Biographical fragments

Request to take the driving test sent by Aimé Césaire to the head of the Public Works Department. Correspondence, identity papers and photograph, 1940.

 

Martinique Archives, 7 S 7109

 

All rights reserved.

 

Context

Back in Martinique in August 1939, Aimé Césaire was teaching French at the Schœlcher High School as of the month of October. He had married Suzanne Jeanne Aimée Roussi in 1937 in Paris and was father to their first child, Jacques, born on 9th May 1938. The island at that time was under the iron rule of Admiral Georges Robert, High Commissioner of France for the French West Indies and French Guyana, who was at the head of a dictatorial regime that was openly racist.

 

Historical commentary

Between the wars, Martinique entered the automobile era. Cars, lorries and buses became part of the daily life of the population. After each Atlantic crossing between metropolitan France and Martinique, the cargo boats discharged onto the port about thirty vehicles: Renaults, Buicks, Pontiacs, Chevrolets, etc. The pages of the newspapers were full of car advertisements and reports of accidents - cars falling into gullies, telephone poles hit by lorries, buses colliding with trains - and of feats such as that of three driver mechanics, Paul Marrion, Joseph Paul Allaguy and Maurice Guitteau, who managed to drive from Saint Pierre to Prêcheur, through a volcanic region, in nine hours. The length of journeys varied but on average it took three hours to do Fort-de-France/Morne-Rouge/Fort-de-France, seven hours to do Fort-de-France/Basse-Pointe and back and nine hours to do Fort-de-France/François/Fort-de-France.

 

Historical interest

Over and beyond their anecdotal nature, the main value of these documents is to give us an idea of the concerns of a young 27-year old father for the welfare of his family. They show his daily life, of which little is known and which we cannot therefore understand, and tell us about the everyday life of a man whose existence was no longer commonplace, given his intellectual commitments.