Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

In 1954, within a year after accepting a post as head of psychiatric services at the Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria, Frantz Fanon faced the outbreak of the Algerian Revolution. If the Martinique-born, French-educated black psychiatrist had any lingering loyalties to France upon his arrival in Algeria, however, he quickly severed his ties after witnessing the effects of French atrocities and torture on Algeria’s Muslim population. In 1956, Fanon made an important decision. Determined to take a meaningful stand against Fascism in North Africa, he resigned his post and officially joined the National Liberation Front (FLN). Moreover, from 1956 until his death in 1961, Fanon devoted himself exclusively to the Algerian struggle for independence.

This struggle, which inspired Fanon’s political awakening as well as his increasing understanding of the effects of both colonization and decolonization on individuals and nations, began to alter his vision of the world. Although still Manichaean in outlook, he saw a world divided not into black and white but rather into “colonizer” and “colonized.” In addition, although his four books, Peau noire, masques blancs (1952; Black Skin, White Masks, 1967), Pour la revolution africaine (1964; Toward the African Revolution: Political Essays, 1967), L’An cinq de la revolution algerienne (1959; Studies in a Dying Colonialism, 1965), and The Wretched of the Earth, are all products of his Algerian experience, the problems he discusses are not unique to Algeria; he defines and describes the distortion of human relations which the phenomenon of colonialism produces.

In 1960, one year before his death, Frantz Fanon was diagnosed as having leukemia. At that time, instead of continuing a study he had begun on the revolution and Africa, Fanon began work on what later became known as The Wretched of the Earth. He completed the bulk of the manuscript in three hectic months, from March to May of 1961.

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(The entire section is 835 words.)