A Savage War of Peace

A Savage War of Peace

Algeria, 1954-1962

Book - 2006
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Random House, Inc.
The Algerian War lasted from 1954 to 1962. It brought down six French governments, led to the collapse of the Fourth Republic, returned de Gaulle to power, and came close to provoking a civil war on French soil. More than a million Muslim Algerians died in the conflict and as many European settlers were driven into exile. Above all, the war was marked by an unholy marriage of revolutionary terror and repressive torture.

Nearly a half century has passed since this savagely fought war ended in Algeria’s independence, and yet—as Alistair Horne argues in his new preface to his now-classic work of history—its repercussions continue to be felt not only in Algeria and France, but throughout the world. Indeed from today’s vantage point the Algerian War looks like a full-dress rehearsal for the sort of amorphous struggle that convulsed the Balkans in the 1990s and that now ravages the Middle East, from Beirut to Baghdad—struggles in which questions of religion, nationalism, imperialism, and terrorism take on a new and increasingly lethal intensity.

A Savage War of Peace is the definitive history of the Algerian War, a book that brings that terrible and complicated struggle to life with intelligence, assurance, and unflagging momentum. It is essential reading for our own violent times as well as a lasting monument to the historian’s art.

Book News
British historian Horne spent much of his career studying French military history. In this 1977 work, he turned his eye on France's failed colonial war in Algeria. His narrative is constructed through a synthesis of France's secondary literature on the bloody conflict and interviews with many of the key actors. He combines discussion of the conflict proper with analysis of the politics of Algeria's National Liberation Front, the European-Algerian community, and France itself, where the war led to the collapse of the Fourth Republic. In a new preface, the author discusses some of the parallels of the Algerian war with the US occupation of Iraq, including the futility of using torture and other brutal tactics against an insurgency, no matter how bloody that insurgency might be itself. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Publisher: New York : New York Review Books, [2006]
Copyright Date: ©2006
ISBN: 9781590172186
Branch Call Number: 965.04 HORNE
Characteristics: 608 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 21 cm
Alternative Title: Algeria, 1954-1962


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Aug 31, 2018

“It was, in effect, first and foremost, an anti-colonial war of national liberation.”
While long (close to 600 pages) and dense, this is an exhaustively researched and thoroughly engaging history of the Algerian war for independence from the French. Alistair Horne excels at giving voice to all the participants and in withholding judgment while still having a strong point of view. It's a war that has a great deal of contemporary resonance and my edition has the blurb "On the reading list of President Bush and the US military." I imagine Bush had it stacked between his Bible and the Torture Memos. Since it was both a revolution and something of a civil war, it bear comparison with both Vietnam, where the French were before we were, and Iraq. Iconic French intellectuals like Sartre, De Beauvoir, and Camus, who grew up in Algeria, have supporting roles. The film "Battle for Algiers," which Horne references, is required viewing.
"You have to remember Arab mentality-to impress the Arabs, you've got to make a solemn performance of killing a man."-French OAS leader

May 21, 2018

Exhaustively researched and written in Sir Alistair Horne's elegant yet accessible style, this is an essential read for those interested in the French, Algerian and North African political and military turmoil of this period in history. The detail horrifies but brings to mind that recent atrocities of ISIS and other such groups had non-religious antecedents. Particularly interesting is the account of the formation, inner workings and atrocities of the OAS. Above all, the author writes with a balanced view, pointing the finger only after examining the causes and roots of the actions.


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