Toute décolonisation est une réussite: Les damnés de la terre and the African Spring

Anthony C. Alessandrini


I’m certainly not alone in noting that the year 2011 brings, for those of us who are students of the work of Frantz Fanon, two different anniversaries. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Les damnés de la terre, Fanon’s final book and, for many, his most lasting achievement. But it also marks the fiftieth anniversary of Fanon’s death: he died, tragically young, on December 6, 1961, not long after the book’s publication. It is no exaggeration to say that Les damnés de la terre was composed by Fanon from his deathbed, and that he was well aware that he was racing death as he rushed to complete the manuscript, as his publisher François Maspero remarked, “in pitiful haste.” Fanon had managed to complete it by July, although, as he told a friend, “I should have liked to have written something more.” As David Macey notes in his indispensable biography, “Fanon did see copies of his last book, but for its first readers, Les damnés de la terre was a posthumous work.” The book and Fanon’s death thus come to us bound inextricably together, fifty years later.

So it would seem that we have an anniversary to celebrate (and in doing so, we would thus be celebrating the continuing relevance of a classic work, as this special issue intends us to do), but also a death to mourn. If I proceed to make a suggestion that will seem at first to be the height of perversity, let me preface it by saying that this suggestion is occasioned by what I believe to be Fanon’s greatest legacy, a legacy of unsparing intellectual and political commitment. For I want to begin by suggesting that this year brings us the mournful fact that fifty years on, Les damnés de la terre remains, in many ways, as relevant to our contemporary world as it was in 1961; but conversely, the anniversary of Fanon’s death offers us a cause for celebration. 


Fanon; Wretched of the Earth; North Africa; postcolonial theory

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