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The Wretched of the Earth Paperback – March 12, 2005
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Frantz Fanon (1925-61) was a Martinique-born black psychiatrist and anticolonialist intellectual; The Wretched of the Earth is considered by many to be one of the canonical books on the worldwide black liberation struggles of the 1960s. Within a Marxist framework, using a cutting and nonsentimental writing style, Fanon draws upon his horrific experiences working in Algeria during its war of independence against France. He addresses the role of violence in decolonization and the challenges of political organization and the class collisions and questions of cultural hegemony in the creation and maintenance of a new country's national consciousness. As Fanon eloquently writes, "[T]he unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps."
Although socialism has seemingly collapsed in the years since Fanon's work was first published, there is much in his look into the political, racial, and social psyche of the ever-emerging Third World that still rings true at the cusp of a new century. --Eugene Holley, Jr.
Have the courage to read this book.”Jean-Paul Sartre
This century’s most compelling theorist of racism and colonialism.” Angela Davis
The value of The Wretched of the Earth [lies] in its relation to direct experience, in the perspective of the Algerian revolution. . . . Fanon forces his readers to see the Algerian revolutionand by analogy other contemporary revolutionsfrom the viewpoint of the rebels.”Conor Cruise O’Brien, Nation
The Wretched of the Earth is an explosion.”Emile Capouya, Saturday Review
This is not so much a book as a rock thrown through the window of the West. It is the Communist Manifesto or the Mein Kampf of the anticolonial revolution, and as such it is highly important for any Western reader who wants to understand the emotional force behind that revolution.”Time
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What strikes the reader very early on in this reading is the raw emotion. Each page is dripping with rage and anger of the dispossessed, but while this anger is palpable and real the book does not suffer from that emotion. In fact it is enhanced by it. The writing is very matter of fact which gives the emotion this eerie feeling of naturalness as if this anger and hatred for the colonial system is nothing but the logical outgrowth and conclusion to that very system. This is the human perspective at its most elementary. While this work is very lucid and intelligent, the author does not hide the ugly realities behind any veneer of scholarly wordplay. There is a quote from Aime Cesaire's Les Armes Miraculeuses that is brutal and haunting that expresses the violent impulse to cast off oppression when the chance arises no matter what form that oppression takes. It is this brutal honesty and the matter-of-factness with the violence that does so much to expose what the colonial system does to human beings.
The historical perspective is equally important because it gives readers a chance to see the evolution of resistance. Fanon allows readers into the very mind of the resistance, and let's us see the dehumanizing affect of this horrible system and its inevitable end point. His discussion of revolutionary movements and the impulses behind them is invaluable for the historian. He offers a psychological analysis as well as an historical analysis. That's why this book is so vital to understanding the whole of colonialism, or at least as close to the whole as anyone can come.
I do have some criticisms as well. I found the book to be an extremely difficult read. The reason for the difficulty is the narrative style. The book is written almost as a stream of consciousness. The book feels as if the author just sat down and started writing his thoughts down and that became this book. The work cries out for some sort of organization or structure; something to delineate Fanon's thoughts and to map out for the reader just what they are reading at a given time. The style of the writing is excellent. It is only the narrative that I found so difficult.
Even with my criticism this book is still an important read. The perspective it offers is like no other, and it is this that makes the book so valuable. If you really want to know what colonialism is and what it does then this book has to be read. I highly recommend this bok.
Fanon is a psychiatrist, and worked in Algeria as psychiatrist, but he many have travelled other African countries too. His book shows his deep knowledge of both African and European sociology, psychology and politics. The book is still relevant; his analysis as to what will happen after the liberation of African countries is amazingly valid. He is in a way one of the most important African (though he is born in Latin America) sociologist and political scientist.
Fanon's book starts on "violence", he doesn't shy away from prescribing violence in the struggle for liberation. Some find Fanon advocating violence, but that is not the case. He puts in perspective the violence perpetrated by colonists against the resulting reaction that culminates in the violence of the colonised. His clear analysis demystifies the violence that still grips Africa.
Unfortunately Fanon seems to put all European in Africa as colonists. Many cases from South Africa show that that should not be the case. But his views may be due to the brutal repression he has to witness and experience in Algeria by the French government and French citizens there.