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  • Poetics of the Antilks: Poetry, History and Philosophy in the Writings of Perse, Césaire, Fanon and Glissant by Jean Khalfa
  • Nick Nesbitt
Poetics of the Antilks: Poetry, History and Philosophy in the Writings of Perse, Césaire, Fanon and Glissant. By Jean Khalfa. (Modern French Identities, 124.) Oxford: Peter Lang, 2017. xi +362 pp.

This volume collects essays on francophone poetics by Jean Khalfa, ranging widely across themes of subjectivity, history, and politics in the writings of Saint-John Perse, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and Édouard Glissant. The book's first section, 'Poetry and Subjectivity', focuses on the constitution of a poetic subjectivity in Perse, Césaire, and Glissant. Khalfa argues that this poetic fashioning of the subject of Negritude consists in a process of 'becoming' subject, rather than the invocation of a fixed identity. The author's detailed analyses of Césaire's Cahier d'un retour au pays natal and Moi, laminaire trace the various representations of time and space at work in the poem, arguing against the received wisdom that Césaire's notion of Négritude instantiates an identitarian or historical mode of subjectivation. The book's second section then turns to historical and political issues of the 1920s in the writings of proto-Negritude authors such as Blaise Diagne, Lamine Senghor, and René Maran, to trace intellectual and cultural genealogy as a pre-history to the reigning image of Césaire's protean creativity. Khalfa then proceeds to interpret Fanon's work as a dialectic of consciousness (a gesture reminiscent of Ato Sekyi-Otu's important study, Fanon's Dialectic of Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996)). In some of the finest pages of the volume, Khalfa draws extensively on his intimate knowledge of Fanon's psychiatric writings—still unpublished when the materials of this chapter were written, between 2005 and 2013—to explore the important links across the registers of Fanon's work. These chapters draw together the range of Fanon's writings—psychiatric, existential, political—to demonstrate across their various modes a fitful dialectic of postcolonial subjectivity. In this sense, this section of the volume forms a ready and original companion to the recent publication—which Khalfa co-edited with Robert J. C. Young—of Fanon's literary and psychiatric works (Frantz Fanon, Alienation and Freedom, trans. by Steven Corcoran (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018); see review on p. X). A final section turns to philosophy, to address at the conceptual level issues of contingency, event, and consciousness that inform the volume as a whole. In these chapters, Khalfa explores Gilles Deleuze's philosophy of the impersonnel to demonstrate its importance for Glissant's theories of becoming, relation, and multiplicity. A final chapter concludes on the notion of the encounter from Perse to Deleuze and Glissant, arguing that a philosophy of nomadic contingency allows for the actualization of diversity within protean identity forms of postcolonial experience, 'simultaneously pure multiplicity and infinite individuation' (p. 322). The essays collected in the volume, composed in the 2000s in both French and English, are at once detailed and compelling, yet might well have benefited from rewriting to engage with important recent works (for instance, Carrie Noland, Gary Wilder, Nigel Gibson, Sam Coombes, Aliocha Wald Lasowski), often on precisely the topics they address. That said, this is a rich and compelling volume that makes an important contribution to francophone postcolonial studies. [End Page 328]

Nick Nesbitt
Princeton University


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