Exterminate All The Brutes
One Man's Odyssey Into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide

Lindqvist, Sven
Year Published:  1992  
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX11683

Lindqvist explores European imperialism and explains how and why racism, exploitation and extermination were policies of European colonial administrations.

Abstract:  Sven Lindqvist's Exterminate All The Brutes: One Man's Odyssey Into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide, begins with the claim that his book "is a story, not a contribution to historical research". The author's first line proves deceptive as his work presents a valuable discussion of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as well as a general discussion on the role of European imperialism and expansionism since the sixteenth century. Examining the policy of extermination in particular, Lindqvist traces the role of genocide in European global affairs from the discovery of the New World to the concentration camps and gas chambers of the Second World War. The author argues that the Western world "want[s] genocide to have begun and ended with Nazism". His work explores European imperialism and explains how racism, exploitation and extermination have long been policies of European colonial administrations. Lindqvist asserts that the Holocaust should not be portrayed as a separate, isolated incident, but instead must be viewed in relation to Europe's aggressive, expansionist history.

Lindqvist's approach is unconventional, splicing historical events and descriptions within a travel narrative through the Saharan desert. The reader is confronted with a highly personalized style, adding a touch of humanity to a grim and sobering subject. The author weaves historical events and concepts around the towns he passes through, creating a link between the world of the present and the world of the past. Exterminate All The Brutes is broken down in four parts following the author's travels from In Salah, Algeria to Zinder in Niger. The travel narrative ties the discussion together creating an abruptly fluid structure. Throughout the bus rides, hotel rooms and childhood memories, Lindqvist outlines theories of scientific racism, European technological superiority, and the role of extermination in European colonial affairs.

Exterminate All The Brutes focuses largely on the growth of racism and the impact of racial theories put forward by anthropologists and scientists. Discussing the work of Carlyle, Cuvier, Merivale and Darwin, Lindqvist reveals how racial theories were often directly linked to imperialism and used as a tool to justify territorial expansion and extermination of aboriginal populations. Theories of racial and technological supremacy provided Europeans with a belief in both cognitive and physical superiority. Policies taken towards aboriginal people during conquests were in a sense justified by Europe's belief in the native's subordinate being. Lindqvist points to the growth and spread of racial science in nineteenth century and draws a direct relation between theories of European global expansion and the holocaust of the Second World War.

Lindqvist provides an unorthodox and valuable contribution to historical research. His book challenges readers to look deeper into the fabric of history and understand how the world, complicated and intricate, is linked and interconnected on more levels than one may perceive. Lindqvist also contends that the Holocaust, while unique in its own circumstances, shared many of the same beliefs and theories of European global expansionism. While the Western world wants genocide to have begun and ended with Nazism, Lindqvist challenges readers to look beyond the Holocaust and understand the larger role of Europe within global affairs. Lindqvist believes "It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions". Exterminate All The Brutes is a unique book full of valuable concepts, theories and personal attributes that catch the reader's attention and force them to think about Europe's role in the world differently. Lindqvist's odyssey into the heart of darkness is essentially a journey into the heart of Europe's imperial policies, designed to rid the world of inferior races and create room for their superior race, "Because [the native's] darkness, sloth and brutal ignorance cannot co-exist with the [European's] advance of knowledge, industry, and light".

[Abstract by William Stevenson]

Subject Headings