Thursday, May 17, 2018

"Exterminate All the Brutes": One Man's Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide Paperback by Sven Lindqvist (Author), Joan Tate (Translator) (The Free Press)

Exterminate All the Brutes is brief and disturbing; Sven Lindqvist unveils the realities and moral convictions we have almost completely repressed. Just as the author suggests, the book shatters the image we have of ourselves, but even more importantly, it is distressing how relevant his ideas and Conrad's `Heart of Darkness' are in the world today - again.

The title of the book is taken from Joseph Conrad's 1902 classic novel - Heart of Darkness. In it, the main character, Kurtz, goes to Africa to bring progress and culture to the uncivilized continent. He is dispatched to Africa as an ivory procurement agent, and as the story develops the reader is confronted with the unreal brutality of the colonial rule. Conrad's work intertwines the themes of `light of civilization' and `darkness of barbarism' and makes reader realize the hollowness of these phrases as Kurtz surrounds himself with chaos and mayhem. Sven Lindqvist develops this theme as he traces the imperial history of European colonialism and condenses it to a single sentence: "Exterminate all the brutes." European world expansion, he claims, and the employed tactics of extermination are the truths we like to forget. Preferring to externalize we look at the Holocaust as a historical aberration, a smear on the path of progress and enlightenment brought to the world by the Western societies. However, as the author points out, just as all of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz, it would also be the European habits and political precedents that would lay the foundation for the atrocities of the Second World War. What was done in Africa, would be repeated in Europe - we know this, what we lack is the courage to face what we know and draw some conclusions.

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