Frantz Fanon

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Although numerous studies of Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) are available, David Macey's massive biography is more complete and based on greater research than any previous work. In addition to revealing many details about Fanon's rather obscure life, the book provides interesting information about several parts of the world during a very turbulent period.

Fanon, a black man raised in Martinique, was embittered by his experiences with white racism, especially while he served as a soldier in the Free French Army. When later working as a French-trained psychiatrist in French Algeria, Fanon became one of the leaders of the movement for Algerian independence. His angry speeches and militant writings (Black Skin, White Masks [1967] and The Wretched of the Earth [1963]) inspired radicals and revolutionaries in both the Third World and developed countries.

Contrary to most accounts, Macey provides evidence that Fanon did not glorify violence, and that he only advocated its use as an instrumental means for promoting national liberation movements. Macey also demonstrates that he was not especially interested in Marxist theory, and that he distrusted communist parties and other authoritarian systems. Less convincing, however, is the assertion that Fanon's ideas were profoundly influenced by the vague existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre.

Macey presents Fanon as a complex man whose humanistic values sometimes appeared inconsistent with his strong hatreds and his uncompromising intransigence.