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"Exterminate All the Brutes": One Man's Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide Paperback – January 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565843592
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565843592
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sven Lindqvist, a traveler and historian, paints a broad-brush history of European colonialism, especially in Africa. Drawing his title from Joseph Conrad's fable Heart of Darkness, he turns up 19th-century newspaper accounts of British massacres of wounded Sudanese rebels after the siege of Omdurman, of German concentration camps in what was once called Southwest Africa, of a Belgian captain who decorated his flower beds with the heads of recalcitrant plantation workers. These incidents were not unusual, Lindqvist writes. Neither were they thought especially brutal by their perpetrators, for, he argues, colonialism was guided by a doctrine that placed Europe at the top of the evolutionary ladder and regarded non-Europeans as a separate species bound for extinction--a doctrine that found its ultimate expression in the Holocaust. This is an occasionally gruesome and always provocative study.

Review

Praise for Sven Lindqvist and "Exterminate All the Brutes":

"A book of stunning range and near genius. . . . The catastrophic consequences of European imperialism are made palpable in the personal progress of the author, a late-twentieth century pilgrim in Africa. Lindqvist’s astonishing connections across time and cultures, combined with a marvelous economy of prose, leave the reader appalled, reflective, and grateful."
—David Levering Lewis

"In spare but powerful prose . . . Lindqvist manages to weave together an impressive variety of themes [to] point to the continuity between prejudices and acts separated by continents and centuries."
The Washington Post

"Lindqvist’s disturbing, brilliant work of historical sleuthing deserves to be taken up in a thousand classrooms."
—Rob Nixon, Voice Literary Supplement

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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It is a very good read... if you have the courage.
Sesquilinear
This remains a very important book of one man's examination of the searing necessity to interrogate who and what we really are, within.
Viridian
If you want to know about how slavery began, read this book at least twice.
Thomas Vitale

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Cheney on March 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Sven Lindqvist has created here a fascinating, disturbing collage of history, journalism, and memoir -- a sometimes surreal exploration of the European impulse toward genocide.
Lindqvist develops a few theses, but his primary one is that imperialism leads to genocidal actions, and that no slaughter is completely unique when viewed in the context of history. He writes, "Auschwitz was the modern industrial application of a policy of extermination on which European world domination had long since rested."
This is an invaluable book for anyone looking for perspective on Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" or 19th century European attitudes toward race and colonialism. It gives a damning picture not only of European actions in Africa, but of the educated European public's indifference to inhumanity. The writing is extremely clear and readable, compulsively so, because Lindqvist's technique is to offer tantalizing strands of ideas, all seemingly unrelated, and then slowly and shockingly bring them together as a whole. The organization and balance of the book's many pieces is magnificent.
There are no clear answers here. Lindqvist digs up a history most people would rather let lie. Its implications about humanity, all of humanity, are dark. But without facing them, we will never cease being accomplices to slaughter.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ilya Grigorik on November 25, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Exterminate All the Brutes is brief and disturbing; Sven Lindqvist unveils the realities and moral convictions we have almost completely repressed. Just as the author suggests, the book shatters the image we have of ourselves, but even more importantly, it is distressing how relevant his ideas and Conrad's `Heart of Darkness' are in the world today - again.

The title of the book is taken from Joseph Conrad's 1902 classic novel - Heart of Darkness. In it, the main character, Kurtz, goes to Africa to bring progress and culture to the uncivilized continent. He is dispatched to Africa as an ivory procurement agent, and as the story develops the reader is confronted with the unreal brutality of the colonial rule. Conrad's work intertwines the themes of `light of civilization' and `darkness of barbarism' and makes reader realize the hollowness of these phrases as Kurtz surrounds himself with chaos and mayhem. Sven Lindqvist develops this theme as he traces the imperial history of European colonialism and condenses it to a single sentence: "Exterminate all the brutes." European world expansion, he claims, and the employed tactics of extermination are the truths we like to forget. Preferring to externalize we look at the Holocaust as a historical aberration, a smear on the path of progress and enlightenment brought to the world by the Western societies. However, as the author points out, just as all of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz, it would also be the European habits and political precedents that would lay the foundation for the atrocities of the Second World War. What was done in Africa, would be repeated in Europe - we know this, what we lack is the courage to face what we know and draw some conclusions.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Viridian on April 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
I purchased Sven Lindqvist's book when it first came out in 1997. The writing is pared to the bone so you can clearly see the stark reality of his discoveries in perception.

A late twentieth century European, Lindqvist travels back through colonial 19th century routes of Charles Darwin and Joseph Conrad into Africa, as a scenic observer of anthropological curiosities, almost. So, to all intents are purposes he starts off like a tourist. Dusky-faced north Africans remain outside of him, as he bumps along in buses and jostling towns and villages, carrying his laptop computer in a backpack. The natives are just the "others" he is interrogating and observing with a Western distancing mind and sensibility and going to write on and report about in his travelogue.

But having to be close to Moroccans and others, over time, slowly travelling, in old vehicles in heat and dust, closely, over long distances, he gradually becomes drawn into their world, and as he does so, winds his way down into the psychological depths of the collective western colonising consciousness. Eventually Lindqvist ends up coming to face the dark pit in the hub of the Western psyche and unveils himself as interloper, transgressor and destroyer.

In a Jungian sense, he approaches the nexus of the collective shadow of the western civilizational consciousness and finds he is not free of the spectre of the shadow of the Western "white" mind, clearly seeing the mind that went everywhere, travelling to all parts of the globe, with purpose, carrying guns, gin and bibles.

Seeing into the mind of the white aggressor he recognises that he too carries the baggage of mental superiority and arrogance.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the best expose of colonialism that I've ever read. The central thread is the author's musings on "Heart of Darkness" while travelling across Africa by bus, but he brings in everything from Adam Smith to Darwin to Adolf Hitler. The style is lyrical, almost poetic -- interspersed among the history are the author's nightmares, which increase in frequency as he gets closer to the end of the century. After this you'll never be able to read Rudyard Kipling the same way again.
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