Frantz Fanon: A Spiritual Biography

Patrick Ehlen, Author Crossroad Publishing Company $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8245-2354-1
This brief, informative biography of the West Indian philosopher, psychiatrist, writer and Third World revolutionary explores Fanon's widespread influence on human and civil rights leaders on both sides of the Atlantic during the 1950s and `60s. Using Fanon's own writings, interviews granted by his family, and secondary sources, psychologist and poet Ehlen, a professor at the New School, paints a complete portrait of a thinker and activist driven by a deep political and philosophical commitment to freedom from colonial oppression and fascism, who was profoundly shaped by his cloistered middle-class upbringing in the French colony of Martinique and his service in WWII, for which he was awarded the coveted Croix de Guerre. As a psychiatrist, Fanon (1925-1961) became intensely interested in Marxist thought and the political plight of the oppressed in Africa and America, ultimately writing three seminal guides for those seeking social change (Black Skins, White Masks [1952], A Dying Colonialism [1959] and The Wretched of the Earth [1968]), which won him prominent friends and supporters like Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir and Richard Wright. Writing with sincerity, intelligence and restraint, Ehlen is careful not to depict Fanon as a sainted figure, revealing a complex man, alternately generous and charming or arrogant, exacting, volatile and brilliant to the point of annoyance. His descriptions of Fanon's courageous determination to work and write in the final days of his battle with cancer are especially poignant. Ehlen's book is a credible complement to two other well-known commentaries on the man's life: David Caute's 1970 biography, Fanon, and Irene Gendzier's 1973 work, Frantz Fanon: A Critical Study, both of which are out of print. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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