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A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 Chapter 2

August 29, 2010

I read the second chapter of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne today. I found it very interesting, and a welcome setting of the stage before the history or the war begins. This chapters talks about the racial divisions in Algerian society before the war. Horne mentions that Algerian society was similar to South Africa Rhodesia and of the Southern US States, in the way the whites (only 1 in 5 pied noir, the term for a colonist, were french, there was many spanish and italians) formed a class above the Muslim, and to a lesser extent the jewish people of Algeria.

Horne also mentions the main capitalists of Algeria and the role they played in uniting the lower classes against the colonial rule. These three men were Henri Borgeaud, Laurent Schiaffino, and Jacques Chevallier, who was nominally a liberal. these three men held immense sway in Algeria, through the control of many industries, which employed the Muslims. It reminded me of the map that is shown near the beginning which shows the French cities, mostly along the coast, and inset is the Algerian towns, which were more southern. The spliting of the two different maps, showed to me the kind of division in their society, which I think is why he linked French Algeria with South Africa or Rhodesia.

Horne also mentions, when discussing the histories of the Muslim peoples of Algeria, that they some where Berbers who fled inland to escape the Romans, and that there were two Roman emperors that were from there, Septimus Severus who reigned from 193-198 CE, and his heir Caracalla. Caracalla reigned jointly with Severus from 198-209, with another co-ruler Geta, and then on his own from  211 – 217. The one thing I thought of, when I read the statement about them retreating inland was Afghanistan. It has pretty much never been successfully conquered, because of the way the people go to the mountains. I am going to guess, that this might have some role to play in the war.

The last thing I wanted to mention was the numerous Albert Camus quotes to help describe the perspective of the pied noir. I am a big fan of Camus, and he is one of my favourite existentialists. I think after I finish this book, I might try to read one of Camus’ novels before school gets going too heavily. If anyone has any recommendations, I would be happy to hear them.

I am going to try and read another chapter and post something about it later today, but I might not get around to it.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2010 7:19 pm

    By sheer coincidence, I’m reading my first Camus novel at the moment! I’m about two thirds through The Outsider. I’m enjoying it a lot, and its only just over a hundred pages, so might be a good one to go for – unless you’ve already read it. It’s set in Algeria, and there are some strange French/Algerian relations going on.

    Have you read much Camus? If so, by all means recommend me your fav. I was in Oxfam Books, stuck with the choice between The Plague and The Outsider. He seems to be an important influence for disseminating existentialism, so it’s partly work, partly curiosity that made me read him.


    • great lake swimmer permalink
      August 29, 2010 7:39 pm

      I have not read a lot of Camus to be honest. I cannot remember where the excerpt was from that I studied for my existentialism class. I actually looked on wikipedia, and the only thing by him I have read is The Myth of Sisyphus. It would be interesting to read that after The Outsider I would think. I have also been recommended to read The Rebel which is also by Camus.

      • August 30, 2010 7:03 pm

        Cheers, might give them a go. The Rebel looks especially interesting – it’s a sort of essay-cum-novel on rebellion/revolt, apparently (I googled it).

        See you

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