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New Left Review 57, May-June 2009



‘I belong irreducibly to my time’, wrote Frantz Fanon in his first book, Black Skin, White Masks. That time was, of course, the era of anti-colonial struggles. Born in the then French colony of Martinique in 1925, where he was a student of Aimé Césaire, Fanon fought with the Allied forces in the Second World War and then trained in Lyon as a physician and psychiatrist. His remarkable Black Skin, White Masks was published in 1952 and had a significant impact in intellectual circles in France at the time. It was a passionate cri de cœur—‘the experience of a black man thrown into a white world’. [1] The words of Francis Jeanson, who wrote the Preface to the original French edition, Peau noire, masques blancs. In 1953 Fanon was appointed to the Blida Psychiatric Hospital in Algeria, just a year before the outbreak of the War of Independence. He rapidly became outraged by the stories of torture that his Algerian patients recounted to him. Already a sympathizer with their cause, he resigned his post and went to Tunisia to work full time for the Gouvernement Provisoire de la République Algérienne (gpra). He wrote extensively for El Moudjahid, the official journal of the revolution.

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Immanuel Wallerstein, ‘Reading Fanon in the 21st Century’, NLR 57: £3

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