The best books about the Algerian War 1954-62 from an Algerian perspective

Who am I?

I've been fascinated by Algeria ever since I first visited the country in the summer of 1982, visiting cities in the north, Algiers and Oran, and then crossing over the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert. This encounter never left me, so it was quite natural that when I started a PhD I was drawn to Algerian history. My books seek to both put Algerians centre-stage through their creativity expressed in music, food, poetry, writings and humour and to connect them to wider global histories. I'm co-curating a Cultures of Resistance Festival in Dublin which will bring together Algerian and Irish creatives to reflect upon their common resistance cultures.


I wrote...

Algeria: France's Undeclared War

By Martin Evans,

Book cover of Algeria: France's Undeclared War

What is my book about?

Invaded in 1830, populated by one million settlers who co-existed uneasily with nine million Arabs and Berbers, Algeria was different from other French colonies because it was administered as an integral part of France, in theory no different from Normandy or Brittany. The depth and scale of the colonisation process explains why the Algerian War of 1954 to 1962 was one of the longest and most violent of the decolonisation struggles.

I argue that the Socialist-led Republican Front, in power from January 1956 until May 1957, is the defining moment in the war because it was predicated upon the belief in the universal civilising mission of the Fourth Republic, coupled with the conviction that Algerian nationalism was feudal and religiously fanatical in character.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Journal, 1955-1962: Reflections on the French-Algerian War

Martin Evans Why did I love this book?

This intensely personal diary conveys the savage day-to-day reality of this colonial conflict like no other and is a must-read for anyone interested in Algerian perspectives. By November 1954, the moment when the National Liberation Front (FLN) launches the armed national liberation struggle that will achieve independence eight years later, Mouloud Feraoun is already a very well-established novelist, writing while simultaneously working in the French education administration in French Algeria. Through his journal entries, therefore, he tries to make sense of the cycles of violence and counter-violence as they unfold around him which means that the diary is not a dry, detached account.

It is written in the very eye of the storm and brilliantly conveys how ordinary Algerians sought to navigate one of the most brutal episodes of the whole decolonsation process. Assassinated by a right-wing terrorist group, the Secret Army Organisation (OAS), just days before the official cease-fire ended the conflict on 18 March 1962, Feraoun’s journal was published shortly after in French. The single most important account of the everyday impact of the Algerian War.   

By Mouloud Feraoun, James D. Le Sueur, Mary Ellen Wolf (translator) , Claude Fouillade (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Journal, 1955-1962 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This honest man, this good man, this man who never did wrong to anyone, who devoted his life to the public good, and who was one of the greatest writers in Algeria, has been murdered. . . . Not by accident, not by mistake, but called by his name and killed with preference." So wrote Germaine Tillion in Le Monde shortly after Mouloud Feraoun's assassination by a right wing French terrorist group, the Organisation Armee Secrete, just three days before the official cease-fire ended Algeria's eight-year battle for independence from France.

However, not even the gunmen of the OAS could…


Book cover of A Dying Colonialism

Martin Evans Why did I love this book?

Psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, Frantz Fanon is born in Martinique in 1925 and comes to work in French Algeria in 1953 as a doctor in a hospital in Blida, just south of Algiers. Angry at the way in which treatment of Algerian patients is shot through with institutionalised racism, Fanon resigns his post in 1956 and joins the FLN in Tunisia. Working as a journalist, his writings are a piercing attack on French colonialism which feed directly into A Dying Colonialism. Published in 1959, the fifth year of the Algerian Revolution, each chapter analyses how the liberation struggle is transforming Algerian society at every level, from attitudes to technology and medicine through to the role of women—perspectives that decisively frame Gillo Pontecorvo’s depiction of the Algerian War in his 1966 cinematic masterpiece Battle of Algiers

Fanon dies of cancer two years later, shortly before independence, but this book, translated into English in 1965, is hugely influential on anti-colonial movements throughout the world. Indeed, I would argue that it is one of the key ways in which the Algerian struggle is understood, in particular in the Anglophone world, during the 1960s and 1970s.

By Frantz Fanon, Haakon Chevalier (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Dying Colonialism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frantz Fanon's seminal work on anticolonialism and the fifth year of the Algerian Revolution.

Psychiatrist, humanist, revolutionary, Frantz Fanon was one of the great political analysts of our time, the author of such seminal works of modern revolutionary theory as The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks. He has had a profound impact on civil rights, anticolonialism, and black consciousness movements around the world.

A Dying Colonialism is Fanon's incisive and illuminating account of how, during the Algerian Revolution, the people of Algeria changed centuries-old cultural patterns and embraced certain ancient cultural practices long derided by their…


Book cover of Inside the Battle of Algiers: Memoir of a Woman Freedom Fighter

Martin Evans Why did I love this book?

This is an astonishing memoir, told by one of the women bombers, Zohra Drif, so memorably portrayed in Gillo Pontecorvo’s film Battle of Algiers. A retrospective account, first published in French in 2013 to great acclaim and great controversy, Drif explains her motivations in clear and direct prose. She traces why and how she becomes a member of the National Liberation Front, willing to go to the most extreme lengths to liberate her country from colonial oppression. As such this memoir is full of telling historical details, not least in terms of the daily drip-drip violence of settler colonialism and the huge mirror violence this engendered. More specifically, this memoir provides us with a remarkable insight into the thoughts and emotions of the Battle of Algiers in 1956 and 1957, when small tightly organised groups of FLN fighters confronted the French paratroopers in the Casbah of Algiers: a key moment in the whole conflict.  

By Zohra Drif, Andrew G. Farrand (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inside the Battle of Algiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This gripping insider's account chronicles how and why a young woman in 1950s Algiers joined the armed wing of Algeria's national liberation movement to combat her country's French occupiers. When the movement's leaders turned to Drif and her female colleagues to conduct attacks in retaliation for French aggression against the local population, they leapt at the chance. Their actions were later portrayed in Gillo Pontecorvo's famed film The Battle of Algiers. When first published in French in 2013, this intimate memoir was met with great acclaim and no small amount of controversy. It is essential reading for anyone seeking to…


Book cover of Women of Algiers in Their Apartment

Martin Evans Why did I love this book?

This is not only a beautifully written book, it is an important one. Why? Because it poses challenging questions about the promise of post-independence freedom for Algerian women through a collection of short stories written between 1959 and 1978. First published in French in 1980, the writing style is at once innovative, lyrical, and unsettling as Assia Djebar explores the condition of Algerian women across the pre-colonial, colonial and immediate post-colonial periods. The inspiration for the book is Eugène Delacroix’s 1834 painting of women in an Algerian harem because, as Djebar explains in the post-face, this picture leads her straight to the conundrum of 1970s Algeria: “What would Delacroix see if he entered into contemporary Algerian apartments?” And for her the depressing conclusion is that he would still find women locked up and shut away just as in the 1830s. One of the most significant voices to emerge from Algeria, Assia Djebar died in 2015, leaving behind an impressive legacy of novels, essays, and documentaries, all of which focus on the lives of Algerian women. 

By Assia Djebar, Marjolijn de Jager (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women of Algiers in Their Apartment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The cloth edition of Assia Djebar's Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, her first work to be published in English, was named by the American Literary Translators Association as an ALTA Outstanding Translation of the Year. Now available in paperback, this collection of three long stories, three short ones, and a theoretical postface by one of North Africa's leading writers depicts the plight of urban Algerian women who have thrown off the shackles of colonialism only to face a postcolonial regime that denies and subjugates them even as it celebrates the liberation of men. Denounced in Algeria for its political…


Book cover of I Was a French Muslim: Memories of an Algerian Freedom Fighter

Martin Evans Why did I love this book?

This is a powerful memoir. First published in French in 2016, one year after Mokhtar Mokhtefi’s death, it is an eyewitness account of twentieth-century Algeria, tracing his political journey from a poor village south of Algiers, through to the French secondary education, one of the few Muslims to do so, and his eventual engagement in the FLN in 1957. Graphically portraying the anger and disaffection that drives Algerians to rebel against French rule, the book is equally unsparing about the divisions and authoritarianism which riddle the National Liberation Front and shape post-independence Algeria. Beautifully translated by his widow, the writer and anti-imperialist activist Elaine Mokhtefi. 

By Mokhtar Mokhtefi, Elaine Mokhtefi (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Was a French Muslim as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

GQ: Best of Modern Middle Eastern Literature 

This engaging memoir provides a vivid account of a childhood under French colonization and a life dedicated to fighting for the freedom and dignity of the Algerian people.

The son of a butcher and the youngest of six siblings, Mokhtar Mokhtefi was born in 1935 and grew up in a village de colonisation roughly one hundred kilometers south of the capital of Algiers. Thanks to the efforts of a supportive teacher, he became the only child in the family to progress to high school, attending a French lycée that deepened his belief in…


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Book cover of The Twenty: One Woman's Trek Across Corsica on the GR20 Trail

Marianne C. Bohr Author Of The Twenty: One Woman's Trek Across Corsica on the GR20 Trail

New book alert!

Who am I?

I married my high school sweetheart and travel partner, and followed my own advice to do graduate work, and started my career working for the French National Railroad in New York City, mapping itineraries for travelers to Europe. Travel means the world to me and if I don’t have a trip on the horizon, I feel aimless and untethered. I worked in book publishing for 30 years and dropped out of the corporate rat race to take a gap year abroad. I wrote about our “Senior year abroad” in my first book Gap Year Girl. I returned to the US to teach middle school French and organize student trips to France. 

Marianne's book list on by women about outdoor adventure

What is my book about?

Marianne Bohr and her husband, about to turn sixty, are restless for adventure. They decide on an extended, desolate trek across the French island of Corsica — the GR20, Europe’s toughest long-distance footpath — to challenge what it means to grow old. Part travelogue, part buddy story, part memoir, The Twenty is a journey across a rugged island of stunning beauty little known outside Europe.

From a chubby, non-athletic child, Bohr grew into a fit, athletic person with an “I’ll show them” attitude. But hiking GR20 forces her to transform a lifetime of hard-won achievements into acceptance of her body and its limitations.

The difficult journey across a remote island provides the crucible for exploring what it means to be an aging woman in a youth-focused culture, a physically fit person whose limitations are getting the best of her, and the partner of a husband who is growing old with her. More than a hiking tale, this is a moving story infused with humor about hiking, aging, accepting life’s finite journey, and the intimacy of a long-term marriage—set against the breathtaking beauty of Corsica’s rugged countryside.

By Marianne C. Bohr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Twenty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Great for fans of: Suzanne Roberts's Almost Somewhere, Juliana Buhring's This Road I Ride.


Marianne Bohr and her husband, about to turn sixty, are restless for adventure. They decide on an extended, desolate trek across the French island of Corsica-the GR20, Europe's toughest long-distance footpath-to challenge what it means to grow old. Part travelogue, part buddy story, part memoir, The Twenty is a journey across a rugged island of stunning beauty little known outside Europe.


From a chubby, non-athletic child, Bohr grew into a fit, athletic person with an "I'll show them" attitude. But hiking The Twenty forces her to…


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