Exterminate All the Brutes

by Sven Lindqvist

Start Free Trial

What is the main argument in Exterminate All the Brutes?

Quick answer:

In Exterminate All the Brutes, the main argument is that European colonialism of the nineteenth century was both racist and genocidal in nature. Lindqvist looks specifically at Western imperialism's impact on Africa and sees its effects as wholly destructive. He also sees the roots of the many genocides of the twentieth century, namely the Holocaust, in Europe's treatment of Africans.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Exterminate All The Brutes, subtitled "One Man's Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide," is a book by the Swedish writer Sven Lindqvist. Taking its title from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, it is both a travelogue and an examination of Europe's colonization of Africa in the nineteenth century. Sometimes called "The Scramble for Africa," the European powers divided up the continent and viciously exploited the people and the land. Lindqvist also uses Conrad's famous novella Heart of Darkness, which is set in the Belgian Congo and based on Conrad's own experience, as a lens through which to examine imperialism.

Lindqvist has two main arguments. One is that colonialism, despite attempts to paint it in a benevolent and even humanitarian light (e.g., we are bringing them God and civilization), solely benefited the Europeans and had a catastrophic effect on the Africans. Aside from destroying any civilization and culture that was already there, many Africans were forced into hard labor and treated brutally, as exemplified by the Belgian Congo where beatings were common, as were the chopping off of hands as punishment. For Lindqvist, this was based in racism and white supremacy, some of which was "scientific" in nature.

His second main argument is that the often genocidal treatment of native populations paved the way for the better known genocides of the twentieth century, namely the Holocaust.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial