The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 54, Issue 1

Article 3
To Cross the Ocean: René Depestre, Anticolonial Writing, and Global Francophone Radicalism

Sarah Miles


Rightly recognized as a giant of Haitian poetry and literature, René Depestre is more than a literary figure. Part of a group of students who helped overthrow the Haitian president in 1946, Depestre was eventually forced into exile from his native land. He went on to write for the anticolonial journal Présence Africaine, founded La Casas de las Americas, a Cuban literary and artistic journal, and travelled around the world as an ambassador both for his native island and for the revolutionary shores of Cuba. His participation in intellectual and political networks across the francophone world provides a lens into the importance of globality for twentieth-century anticolonial movements. In this essay, Depestre’s life between his exile in 1946 and 1978 is examined through the lens of the publications in which he played a role – in Haiti, France, and Cuba. This article notes the role of exile and internationalism in his life experience and in the development of his political thought, arguing that Depestre’s trajectory can be understood as part of a broader movement in late twentieth-century francophone radicalism that emphasized the role of intellectuals and internationalism as the basis of global revolution.