The Wretched of the Earth

In This Review

The Wretched of the Earth

By Frantz Fanon
Grove, 1963
316 pp.
Purchase

This stunning intellectual polemic in praise of anticolonial revolution, first published in French in 1961 and English translation in 1963, overshadowed the liberal analyses of African independence being produced at the time in influencing black Americans' perceptions of Africa. Fanon, a French-trained psychiatrist from Martinique who became an activist in the Algerian revolution, berated African elites for their bourgeois tendencies and narrow nationalism and called on African intellectuals to identify with popular strivings. Drawing on his experience treating Algerian mental patients, he lauded the therapeutic effect of revolutionary violence on the brainwashed minds of the colonized -- an idea embraced by the Black Panthers in their rejection of the nonviolent methods of the civil rights movement. In a postmodern vein, Fanon reflected on the problem of revolutionary truth: "The native replies to the living lie of the colonial situation by an equal falsehood . . . Truth is . . . all that protects the native, and ruins the foreigners . . . The good is quite simply that which is evil for 'them.' "