Sunday, July 25, 2021

Summary of Sartre's Preface to The Wretched of the Earth

The preface to The Wretched of the Earthby Jean-Paul Sartre , who three years later refused to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, explains in part how widely the book was circulated. Sartre had written prefaces for sister works to those of Fanon: Anthology of the new black and Malagasy poetry of the French language (1948). 

in the preface to The Wretched of the Earth Sartre cautions that the book was not written for Europeans, but for fellow Africans to invite them to join the decolonial struggle.
"You, so liberal, so human, who take the love for culture to preciousness, seem to forget that you have colonies and that they are murdered there in their name. Fanon reveals to his comrades - to some of them, especially, who are still too westernized - the solidarity of the "metropolitans" with their colonial agents. Have the courage to read it: because it will make you ashamed and shame, as Marx has said, is a revolutionary sentiment. (…) This book did not need a preface. Above all, because it is not directed at us. I wrote it, however, to take the dialectic to its last consequences: we Europeans are also decolonized; that is to say, they are extirpating in a bloody operation the colonist that lives in each one of us. We must turn our gaze to ourselves."

Sartre synthesizes the need for violence expressed by Fanon and makes an apology for it.
"The reading of Fanon will help us; This irrepressible violence, he fully demonstrates, is not an absurd storm or the resurrection of savage instincts or even an effect of resentment: it is man himself reintegrating himself. (…) When the peasants receive the rifles, the old myths fade, the prohibitions disappear one by one; the weapon of a combatant is his humanity. Because, in the first moments of the rebellion, you have to kill: to kill a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to suppress an oppressor and an oppressed at the same time: a dead man and a free man remain; the survivor, for the first time, feels a national soil under the soles of his feet. "
It is important to clarify that for Fanon decolonization is not racist, that is, it does not total all Europeans as oppressors and all Africans as oppressed. Decolonizing means breaking with relations and structures of domination beyond races and continents. As Fanon says, after political independence, “the racial and racist level is overcome in two senses. A patent of authenticity is no longer issued to all blacks or all Muslims. The rifle or the machete is no longer sought after the appearance of any colonist. Consciousness laboriously discovers partial, limited, unstable truths ”.

Additional summaries of The Wretched of the Earth