The Wretched of the Earth
The Wretched of the Earth is Frantz Fanon’s seminal work on the trauma of colonisation. It has made him the leading anti-colonialist thinker of the twentieth century. This Penguin Modern Classics edition is translated from the French by Constance Farrington, with an introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre.
Written at the height of the Algerian war for independence from French colonial rule and first published in 1961, Frantz Fanon’s classic text has provided inspiration for anti-colonial movements ever since, analysing the role of class, race, national culture and violence in the struggle for freedom. With power and anger, Fanon makes clear the economic and psychological degradation inflicted by imperialism.
It was Fanon, himself a psychotherapist, who exposed the connection between colonial war and mental disease, who showed how the fight for freedom must be combined with building a national culture, and who showed the way ahead, through revolutionary violence, to socialism. Many of the great calls to arms from the era of decolonization are now of purely historical interest, yet this passionate analysis of the relations between the great powers and the ‘Third World’ is just as illuminating about the world we live in today.
Fanon is very insightful as to what happens during an anti-colonial struggle. He explains how the anti-colonial struggle is divided between the rural areas and the towns, whereas most Westerners see the movement as a coherent body. In Fanon’s opinion, violence is the way forward. Many are quick to criticise this opinion, citing Gandhi as an example of how a non-violent movement can work. However, violent and non-violent movements must be examined on a case by case basis.
Fanon shows how violence is important to the nation to establish itself as a truly independent nation that will not endure Neo-Colonialism. It is also essential towards building a national solidarity, something difficult when the area is usually composed of different tribal groups that have different cultures and who have been encouraged to fight each other by the colonial authorities. In conclusion, you should read this book if you want to gain an insight into the philosophy of the anti-colonial struggle.
Frantz Fanon (1925-61) was a Martinique-born French author essayist, psychoanalyst, and revolutionary. Fanon was a supporter of the Algerian struggle for independence from French rule, and became a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front. He was perhaps the preeminent thinker of the 20th century on the issue of decolonisation and the psychopathology of colonization. His works have inspired anti-colonial liberation movements for more than four decades.