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The Wretched of the Earth Paperback – March 12, 2005
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“The writing of Malcolm X or Eldridge Cleaver or Amiri Baraka or the Black Panther leaders reveals how profoundly they have been moved by the thoughts of Frantz Fanon.”—Boston Globe
“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 revolution—and by analogy other contemporary revolutions—from the viewpoint of the rebels.”—Conor Cruise O’Brien, Nation
“The Wretched of the Earth is an explosion.”—Emile Capouya, Saturday Review
About the Author
- Publisher : Grove Press; Reprint edition (March 12, 2005)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0802141323
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802141323
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #6,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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When I was growing up with my dad working with the SCLC and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as part of the night security crew for the summer marches, I was probably more aware than most Americans -- certainly most Americans outside of the black community -- of how much permeability there was between the nonviolent SCLC, and the Black Panther movement, for which Fanon was a seed influence.
Youth in the SNCC organization, the youth group associated with the SCLC, often went back and forth between SNCC and the Panthers as they developed their activist identity and their ideas of how justice might be achieved.
The phrase "by any means necessary" used by the Panthers often scared the bejeezus out of the white community. But when I sat down with my father -- who was an adherent of formal nonviolence -- he handed me Fanon to read, and told me that it was a valid investigation as to whether violence should be considered if nonviolent means were not entertained by the state.
To my dad, who was a peaceful but fiercely justice-oriented man (for those of you who know the idiom "fire of Amos" he had it), he considered that without the counterpoint of the Panthers, MLK would never have gotten a hearing in Washington DC.
Just the idea that there were revolutionaries in American society looking at American "apartheid" and saying, "We are willing to take care of our own if you separate us. We see our situation as that of a post-colonial slavery society and use the model of African liberation as our model. We are willing to be peaceful if we are given justice in peace, but we do not believe that you are acting in good faith and will use whatever means necessary to see you follow your own promises of justice and see justice for our own people if you will not see that done."
That was actually a step down from Fanon. That was actually optimism.
But all white Americans heard out of any of that was: "...by any means necessary." They didn't think of how they were creating the circumstances that might precipitate violence. That whites had created a system that instituted violence to keep slaves, and later free blacks, contained and preserve power and privilege for the white majority.
It is hard for most Americans to even realize that America -- although we became independent from England -- continued as a colonial nation and economy on our own continent and territory. That all the institutions of the repression and destruction of indigenous and imported-slave cultures that happened "over there" in countries that Europeans colonized far from home, we did at home as a break-away colony, and the Europeans who conquered America never relented, compromised, or acknowledged that colonial reality in the way that the Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, French, and British Empires did in their colonial domains.
So Fanon is someone worth reading, not only for Africans, or for African-Americans, but for any American or anyone else in the world who wants to better ponder white privilege in America and how it became so very different from colonial privilege as that faded in Africa, through the lens of this Algerian revolutionary philosopher, who so influenced our Panthers.
I remain committed to nonviolence personally, but I understand intensely how MLK and Malcolm balance each other. And how that can actually lead to better peaceful solutions, in a social justice conflict where the status quo has been preserved by judicial and extrajudicial violence by a superior force.
This is still relevant in puppet regimes all over the world. In client states of capitalist powers and of Russia and China. In the conflicts surrounding Israel, and the conflicts throughout the Middle East and Central Asia that are often couched in sectarian terms or sectarian vs secular terms.
It is vital to understanding countries like Zimbabwe or South Africa, where the dynamics of early black leadership as colonial-wannabes are creating environments of corruption and scandal, and robbing their own people.
Everyone should read Fanon. If you can't afford the book here, you can find it online free. This book, and Black Skin, White Masks, both highly recommended.
If you don't like Marxist/Socialist politics, try to suspend disbelief a bit. The philosophy, sociology, and psychology is amazing.
[UPDATE] I have since found a legal PDF of the 1991 Evergreen Edition of the English translation by Constance Farrington (Grove Press, 1963)
Easily one of the most extraordinary takes on the subject I've come across.
The Wretched of the Earth is the most famous work of Algerian revolutionary Franz Fanon (1925-1961) finished and published shortly before his death (he died of leukemia). Fanon is known above all as a theorist of revolutionary violence and a champion of its therapeutic good for the oppressed. However, this book is not about armed struggle only; it covers many other topics: theory of class conflict in colonies, revolutionary process and subjects of social change in the Third World, the future of new independent states (former colonies), strategies of building Third World—First World relations in a right way, the relationship between the struggle for national culture and national liberation struggles, consequences of colonialism for both the colonizer and the colonized, etc. It’s a book of an angry man; the author's revolutionary pathos and standing with the oppressed (‘the wretched of the earth’) are noticeable.
Though Fanon wrote his book drawing on the experience of the Africa of the 1950s an acute reader can easily notice similarities and parallels with what’s going on in the underdeveloped countries all over the world.
The book can be of particular use for anthropologists, historians, philosophers, sociologists, as well as for those interested in cultural studies. I prefer Richard Philcox’s translation to the one published in 1963. Citizens of the global South can skip Jean-Paul Sartre’s preface; let the author speak for himself.
Top reviews from other countries
I must say that Sartre's preface is superb. Inspiring prose, each word measured for maximum effect. I read it one morning before going to work and it lifted me, without exaggeration, to a loftier place.
In turn, his works provide the reader with several ideas and skills to recognize the ills and faults of the post colonial & colonized countries to this very day, which can easily be recognized especially once you grasp the meaning of this book. In a way, the writer scarily foresaw the events coming.