The Wretched of the Earth

book by Frantz Fanon

The Wretched of the Earth (French: Les Damnés de la Terre) is a 1961 book by Frantz Fanon, in which the author provides a psychiatric and psychological analysis of the dehumanizing effects of colonization upon the individual and the nation, and discusses the broader social, cultural, and political implications inherent to establishing a social movement for the decolonization of a person and of a people.

The Church in the colonies is a white man’s Church, a foreigner’s Church. It does not call the colonized to the ways of God, but to the ways of the white man, the ways of the master, the ways of the oppressor.
The colonialist bourgeoisie is aided and abetted in the pacification of the colonized by the inescapable powers of religion. All the saints who turned the other cheek, who forgave those who trespassed against them, who, without flinching, were spat upon and insulted, are championed and shown as an example.

Richard Philcox translation (2004)Edit

Les Damnés de la Terre as translated by Richard Philcox (2004)

PrefaceEdit

by Jean-Paul Sartre (1961)
  • Read Fanon: you will see that in a time of helplessness, murderous rampage is the collective unconscious of the colonized.
    • p. lii
  • The colonized protect themselves from colonial alienation by going one step better with religious alienation, with the ultimate end result of having accumulated two alienations, each of which reinforces the other.
    • p. liii
  • If the entire regime, even your nonviolent thoughts, is governed by a thousand-year-old oppression, your passiveness serves no other purpose than to put you on the side of the oppressors.
    • p. lvii
  • United by profit, the metropolitans baptized their commonwealth of crimes Fraternity and Love.
    • p. lx
  • In some places the metropolis makes do with paying a clique of feudal overlords; in others, it has fabricated a fake bourgeoisie of colonized subjects in a system of divide and rule; elsewhere, it has killed two birds with one stone: the colony is both settlement and exploitation.
    • p. xlvi
  • Today whenever two Frenchmen meet, there is a dead body between them.
    • p. lxii
  • Will we recover? Yes. Violence, like Achilles' spear, can heal the wounds it has inflicted.
    • p. lxii
  • Today we are in chains, humiliated, sick with fear: at our lowest ebb. Fortunately for us, this is still not enough for the colonialist aristocracy: it cannot accomplish its rearguard mission in Algeria until it has first finished colonizing the French.
    • p. lxii

Chapter 1: On ViolenceEdit

  • Dans décolonisation, il y a donc exigence d'une remise en question intégrale de la situation coloniale. Sa définition peut, si on veut la décrire avec précision, tenir dans la phrase bien connue: « Les derniers seront les premiers. » La décolonisation est la vérification de cette phrase.
  • Decolonization, therefore, implies the urgent need to thoroughly challenge the colonial situation. Its definition can, if we want to describe it accurately, be summed up in the well-known words "The last shall be first." Decolonization is verification of this.
  • p. 2
  • Présentée dans sa nudité, la décolonisation laisse deviner à travers tous ses pores, des boulets rouges, des couteaux sanglants. Car si les derniers doivent être les premiers, ce ne peut être qu'à la suite d'un affrontement décisif et meurtrier des deux protagonistes. Cette volonté affirmée de faire remonter les der­niers en tête de file, de les faire grimper (à une cadence trop rapide, disent certains) les fameux échelons qui définissent une société organisée, ne peut triompher que si on jette dans la balance tous les moyens, y compris, bien sûr, la violence.
  • In its bare reality, decolonization reeks of red-hot cannonballs and bloody knives. For the last can be the first only after a murderous and decisive confrontation between the two protagonists. This determination to have the last move up to the front, to have them clamber up (too quickly, say some) the famous echelons of an organized society, can only succeed by resorting to every means, including, of course, violence.
  • p. 3
  • L'Église aux colonies est une Église de Blancs, une église d'étrangers. Elle n'appelle pas l'homme colonisé dans la voie de Dieu mais bien dans la voie du Blanc, dans la voie du maître, dans la voie de l'oppresseur.
  • The Church in the colonies is a white man’s Church, a foreigner’s Church. It does not call the colonized to the ways of God, but to the ways of the white man, the ways of the master, the ways of the oppressor.
  • p. 7.
  • Lorsqu'un colonisé entend un discours sur la culture occidentale, il sort sa machette ou du moins il s'assure qu'elle est à portée de sa main. La violence avec laquelle s'est affirmée la suprématie des valeurs blanches, l'agressivité qui a imprégné la confrontation victorieuse de ces valeurs avec les modes de vie ou de pensée des colonisés font que, par un juste retour des choses, le colonisé ricane quand on évoque devant lui ces valeurs.
  • When the colonized hear a speech on Western culture they draw their machetes or at least check to see they are close to hand. The supremacy of white values is stated with such violence, the victorious confrontation of these values with the lifestyle and beliefs of the colonized is so impregnated with aggressiveness, that as a counter measure the colonized rightly make a mockery of them whenever they are mentioned.
  • p. 8
  • The famous dictum which states that all men are equal will find its illustration in the colonies only when the colonized subject states he is equal to the colonist.
    • p. 9.
  • The colonized can see right away if decolonization is taking place or not: The minimum demand is that the last become the first.
    • p. 10
  • Le frère, la soeur, le camarade sont des mots proscrits par la bourgeoisie colonialiste parce que pour elle mon frère c'est mon portefeuille, mon camarade c'est ma combine.
  • "Brother," "sister," "comrade" are words outlawed by the colonialist bourgeoisie because in their thinking my brother is my wallet and my comrade, my scheming.
  • p. 11.
  • The unemployed and the starving do not lay claim to truth. They do not say they represent the truth because they are the truth in their very being.
    • p. 13.
  • Colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence.
    • p. 23.
  • The colonialist bourgeoisie is aided and abetted in the pacification of the colonized by the inescapable powers of religion. All the saints who turned the other cheek, who forgave those who trespassed against them, who, without flinching, were spat upon and insulted, are championed and shown as an example.
    • p. 28.
  • The very same people who had it constantly drummed into them that the only language they understood was that of force, now decide to express themselves with force.
    • p. 42.
  • The colonial regime owes its legitimacy to force and at no time does it ever endeavor to cover up this nature of things.
    • p. 42.
  • When the native hears a speech about Western culture he pulls out his knife—or at least he makes sure it is within reach. The violence with which the supremacy of white values is affirmed and the aggressiveness which has permeated the victory of these values over the ways of life and of thought of the native mean that, in revenge, the native laughs in mockery when Western values are mentioned in front of him.
    • p. 43.
  • For the colonized, life can only materialize from the rotting cadaver of the colonist.
    • p. 50.
  • This violent praxis is totalizing since each individual represents a violent link in the great chain, in the almighty body of violence rearing up in reaction to the primary violence of the colonizer.
    • p. 50
  • The basic confrontation which seemed to be colonialism versus anticolonialism, indeed capitalism versus socialism, is already losing its importance. What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be.
    • p. 55.
  • Colonialism and imperialism have not settled their debt to us once they have withdrawn their flag and their police force from our territories.
    • p. 57.

Constance Farrington translation (1963)Edit

Les Damnés de la Terre (1961) as translated by Constance Farrington (1963)
  • Au niveau des individus, la violence désintoxique. Elle débarrasse le colonisé de son complexe d'infériorité, de ses atti­tudes contemplatives ou désespérées. Elle le rend intrépide, le réhabilite à ses propres yeux.
    • At the level of individuals, violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.
      • p. 94
        • Literal translation: At the level of the individual, violence disintoxicates. It relieves the colonized of his inferiority complex, of his attitudes, contemplative or desperate. It renders him intrepid. It rehabilitates his own eyes.
  • Le militant nationaliste qui avait fui la ville, ulcéré par les manoeuvres démagogiques et réformistes des dirigeants, déçu par la « politique », découvre dans la praxis concrète une nou­velle politique qui ne ressemble plus du tout à l'ancienne. Cette politique est une politique de responsables, de dirigeants insérés dans l'histoire qui assument avec leurs muscles et avec leurs cerveaux la direction de la lutte de libération. Cette politique et nationale, révolutionnaire, sociale.
    • The nationalist militant who had fled from the town in disgust at the demagogic and reformist maneuvers of the leaders there, disappointed by political life, discovers in real action a new form of political activity which in no way resembles the old. These politics are the politics of leaders and organizers living inside history who take the lead with their brains and their muscles in the fight for freedom. These politics are national, revolutionary, and social.
      • p. 147
  • Cette nouvelle réalité que le colonisé va maintenant connaître n'existe que par l'action. C'est la lutte qui, en faisant exploser l'ancienne réalité coloniale, révèle des facettes inconnues, fait surgir des significations nou­ velles et met le doigt sur les contradictions camouflées par cette réalité. Le peuple qui lutte, le peuple qui, grâce à la lutte, dispose cette nouvelle réalité et la connaît, avance, libéré du colonialisme, prévenu par avance contre toutes les tentatives de mystification, contre tous les hymnes à la nation. Seule la vio­lence exercée par le peuple, violence organisée et éclairée par la direction, permet aux masses de déchiffrer la réalité sociale, lui en donne la clef. Sans cette lutte, sans cette connaissance dans la praxis, il n'y a plus que carnaval et flonflons.
    • These new facts which the native will now come to know exist only in action. They are the essence of the fight which explodes the old colonial truths and reveals unexpected facets, which brings out new meanings and pinpoints the contradictions camouflaged by these facts. The people engaged in the struggle who because of it command and know these facts, go forward, freed from colonialism and forewarned of all attempts at mystification, inoculated against all national anthems. Violence alone, violence committed by the people, violence organized and educated by its leaders, makes it possible for the masses to understand social truths and gives the key to them. Without that struggle, without that knowledge of the practice of action, there's nothing but a fancy-dress parade and the blare of the trumpets
      • p. 147

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