The wretched of the earth / Frantz Fanon ; translated from the French by Richard Philcox ; introductions by Jean-Paul Sartre and Homi K. Bhabha

by Frantz Fanon

Other authorsRichard Philcox
Paper Book, 2004


"Frantz Fanon was one of the twentieth century's most important theorists of revolution, colonialism, and racial difference, and this, his masterwork, is a classic alongside Orientalism and The Autobiography of Malcolm X." "The Wretched of the Earth is an analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage of colonized peoples and the role of violence in historical change, the book also incisively attacks postindependence disenfranchisement of the masses by the elite on one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. A veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations, The Wretched of the Earth has had a major impact on civil rights, anticolonialism, and black-consciousness movements around the world. This new translation updates its language for a new generation of readers and its lessons are more vital now than ever."--Jacket.… (more)



Call number



New York : Grove Press, 2004.

User reviews

LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Well, I pity the poor revolutionaries who try to use this as a "handbook." It's not What is to be Done, or Kwame Nkrumah, or even Steal This Book. It's sort of J'Accuse, I guess, if we must compare it to a Western analogue (if I was less ignorant I'd probably be able to come up with something more
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appropriate), but what it is mostly is an unfocused and inspired multi-part essay that ranges over as much ground as the author needs not to prove the truth of an argument but to light you up, to drum up some fucking energy and point you in a direction. It's not what Sartre called it in the controversial introduction, a hymn to violence--the first section does insist, aggressively, on the need for violence in decolonization struggle--and given the experience Fanon had in Algeria, who can blame him--but he's not just pumping up the crowd, he has many real ideas, if broad and sweeping ones.

First deserving mention is the extended discussion of the peasantry and the intellectual returning to the hills, the rejection not only of the status of second-rate Western humans accorded Africans under Cold War postcolonization but also of the first countervanguard that came with Negritude, which is sort of eulogized as a beautiful rallying cry but one inadequate to the spirit of the times, incapable of making room in its subaltern and undifferentiated approach to blackness for the real particularity of national experience. From a twenty-first century perspective, when we're all hopefully getting a more sophisticated sense of how progressive movements everywhere need to reflect the tribal (conceived broadly and absolutely not excluding former colonizing societies) and the local, this seems important and true. But in Fanon, it descends ever so quickly into Pure Land proto-fascist stuff, and even if you understand how that comes to be and recognize that Black Star Africa was always a mirage, it doesn't seem clear if Fanon realizes that what he's talking about is precluding not only the good outcome but also the moderate one--that he's plumping for a Cultural Revolution at best and a Tutsi genocide at worst.

Part of that is maybe that he doesn't understand the important difference between the repression-for-profit that goes on while the Europeans are there and the repression-for-power-for-power's sake on the part of the homegrown elites that goes on after the Europeans go home. Fanon basically says that it's all the same repressive structures in place and a piratical colon class in a classic colonial arrangement or a frothy scum of local sociopaths in a neocolonial configuration with the former colonial power are six-one/half-dozen-the-other. And you can see how it would seem that way in the midst of the Algerian conflict. But the fact is the Europeans did cut and run when it got expensive enough, in blood and treasure but also in their precious precious humanistic image of themselves, and it just took them some years and way too much killing to get it through their heads. They do not deserve credit for this, but it is a fact. Whereas, as we've seen a lot of this year in the "Arab Spring," your Qaddafis, your Mugabes, your Amins, either hang on till the bitterest end or leave only when it's their ass on the line. When Tripoli is home, you stay in Tripoli and fight, even, or maybe especially, if you're the worst guy.

These blind spots are perhaps a bit more suprising because Fanon's general class analysis is so good--the difference between the genuine national bourgeoisie fulfilling its historic mission with an excelsior-sense of great works and uncharted horizons, and a colonial pseudo-bourgeoisie that make s its money off transactions, finance; conversely, the difference between a genuine national working class that in developed countries has fought for certain rights and won with bravery and action the reapportionment of some of the misappropriated wealth of the colonies, and a colonial situation in which the working class is functionally a technocratic class with its factory jobs and its lathe skills or whatever, and the abused lumpenpeasantry are left excluded, without recourse except to be exploited or, perhaps, awakened. Which awakening is a huge concern for Fanon, as noted above.

Without trying to make any of the ridiculous comparisons that this analogy might otherwise be mistaken to imply: a bloodsucking upper class that doesn't even produce anything anymore; a middle class selling out the dispossessed in the effort to protect its own small privilege; a great mass of dislocated people with no prospects and no protection, who hate those above them but have to struggle even to put themselves in the headspace to understand the true struggle; what does that sound like to you? To me it sounds like North America and the global society, circa 2011. We're obviously much better off materially, much less subject to arbitrary detention or torture or fear; but in the total breakdown of the social compact and the total lack even of class solidarity within the oppressed class, because everybody's looking out for themselves, it's right on. It terrifies me to think that the difference between Algiers in 1958 and Vancouver in 2011 might just be that we can hide from the reality of the matter better longer because of the prosperity that keeps the food in our belly and the jackboot away from our door (impossible to say how much of said prosperity stolen from the African?).

For us, like for them, the trick is to keep reminding ourselves who the enemy is and grant them no quarter, no co-operation. But it's scary! And I guess that's the difference between colonialism and the downtrodden status to which we are reverting: we can buy basic safety with our acquiescence; they couldn't and can't. Fanon, who was a clinical psychologist working with revolutionary fighters suffering from post-traumatic stress, knows this very well, and one of the most fascinating sections of the book are the case studies he presents. The language of "dislocated personalities" and so on is easily translated, and we see that exploitation brutalizes everyone, even the people who stay out of the way and go about their business and feel so worthless and guilty that one day they take a knife to their neighbour for looking at their wife. The experience of oppression damages the oppressed, and so we're back to violence again--in a sick society, all violence directed against the structures of that society is self-defence whether you're immediately threatened or not, because it's official society that's damaging you. And then the violence you engages in damages you as well. The colonized is the one against whom war is by definition always being waged, and--Fanon asserts based on his clinical work--fighting back is the least bad option. That's the sick logic of empire: it always reaches the point where violence, revolutionary violence, is the best option if anyone, imperialists included, is going to avoid being broken to bits inside.
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LibraryThing member owen1218
I found this book rather disappointing, but my eyes did perk up a bit when I got to the excellent chapter on colonialism and mental illness, which provided a wealth of fascinating case studies. The conclusion that followed it was powerful as well. The book is worth picking up if only just for these
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LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
Reading Fanon (with the immediate understanding he will require rereading) took time and emotional energy. His insight into the challenges of a postcolonial nation are astute but I often felt like the prose weaved far from the principal argument, especially on violence. My most significant
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takeaways were from his elucidation of culture and the steps of the colonized intellectuals exerting a newfound freedom after breaking from the oppressor.
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LibraryThing member magonistarevolt
This book is life-changing, and it captures the sentiment of the anti-colonial struggle: the first time a colonized people recognizes that it has been lied to for generations, the first time the colonized person breaks these lies at the barrel of a gun, and the pitfalls of national liberation that
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are to be avoided once liberation is wrested from the hands of the oppressors.

Perhaps the most striking part of this book is the final section, where Fanon discusses his psychological profiles of liberation fighters, colonial guards, and colonial victims.

Liberate your soul from the colonization of everyday life. Find out how in this book.
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LibraryThing member adaorhell
What can I possibly say, my lover, my killer?
LibraryThing member Hanuman2
An important part of my intellectual history.
LibraryThing member danoomistmatiste
A very interesting study of the devastating effects of colonization on it's subjects long after the exit of the colonizers. The french in particular do not seem to have learnt a whole lot despite the inhuman slaughter of WWs I and II.
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
A classic text, but one more for academics. Fanon's ideas work better as epigrammatic statements to open books than as a whole book by themselves.
LibraryThing member suesbooks
I learned quite a bit from reading this book and felt it was definitely worth it. However, I found the writing so difficult that it was a chore to plow through.
LibraryThing member R3dH00d
I think I didn't get about 80% of this book, but the stuff I did get was really good.
LibraryThing member Andjhostet
This was good, but dense, and I think I only absorbed a fraction of it, and will have to give it another go sometime. I honestly don't know how to begin rating or reviewing this kind of work. I kept finding parallels between what Fanon was saying about the colonized peoples, and the black
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population of North America, so argument for reparations hit a little deeper (especially after reading Te-Nehesi Coates essays and Ibram Kendi earlier this year).

His psychiatric case studies of the effects of colonization were also fascinating. It really shows the long term psychological effects of oppression.
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Original publication date



0802141323 / 9780802141323
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