Exterminate All the Brutes

by Sven Lindqvist

Start Free Trial

Why does Lindqvist share disturbing childhood memories and dreams in Exterminate All the Brutes?

Quick answer:

In Exterminate All the Brutes, the Swedish writer Sven Lindqvist shares childhood memories, as well as his dreams in this personal exploration of European colonialism and genocide. I think he shares this information both to connect to the reader in a way that a traditional history book cannot do and to show that unpleasant experiences are a part of humanity, both on a micro and a macro level.

Expert Answers

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

The Swedish writer Sven Lindqvist's 1992 book Exterminate All the Brutes is his personal and subjective look into European's colonization of Africa in the 19th and 20th century. While it deals with history, it is far from a conventional historical text. This is clear from his use of the first person pronoun and from his tendency to mix in his own experiences: some from childhood, some from his travels, and some from his dreams.

One effect of this is to make the book more readable and accessible for a reader who may not be all that interested in reading a history textbook. Another effect is that it makes a very disturbing topic more manageable to read. That isn't to say that Lindqvist avoids the violence and brutality of the European presence in Africa—far from it—but that we have his voice and perspective mitigating it.

It certainly can be argued that he also shares his experiences to tie into his larger theme, which is the inhumanity of man to man. Hatred starts at home, as someone said. Nothing he shares from his childhood is especially awful: he goes through some family dysfunction, is punished by his parents, and gets drafted. Yet it adds an edge and an uncertainty to his tone, which makes him more relatable and better able to tell a story of violence. He seems to say that there is violence in all aspects of human life, from the family unit to the scale of whole countries, and it is up to us to make sense of it so that we can prevent it from happening again.

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