On the High Seas, the Lighthouse, Always: Thinking of Edouard Glissant

A tribute read by Francesca Canadé Sautman at The Graduate Center of CUNY, March 4, 2011

Lire hors-ligne :

Last month, an immense swath of starlit sky went dark for us. The loss of Edouard Glissant, teacher, mentor, poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, artist, philosopher, one whom the French so elegantly call maître à penser, is indeed incalculable.

It remains unfathomable even as we stand here to remember and commemorate him tonight, as it is for the thousands of people whose lives he touched and moved worldwide. This bereavement we bear with great difficulty-we, friends colleagues and students, while I do not presume to measure the extent of this loss for his loved ones, which far supersedes and overshadows our own. But within this group, at once mourning and celebrating, I seek the honor of being counted as one of his students, rather than as colleague, although I never had the opportunity, something I will always regret, to take one of his courses. Student in many ways, beginning with the moment of uncovery, the searing words of the Poetics of Relation-from those words alone, my awed relation to history, philosophy, the world we live in has been profoundly, durably changed…his work is ever-present to me even though I am by training and profession a medievalist, perhaps more so because of that-among the many amazing threads of this amazing man’s knowledge and passion for illuminating the fragments of the world, indeed was his astute and challenging reading of the Middle Ages. Yet his works are way more than academic monuments, they have transfused everything we perceive about the world we live, suffer, and create in…Among so many exchanges with him, I recall one of his sojourns in Europe, during which we lamented via mail the dismal state of world affairs; I wrote to him how much we missed his wisdom and presence in coping with the constant din of indignities that pass for news; I told him how loudly his words echoed across the Atlantic, and for me, as I slowly stitched the pieces of my All Wolrd/No Global tapestry. The pieces still lie in boxes, awaiting the moment when the voice of its inspirer can resonate again in my head and in my heart beyond the sorrow that our detached moorings have brought us. Edouard Glissant was indeed the All-World-not just its creator or instigator, but in all he did, all he wrote, all he breathed, he was the boundless, strange and beautiful, unsettling and uncontainable un-landscape of the All World. He was not, as is thought by some here in the US, a Francophone writer-a term he not only eschewed, but fiercely resisted. He was not even a cultural treasure of the Francophone reach….Edouard Glissant was not only read well beyond that, no doubt, already considerable expanse, but celebrated, heard, and sought in venues the world over. The author, among other works in an immense oeuvre, of Poetics of Relation, Poetics of the Diverse, Caribbean Discourse, and La Cohée de Lamentin, saw his unforgettable poetic and theoretical work translated into English, Italian, Japanese, Czech, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Edouard Glissant’s work was acknowledged in 2004 in Italy, by the prestigious Grinzane Cavour 2004 award. The foundational nature of Edouard Glissant’s work in poetics, postcolonial studies, globalization studies and the incessantly fraught search for defining identities, was evidenced time and again by international colloquia, conferences and literary festivals, in such cultural centers as London, Berlin, Venice, and Tunis.  It would be difficult to adequately recount the many occasions, encounters with other significant intellectuals of our time, films, interviews, keynote addresses, public interventions and such that recognized one who had an electrifying effect on so many layers of the intellectual and cultural world at once, from staid academics to wall-shaking activists. Edouard Glissant’s ideas on the local, the atavic, the mixed and the interconnected, became an unwavering lantern in the storm, followed by opposition, discursive as much as political, to globalization and its effects, whether in the shanty towns of the developing worlds, the urban cities of the West staggering under inequity and inequality, or in the archipelago, the islands of open and crossed identities that are at the center of his theories. But how many even of his admirers know this? In 2000, Edouard Glissant initiated a vast cultural project, the founding of the Museum of the Arts of the Americas (Musée martiniquais des Amériques, M2A2) based on an staggering collection of major works of art personally given to him by artists all over the Caribbean and Latin American, and donated by him as the core of the museum. This momentous inscription in public memory and visual culture of the Diverse of the Americas and its rhizome-like poetics was also enacted by traveling exhibits all over the hemisphere and in France, from Paris to Jamaica, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and last, but far from least, Santo Domingo and Haiti. Nomadic intellectual par excellence, globetrotter of a new type, traveling at the crossings of all sufferings and exclusions, carrying with him the boundless gifts of beauty and pain, Edouard Glissant tirelessly spoke, and wrote, and elicited the thinking of others, at once challenging the common place as timeworn idea and embracing it as the place of commonality. February 2011 was but one more stop in this generous and avid wandering. Rest assured, dear grieving friends, that it cannot. be the last, and that Edouard Glissant simply threw too many bridges across continents, and left too many furrows in the deep of ocean beds, and encompassed too many sunsets on quavering shores that still resist erosion -for such a journey to end.

Cet article fait partie du dossier consacré à Édouard Glissant, publié dans em>Africultures n° 87. Nous remercions Jean-Luc Laguarigue dont les photographies, extraite de l’exposition Le Pays des imaginés ont illustré ce numéro.
L’exposition est visible sur le site [http://gensdepays.blogspot.fr/2011/07/pays-des-imagines-exposition-permanente.html]///Article N° : 10015

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