The Tragedy of King Christophe (1963, revised 1970) is recognized as the Martiniquan writer and activist Aime Cesaire's greatest play. Set in the period of upheaval in Haiti after the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines in 1806, it follows the historical figure of Henri Christophe, a slave who rose to become a general in Toussaint Louverture's army. Christophe declared himself king in 1811 and ruled the northern part of Haiti until 1820. Cesaire employs Shakespearean plotting and revels in the inexhaustible possibilities of language to convey the tragedy of Christophe's transformation from a charismatic leader sensitive to the oppression of his people to an oppressor himself.
Paul Breslin and Rachel Ney's nimble, accurate translation includes an introduction and explanatory notes to guide students, scholars, and general readers alike.
Aime Cesaire (1913-2008) was a Martiniquan poet, author, and politician. He was one of the founders of the negritude movement in Francophone literature. Paul Breslin is a poet and a professor emeritus of English at Northwestern University. His most recent book of poetry, Between My Eye and the Light, is also published by Northwestern. Rachel Ney is a lecturer in French at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, USA.