cover image The Dead Do Not Die: “Exterminate All the Brutes” and Terra Nullius

The Dead Do Not Die: “Exterminate All the Brutes” and Terra Nullius

Sven Lindqvist, trans. from the Swedish by Joan Tate and Sarah Death. New Press, $21.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-59558-989-7

Partly disguised as travelogues, these two polemics from Swedish author Lindqvist (A History of Bombing) argue that our revulsion at contemporary atrocities disguises an undeserved sense of moral superiority. As he points out, our ancestors largely approved the slaughter of “inferior” races during centuries of European (and American) imperialism, so subsequent genocides from the Holocaust to Rwanda followed naturally. In “Exterminate All the Brutes,” Lindqvist alternates between a bus trip across the Sahara and a painful history of colonial butchery in 19th-century Africa in which the Britons participated with no less enthusiasm than the Germans, Belgians, and French. In the second piece, Lindqvist travels in Australia, once referred to as “Terra Nullius”: Latin for “no one’s land,” but also a region populated by people considered by the Europeans as too subhuman to deserve consideration. Those that abhor colonialism but insist we must not cry over spilt milk will recoil at Australia’s vicious treatment of its aboriginal population. It’s not an easy work to stomach, and even the most jaded readers will squirm at the avalanche of brutality justified by pious rhetoric from such figures as Churchill and Darwin who agreed that nature’s laws doomed “inferior races”. Illus. (July)