Cesaire vs. Ginsberg: Post Colonial Writing as Transgressive Literature?

25 Feb

I know this is going off on a tangent a little bit, but I had to blog this here– beg your pardon in advance.

So, Césaire’s poem (‘Cahier d’un retour au pays natal’) was originally published in French in 1939, while Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ was published in 1956. It’s not a huge stretch to take note of the similar treatments and themes throughout: exploitation, surreal imagery, the use of lists, choruses, invocations.

What made me think of ‘Howl’ was the introduction written by André Breton: here was a noted Surrealist, adored by the Beats, drawing attention to a writer who would become a forebear of Post-Colonial literature. In addition, Breton quotes a line from Isidore-Lucien Ducasse– “a howling of fists against the barrier of the sky”– and claims that Césaire thought highly of Ducasse and once published him in ‘Tropiques’, a literary review that Wikipedia says Césaire co-founded in 1941.

A quick trawling of the internet pulled up information on Ducasse, a poet and writer I had never heard of before. Ducasse was apparently a major influence on Césaire as well as the surrealists. What’s interesting is that  Ducasse’s most famous creation, the character Maldoror, is eerily similar to Ginsberg’s Moloch, both used to denote evil in total opposition to anything good in Humanity.

One Mark Spitzer (translator of ‘From Absinthe to Abyssinia’, a collection of Rimbaud’s poems) recounts an anecdote shared by one Steve Collins, who claims Ginsberg shared Ducasse’s ‘Les Chants de Maldoror’ with Bob Dylan, who was then inspired to create ‘Taratula‘ (google books link).

So, perhaps Ducasse’s large prose poem inspired Césaire’s long poem and possibly separately, Ginsberg’s long poem? Is Ducasse a grandfather of Transgressive Literature? If so, could it be possible that Post-Colonial literature is a type of Transgressive Literature?
And yet, I vaguely remember some Wiki page having to do with Post-Colonial Literary Criticism claiming that Edward Said analyzed Ducasse’s poetry and found it contributed indirectly to a sense of European-centric racial superiority!
(N.B– Went back to look this over: I didn’t find any specific text linking Said and Ducasse, except for book by David Bate, called ‘Photography and Surrealism: Sexuality, Colonialism and Social Dissent’ (available on Google Books), which discusses how Said criticized the scope of the Surrealists’ Anti-Colonial stance.)
Transgressive Literature broadly involves challenging some popular aspect of society or culture– I’d like to argue that Césaire does as much with his poem, and that this is the aim of of Machado de Assis and Jean Rhys in their respective books.
Wondering, has anyone seen anything that builds connections between Post-Colonial and Transgressive (perhaps even Beat) writing/criticism?

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