The Wretched of the Earth

The Wretched of the Earth (French: Les Damnés de la Terre) is a 1961 book by Frantz Fanon, in which the author provides a psychiatric and psychologic analysis of the dehumanizing effects of colonization upon the individual and the nation, and discusses the broader social, cultural, and political implications inherent to establishing a social movement for the decolonization of a person and of a people. The French-language title derives from the opening lyrics of "The Internationale".


Through critiques of nationalism and of imperialism, Fanon presents a discussion of personal and societal mental health, a discussion of how the use of language (vocabulary) is applied to the establishment of imperialist identities, such as colonizer and colonized in order to teach and psychologically mold the native and the colonist into their respective roles as slave and master, and a discussion of the role of the intellectual in a revolution. Fanon proposes that revolutionaries should seek the help of the lumpenproletariat to provide the force required to effect the expulsion of the colonists. Moreover, in traditional Marxist theory, the lumpenproletariat are considered the lowest, most degraded stratum of the proletariat social-class—especially criminals, vagrants, and the unemployed—people who lacked the class consciousness to actively participate in the anti-colonial revolution.

Yet, Fanon applies the term lumpenproletariat to identify the colonial subjects who are not involved in industrial production, especially the peasantry, because, unlike the urban proletariat (the working class), the lumpenproletariat have sufficient intellectual independence from the dominant ideology of the colonial ruling class to readily grasp that they can successfully revolt against the colonial status quo, and so decolonize their nation.

One of the essays included in The Wretched of the Earth is "On National Culture," in which Fanon highlights the necessity for each generation to discover its mission and fight for this mission.


In his preface to the 1961 edition of The Wretched of the Earth, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre supported Frantz Fanon’s advocacy of justified violence by the colonized people against the foreign colonizer, as necessary for their mental health and political liberation; Sartre later applied that introduction in Colonialism and Neocolonialism (1964), a politico–philosophic critique of France’s Algerian colonialism.[1] The political focus derives from the first chapter of the book, “Concerning Violence”, wherein Fanon indicts colonialism and its post-colonial legacies, for which violence is a means of catharsis and liberation from being a colonial subject. Nonetheless, in the foreword to the 2004 edition of The Wretched of the Earth (1961), Homi K. Bhabha criticized Sartre’s introduction, stating that it limits the reader’s approach to the book to focus on its promotion of violent resistance to oppression.[2] After 1967 the introduction by Sartre was removed from subsequent editions by Fanon's widow, Josie. Interviewed in 1978 at Howard University, she explained "... when Israel declared war on the Arab countries, there was a great pro-Zionist movement in favor of Israel among western (French) intellectuals. Sartre took part in this movement. He signed petitions favoring Israel. I felt that his pro-Zionist attitudes were incompatible with Fanon’s work."[3]

Anthony Elliott writes that The Wretched of the Earth is a "seminal" work.[4]


  • in English by Richard Philcox
  • in English by Constance Farrington (Grove Press, 1963)
  • in English by Constance Farrington (Penguin Books, 2001)
  • in Spanish by Julieta Campos (1963, first edition in Spanish, Fondo de Cultura Económica)
  • in German by Traugott König
  • in Persian by Ali Shariati[5]
  • in Turkish by Lütfi Fevzi Topaçoğlu
  • in Hebrew by Orit Rosen
  • in Korean by Kyungtae Nam
  • in Japanese by Michihiko Suzuki and Kinuko Urano
  • in Arabic by Sami Al Droubi and Jamal al-Atassi
  • in Dutch by Han Meijer
  • in Croatian by Vera Frangeš (Stvarnost, Zagreb, 1972)
  • in Albanian by Muhamedin Kullashi, (Rilindja, Pristina, 1984)
  • in Sindhi by Abdul Wahid Aaresar, Mitti Hana Manhun
  • in Czech by Vít Havránek, Psanci teto země (2015)
  • in Portuguese by António Massano, Os Condenados da Terra (Letra Livre, 2015)
  • in Slovene by Maks M. Veselko, Upor prekletih (Cankarjeva založba, 1963)
  • in Urdu by Sajjad Baqir Rizvi,Uftaadgan-e-Khaak(1969)
  • in Polish by Hanna Tygielska, Wyklęty lud ziemi (Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 1985)


  1. ^ Jean-Paul Sartre Preface to Frantz Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth"
  2. ^ Homi Bhabha's 2004 foreword p. xxi; Franz Fanon (2004), The Wretched of the Earth, Grove Press 
  3. ^ "Frantz Fanon’s Widow Speaks: Interview with Frantz Fanon’s Widow Josie Fanon" by Christian Filostrat. Originally published in Negritude Agonistes. Accessed May 2017.
  4. ^ Elliott, Anthony (2002). Psychoanalytic Theory: An Introduction. New York: Palgrave. p. 56. ISBN 0-333-91912-2. 
  5. ^ «La jeune génération est un enjeu» Archived December 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., interview with Gilles Kepel in L'Express, 26 January 2006 (in French)

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