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Algerian Chronicles

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Indeed, many in France called Camus a traitor on account of his sympathy with the Algerian Arabs. When he returned to Algeria in 1956 to speak against the killing of civilians at a public meeting – after having been forced to leave for having been so outspoken in his criticism of French authority there – a mob of French "ultracolonialists" gathered outside the meeting and angrily chanted "Death to Camus." The text of that speech is included in this volume as "Call for a Civilian Truce in Algeria.")

But the main movement in favor of Algerian independence, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), was equally guilty of human rights violations. They too sometimes used torture, and they too committed acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. Camus's family, who still lived in Algeria, were among the potential targets of these terrorist acts, and some of the rebels accused him of a kind of self-interest in denouncing the terrorists; but what is clear from "Algerian Chronicles" is that Camus's compassion could be triggered by the suffering of any human being, and that his political and moral concern was with any innocent person who might be made the victim of violence in the name of any political cause. Indeed, his unhappiness with the evident disregard for human rights on both sides in the Algerian conflict sent him into a long period of silence, during which he said he nothing out of fear that whatever he might say would be used as ammunition by one side or the other:

"When the fate of men and women who share one's own blood is linked directly or indirectly to articles that one writes so effortlessly in the comfort of one's study, then one has a duty to weigh the pros and cons before taking up one's pen. For my own part, while I remain sensitive to the risk that, in criticizing the course of the rebellion, I give aid and comfort to the most insolent instigators of the Algerian tragedy, I am also afraid that, by retracing the long history of French errors, I am, with no risk to myself, supplying alibis to the criminal madmen who would toss grenades into crowds of innocent people who happen to be my kin."

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