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Algerian Chronicles

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Nor, mercifully, did he live to witness the ongoing internecine violence that continued to plague Algeria for decades after independence, most brutally during the 1990s, when over 100,000 people died in a chaotic period of guerrilla fighting and factional massacres of civilians. Perhaps O'Brien's assessment would have been different if he had foreseen this slaughter. If nothing else it confirmed that, even if some of Camus's reasons for insisting that Algeria must remain part of France could be called in question, he was at the very least correct to insist that independence would be anything but a cure-all for that troubled former colony.

Camus was born in Algeria to a family of French pied-noirs, descendants of the original European colonizers of Algeria. Relations between the pied-noirs and Algeria's majority Arab population were tense, largely due to French economic policies that had exacerbated and in some cases created the inhuman poverty under which many of the Arabs existed – a poverty that is described in moving detail the first section of "Algerian Chronicles," "The Misery of Kabylia," which was written during the 1930s, when, as Camus said later, "almost no one in France was interested in" Algeria. This set of essays, and much of the writing elsewhere in the book, is more than sufficient to show that those who view Camus as a former pied-noir who cared only about the fate of that group were simply mistaken.

Indeed, "Algerian Chronicles" gives ample evidence that Camus felt genuine outrage and deep compassion about the suffering of Algeria's Arab and Berber populations, and for every statement that makes him sound like an apologist for France (and such statements are, admittedly, present) there are several that take the French government to task for its wrongdoings and demand that it radically alter its policies. He was particularly outspoken regarding French military attacks on civilian populations and also regarding the widespread use of torture, both of which he viewed as absolutely unjustifiable.

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