in Paris. A prolific producer of pamphlets and manifestoes, he also edited two surrealist periodicals. Breton's influence on the art and literature of the twentieth century has been enormous. Picasso, Derain, Magritte, Giacometti, Cocteau, Eluard, and Gracq are among the many whose work was affected by his thinking. From 1927 to 1933, Breton was a member of the Communist party, but thereafter he opposed communism. At the time of Breton's death in 1966, his novel Nadja (1928), about a young dreamer in love with an ethereal heroine was reaching a new generation of theatre goers.