Anti-colonialist thinker, writer and revolutionary Frantz Fanon died fifty years ago today, on December 6, 1961
To mark the anniversary, here's an extract from Jean-Paul Sartre's preface to The Wretched of the Earth, published in Fanon's final year:
Not so very long ago, the earth numbered two thousand million inhabitants: five hundred million men, and one thousand five hundred million natives. The former had the Word; the others had the use of it. Between the two there were hired kinglets, overlords and a bourgeoisie, sham from beginning to end, which served as go-betweens. In the colonies the truth stood naked, but the citizens of the mother country preferred it with clothes on: the native had to love them, something in the way mothers are loved. The European élite undertook to manufacture a native élite. They picked out promising adolescents; they branded them, as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of western culture, they stuffed their mouths full with high-sounding phrases, grand glutinous words that stuck to the teeth. After a short stay in the mother country they were sent home, whitewashed. These walking lies had nothing left to say to their brothers; they only echoed. From Paris, from London, from Amsterdam we would utter the words ‘Parthenon! Brotherhood!' and somewhere in Africa or Asia lips would open ... thenon! ... therhood!' It was the golden age.
It came to an end; the mouths opened by themselves; the yellow and black voices still spoke of our humanism but only to reproach us with our inhumanity. We listened without displeasure to these polite statements of resentment, at first with proud amazement. What? They are able to talk by themselves? Just look at what we have made of them! We did not doubt but that they would accept our ideals, since they accused us of not being faithful to them. Then, indeed, Europe could believe in her mission; she had hellenized the Asians; she had created a new breed, the Graeco-Latin Negroes. We might add, quite between ourselves, as men of the world: ‘After all, let them bawl their heads off, it relieves their feelings; dogs that bark don't bite.'
This week's archive article in the Times Literary Supplement is Georges Bataille's review of Jean-Paul Sartre's Saint Genet, his 1952 study of the life and work of Jean Genet.
Among the consequential works of M. Sartre the most recent to appear is certainly the most singular. Nominally it is no more than a preface, the preface to a "Complete Works" in themselves highly singular, written by a living author condemned by common law who is by no means satisfied by filling them with a combative account of a uniquely profligate life: he uses them to make a boast of that life, which he regards as supremely important, and he uses it as an apology of Evil, which is both its excuse and the rule by which it has been led. But this preface is not only abnormal for its length (it contains 600 pages), it is a philosophic work of exceptional interest, and to that extent an unquestionable masterpiece.