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Final Year of a Life Well Lived: A Requiem for Frantz Fanon

Final Year of a Life Well Lived: A Requiem for Frantz Fanon

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Published by TigersEye99
Lewis Gordon in Nigel Gibson (ed) 'Living Fanon' 2011
Lewis Gordon in Nigel Gibson (ed) 'Living Fanon' 2011

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Published by: TigersEye99 on Sep 11, 2013
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02/18/2015

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 Final Year of a Life Well Lived:A Requiem for Frantz Fanon
*
 Lewis R. Gordon[D]eath is always with us and . . . what matters is not to knowwhether we can escape it but whether we have achieved themaximum for the ideas we have made our own. —— Frantz FanonI don’t like men who hoard their resources. —— Frantz FanonFanon was of the opinion that a society is most healthy when its people forego nationalismfor the sake of national consciousness. When such a development arises in different ages,each generation, he contended, discovers its mission. It is difficult not to think aboutFanon as one witnesses the youth who took to the streets in North Africa and the MiddleEast in 2010 to 2011 and achieved fragile change in some cases and the continued wrath of violent dictatorship and monarchical rule in others. The contours of debates, where super  powers attempt to negotiate outcomes of protected interests, bring to the fore possibilitiesof radical democracy constrained by promissory notes of global capital and the potential of electronic media.Although some critics have attempted to imprison Fanon in the dawn of the 1960s,his ideas have returned in cycles in the neocolonial and postcolonial developments in theremaining twentieth-century and the tumultuous ones into the second decade of the twenty-first. A striking feature of Fanon the man was the tenderness of his age. Similar to those North African youth of today, he was caught up in revolutionary struggles in his twenties.And, unfortunately, like too many, he remains frozen in that youth, in a way, as someonewho never completed his fourth decade. Yet, as this reflection and many others attest, hehis legacy defies his death.In 1960, Fanon, the thirty-five year-old psychiatrist and veteran of WWII, twicedecorated for valor, was appointed ambassador in Ghana for the Algerian NationalLiberation Front (FLN). He had devoted the past six years of his life to the struggle for independence and had, among many efforts at articulating the FLN’s international image,composed
 L’An V de la révolution algérienne
(1959). The world had changed much bythen; it was clear that Algeria was on the eve of national liberation, and in Fanon’s nativeCaribbean, the revolutionary spirit had begun to take hold. The Cuban Revolution raisedconsiderable challenge to the Monroe Doctrine, an imperial declaration that establishedthe United States’ hegemonic relationship with the Caribbean and Latin America. Civil

*
I thank Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France for permission to use the photographs below.
 
 
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unrest soon followed in Martinique and Guadeloupe, events that Fanon celebrated in hisJanuary 1960 article « Le sang coule aux Antilles sous domination française».
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 According to David Caute, these events signaled for Fanon the possibility of his participating in a growing revolutionary movement in the Caribbean. He began to seek an appointment as the FLN’s ambassador to Cuba. Cuba was a logical choice, given thetransformation of Martinique into an overseas department of France. Fanon, a wantedenemy of the French government, could not immigrate to any island in the Caribbeansave Cuba, since all the other islands were either overseas departments or allies of France. One could imagine what might have happened if Fanon’s bidding wassuccessful.Alas, it wasn’t to be. Fanon’s arduous schedule of organizing supply routes for theFLN, providing medical and military training to FLN members, writing responses toFrench propaganda (which included some FLN counter-propaganda), and participating inendless strategic meetings and internal squabbles began to take their inevitable toll. Fanon,the great revolutionary, looked tired.Today, a popular photograph of Fanon appears on the cover of several volumesdevoted to his life and thought, including the 1991 Gallimard paperback of 
 Les damnés dela terre
. The photograph is an enlarged version that enables his face to fill the frame(figure 1):Figure 1The original photograph was at a distance, revealing Fanon as rarely seen, withouta buttoned up shirt and a tie (see figure 2, where it is somehow reversed).

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This article is available in Frantz Fanon (1969).
 
 
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 Figure 2Shocking, however, is a still more distanced photograph of Fanon, apparently from thesame meeting, seated on a couch, leaning to his right, his clothing disheveled, revealing anemaciated, anemic torso (see figure 3).Figure 3It is a photograph of Fanon as he appears in no prior instance. In previous photographs (figure 4), Fanon is neat, often in a business suit or in another suitableuniform (for instance, a soccer uniform during his days at the
lycée
):
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
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So concerned was he about his appearance that he often changed into several suits whileon duty as the chief psychiatric officer so as not to appear overcome by the North Africanheat. See Alice Cherki (2000). For a wonderful array of photographs of Fanon from hisadolescent years through to those in his last, see the special edition of 
Sans Frontière
 (Février 1982), which was a memorial issue at the twentieth anniversary of his death.
 

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