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Solar Throat Slashed: The Unexpurgated 1948 Edition

Solar Throat Slashed: The Unexpurgated 1948 Edition

by Aime Cesaire, A. James Arnold (Editor), Clayton Eshleman (Editor)

Soleil cou coupé (Solar Throat Slashed) is Aimé Césaire’s most explosive collection of poetry. Animistically dense, charged with eroticism and blasphemy, and imbued with an African and Vodun spirituality, this book takes the French surrealist adventure to new heights and depths. A Césaire poem is an intersection at which metaphoric


Soleil cou coupé (Solar Throat Slashed) is Aimé Césaire’s most explosive collection of poetry. Animistically dense, charged with eroticism and blasphemy, and imbued with an African and Vodun spirituality, this book takes the French surrealist adventure to new heights and depths. A Césaire poem is an intersection at which metaphoric traceries create historically aware nexuses of thought and experience, jagged solidarity, apocalyptic surgery, and solar dynamite. The original 1948 French edition of Soleil cou coupé has a dense magico-religious frame of reference. In the late 1950s, Césaire was increasingly politically focused and seeking a wider audience, when he, in effect, gelded the 1948 text—eliminating 31 of the 72 poems, and editing another 29. Until now, only the revised 1961 edition, called Cadastre, has been translated. The revised text lacks the radical originality of Soleil cou coupé. This Wesleyan edition presents all the original poems en face with the new English translations. Includes an introduction by A. James Arnold and notes by Clayton Eshleman.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Translator, Clayton Eshleman and editor, A. James Arnold team up to restore Césaire’s original work for the public, unexpurgated, reclaiming the poems that had been edited over the years for political reasons. The introduction by Arnold is an essential explication of the work and as this is the only existing bilingual version of Solar Throat Slashed, it would be rewarding to approach the French originals at whatever level the reader is able…The verse is beautifully crafted, the content is historically valuable. Eshleman and Arnold are doing holy work here.”—Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Book Review

"…this contemporary edition, revamped as a bilingual collection, continues to resonate deeply, providing wisdom for the mind, wealth for the soul and strength for these times. Solar Throat Slashed is poetry that transcends the ages. … Cesaire takes poetic license in redefining style, and it is brilliantly revolutionary."—Misani Rites, Amsterdam News

“By the end of this new original collection, one simply remains astonished, amazed, agape, aghast, and uprooted by Aimé Césaire’s verse. In the current age of natural cataclysm and disaster capitalism, he has never seemed to so contemporary, so relevant, and so necessary.” —Kevin Carollo, Rain Taxi

"Eshelman and Arnold's thoughtful and inventive translation reveals untold riches to Anglophone readers. One senses on every page the cumulative mastery of this difficult art by the two most distinguished scholar-translators of Cesaire at work today."—Nick Nesbitt, Literature and Arts of the Americas

“This is visionary or apocalyptic poetry, instinct with calamity and violence—as in the title's anti-sentimental comparison of a sunset to a slit throat. Yet, there is something of sublime ecstasy in Césaire's evocations of a liberating devastation. Coming thick and fast, the references to flames, hurricanes and eruptions appear to forge a metaphoric support for a daring and paradoxical presentiment of transformation and regeneration.”—Roger Cardinal, Times Literary Supplement

“Comprehensive and elegant in its presentation, this is a worthwhile addition to any French Caribbean bookshelf.”—H. Adlai Murdoch, Modern Language Review

Library Journal
The key to the importance of the publication of this fourth volume of poetry by one of the founders of the black consciousness movement Négritude is the subtitle; it is the first time the complete original text appears in French since 1948 and the first time ever in English. The work represents the surrealist phase of Martinican Césaire's career, in which he uses all the typical surrealist trappings: associative metaphor, automatic writing, anything-goes versification, juxtaposed religious and mythic imagery. Witness this example from "Intercessor": "O torn sun/ blind peacock magical and cool/ with arched test tube hands/ futile eclipse of space." The bilingual text offers an accurate verbatim translation of the French. A useful appendix provides poem-by-poem information, but readers will not find help interpreting the form or the sense of the poems. VERDICT Despite this publication's historic significance, the imagery will be difficult for all but diehards and scholars, especially in light of the absence of scholarly apparatus. For some this collection will be no more than an outdated surrealist artifact, for others a reaffirmation of the importance of one of Césaire's early works. Recommended for public and academic libraries.—Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH

Product Details

Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
Wesleyan Poetry Series
Edition description:
Bilingual French-English ed.
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

What People are Saying About This

Brent Hayes Edwards
"Not only do Eshleman and Arnold give us excellent translations of Cesaire's at times syntactically knotty, etymologically abstruse, and semantically bedeviling verse; they also contextualize the poems--with an introduction by Arnold and endnotes by Eshleman--with crucial historical information and lucid discussions of the complexities of the poems' language."
Brent Hayes Edwards, author of The Practice of Diaspora
Jerome Rothenberg
“Since Césaire first came into our view, he has seemed to some of us to be, with Breton and Artaud, one of the three truly unbounded poets of Surrealism—not so much lyrical, as with some other, more readily accessible poets (Eluard and Desnos the finest among them), but as Diderot had it over two centuries ago: the maker of a poetry that was and had to be ‘barbaric, vast and wild.’ It is the genius of the present gathering to rescue from previous editings and literary compromises the full force of Césaire’s remarkable 1948 work, Soleil cou coupé/Solar Throat Slashed. The result—in both the original French and in Eshleman’s and Arnold’s remarkable and no-holds-barred translation—is a reconstituted masterwork of the twentieth century and ample grist for the century to come.”

Meet the Author

AIMÉ CÉSAIRE (1913–2008) was best known as the co-creator of the concept of négritude.
A. JAMES ARNOLD is an emeritus professor of French at the University of Virginia. He is the lead editor of Césaire's complete literary works in French (in progress) and author of Modernism and Negritude: The Poetry and Poetics of Aimé Césaire.
CLAYTON ESHLEMAN is a professor emeritus at Eastern Michigan University and the foremost American translator of Aimé Césaire. He is the author of The Grindstone of Rapport / A Clayton Eshleman Reader and translator of The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo.

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