"Imagine a poem that forces history, psychoanalysis, ethnography, and revolution to coexist. The Cahier stages the uneasy alliances between the monumental projections of empire and its abject underside: populations looted, cultures trampled, slaves reduced by terror and regulated by force. Alternately strident and elegiac, Césaire pits the ongoing myths of inferiority against the lure of “civilizing” language. The relics and scraps of bodies, the slaves who had been called “ebony wood,” “pieces of the Indies,” or “heads of cattle,” return as ancestor spirits, caught in the evil that created them.
What these metamorphoses have in common is a secret pact with the banal. Césaire plied his words as if they were ritual incantation, and he knew that the magic of ritual lay in its ordinariness, its way of reiterating the simplest, least gilded things. The sacred had to be concrete in order to transform, palpable, never abstract. The bond between colonizer and colonized, the mutual adaptability, as Hegel had it, of master and slave, gained substance through these meditations on mimicry, adaptation, and appropriation. Resistance for Césaire is not just political, but psychic. Repression is not only a history of mutilation and torture. It is also the buried and forgotten. The revolution must be “internal,” a complete overhauling of consciousness, what he called 'une rencontre bien totale.'"