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"Exterminate All the Brutes": One Man's Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide Paperback – 1997
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"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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
While I generally love this sort of digressive, wide ranging, almost essayistic examination of the personal as historical (think W.G. Sebald and Bruce Chatwin mixed with Edward Said)...somehow with Lindvist it comes off as kind of of clunky and not very well tacked together instead of crystalline, brilliant and shattering. And the parts about his travels quickly lose any real sense of focus or purpose when juxtaposed against say, a harrowing report about the slaughter of a bunch of Nigerians by an insane french military commander. I definitely love the idea of what he's trying to do here, I just think the execution is forced and kind of weak.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fantastically insightful. A triple travel guide physical, literary and ideological.Published 6 months ago by Bradford Hogue
"Exterminate All The Brutes" provides prodigious information about forgotten episodes of imperialism and the damage the great European powers have caused to the culture of... Read morePublished on May 4, 2014 by Dale Pelton
This is an extremely important book! If you want to know about how slavery began, read this book at least twice.Published on January 6, 2014 by Thomas Vitale
Everyone should read this book. Helps with perspective on the imperial forces of history and the mark their heinous acts have left on our global societyPublished on December 18, 2013 by alexander daryanani
Four stars because too short. Although going through some of the references at the end of the book would extend the amount of reading considerably. Read morePublished on April 12, 2013 by Sesquilinear
Before I read this I wasn't aware of exactly how dark the dark side of colonial history was. In this book Lindqvist methodically and calmly describes the thought-patterns that made... Read morePublished on August 27, 2011 by Satori
The book was in good condition for a used book and way cheaper then the university wanted it, thanks a bunch!Published on September 22, 2010 by Pipflinx
"Exterminate All the Brutes" is a superb, short history book. I bought it for students in my World History classes--in the used-book market--when it was out of print, but now it's... Read morePublished on January 7, 2010 by W. R. Everdell