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Today in Language: Léon-Gontran Damas

Léon-G. Damas was a French Guyanese poet (from la Guyane Française), born March 28, 1912. He was one of the leading lights of the movement of a loose grouping of French-speaking Caribbean and African writers known as négritude. The movement tried to emphasize and celebrate the African origin and culture of black Frenchmen or blacks colonized by the French. The two biggest names associated with the movement are Aimé Césaire from Martinique and Léopold Sédar Senghor from Senegal.

In the middle of the social and political upheaval in French West Africa, a bit more than a decade before most of the countries there were to gain their independence, Senghor published in 1948 an Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française (Anthology of the New Negro and Malagasy Poetry in French).

In his introduction to Damas in the anthology, Senghor writes, "la poésie de Damas est essentiellement non sophistiquée" ("Damas' poetry is essentially non-sophisticated"). Not exactly a compliment, maybe, but Senghor goes on to explain: "[Sa poésie] est faite des mots de tous les jours, . . . le plus souvent des mots les plus simples et des expressions du peuple" ("[His poetry] is made from everyday language, most often the simplest of words and expressions of the people"). That is perhaps the highest compliment possible for a writer (not that "sophisticated" or difficult writing doesn't have its place).


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今週初めて黒澤明の『隠し砦の三悪人』という映画を見ました。この三悪人とは、だれですか? 三船敏郎が演じる真壁六郎太(まかべろくたろう)と二人の百姓です。この3人の登場人物の関係はとても面白くて、全ての人間の弱さも愛される性質も示します。