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"Exterminate All the Brutes" is a searching examination of Europe’s dark history in Africa and the origins of genocide. Using Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as his point of departure, Sven Lindqvist takes us on a haunting tour through the colonial past, interwoven with a modern-day travelogue. Retracing the steps of European explorers, missionaries, politicians, and historians in Africa from the late eighteenth century onward, the author exposes the roots of genocide in Africa via his own journey through the Saharan desert. As Lindqvist shows, fantasies not merely of white superiority but of actual extermination "cleansing" the earth of the so-called lesser races deeply informed European colonialism and racist ideology that ultimately culminated in Europe’s own Holocaust.
Chosen as one of the Best Books of 1998 by the New Internationalist, which called it "a beautifully written integration of criticism, cultural history, and travel writing, underpinned by a passion for social justice," "Exterminate All the Brutes" is a powerful reckoning with the past and an indispensable contribution to the literature of colonial Africa and European genocide.
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Sven Lindqvist, a traveler and historian, paints a broad-brush history of European colonialism, especially in Africa. Drawing his title from Joseph Conrad's fable Heart of Darkness, he turns up 19th-century newspaper accounts of British massacres of wounded Sudanese rebels after the siege of Omdurman, of German concentration camps in what was once called Southwest Africa, of a Belgian captain who decorated his flower beds with the heads of recalcitrant plantation workers. These incidents were not unusual, Lindqvist writes. Neither were they thought especially brutal by their perpetrators, for, he argues, colonialism was guided by a doctrine that placed Europe at the top of the evolutionary ladder and regarded non-Europeans as a separate species bound for extinction--a doctrine that found its ultimate expression in the Holocaust. This is an occasionally gruesome and always provocative study.From the Inside Flap:
Praise for Sven Lindqvist and ""Exterminate All the Brutes""
"A book of stunning range and near genius. . . . The catastrophic consequences of European imperialism are made palpable in the personal progress of the author, a late-twentieth century pilgrim in Africa. Lindqvist's astonishing connections across time and cultures, combined with a marvelous economy of prose, leave the reader appalled, reflective, and grateful."
--David Levering Lewis
"In spare but powerful prose . . . Lindqvist manages to weave together an impressive variety of themes [to] point to the continuity between prejudices and acts separated by continents and centuries."
--"The Washington Post"
"Lindqvist's disturbing, brilliant work of historical sleuthing deserves to be taken up in a thousand classrooms."
--Rob Nixon, "Voice Literary Supplement"
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