The Next Chapter·Dog-eared Reads

Why Desmond Cole has never finished reading this 1961 classic about race and colonization

The Toronto writer and activist keeps re-reading The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon.
Desmond Cole is a writer, journalist and activist based in Toronto. (Kate Yang-Nikodym, Grove Press)

This interview originally aired on May 9, 2020.

Desmond Cole is a journalist and activist based in Toronto. His first book, The Skin We're Inexplores life in Canada as a Black person. When it was published in February 2020, it became one of the bestselling books in the country. 

Cole is an avid reader and the 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth by the late psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon is a book he re-reads over and over again — but can never finish it.

He stopped by The Next Chapter to tell us why. 

"One book that I keep going back to is The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon. The real reason I keep going back to this book is because I have never finished it. I cannot get through The Wretched of the Earth because it's so dense, it's so powerful and it starts taking me to all of these different places in my mind as I read it and I have to put it down. 

"I have probably read On Violence, the first chapter of that book, about 15 times. I don't ever get much further than that because every single time I do, I get lost in my own thinking and I get overwhelmed.

It's so dense, it's so powerful and it starts taking me to all of these different places in my mind as I read it and I have to put it down.

"Frantz Fanon helped me and so many of us think properly about colonialism, about Black subjugation, about this idea as Black people in a white-dominated country or space that our minds are working in a certain way all of the time.

"He has this part in it where he talks about the muscles of the colonized always being tensed — and I can never stop thinking about that.

"So I keep reflecting on The Wretched of the Earth. Maybe one day I will actually finish it."

Desmond Cole's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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