Frantz Fanon. The theorist of revolution and a prophet scorned. An angry Isiah preaching to the choir? …
…The repetitions, ambiguities, and facile rhetoric that mar certain chapters of The Wretched of the Earth are due largely to the circumstances in which the book was written. A dying man finished it in a final, heroic, ten-week burst of energy. Fanon lost thirty pounds, suffered a temporary loss of vision, and was unable to go over the proofs. Friends encouraged him to seek treatment at Bethseda in Maryland. Ollie Iselin, a CIA officer working under diplomatic cover in North Africa, was sent to Tunis to offer Fanon passage to the United States. For Fanon, it was like entering the jaws of the wolf, but the choice was dying in Tunis or taking a chance on a new therapy that might prolong his life. In September, 1961, he left for Washington via Rome, where he met again with Jean-Paul Sarte. He was too weak to speak. He made gestures indicating disgust with his condition.
The CIA kept Fanon in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in Washington for eight days before turning him over to the National institute of Health. It was their chance to question the dying man without interference. But according to a woman friend of Fanon’s who was present at the sessions with Iselin, the interrogation yielded little. For Fanon answered every question with a lecture on Western decadence and the third world. He seemed to enjoy the duel.
The delay at the hotel made him suspicious, however,and when he was moved to the hospital, he refused to answer medical questions. A young hematologist named J. David Heywood was able to gain his trust, and he began responding to treatment. In November, he felt he had won a remission, and got out of bed. He received visitors.
The first bound copies of The Wretched of the Earth arrived. Then came a relapse, acute anemia, comas, delirium. He imagined that the blood transfusions were a plot to make him white. “The put me in the washing machine last night,” he said. ( to be continued)