Synopses & Reviews
In My Battle of Algiers
, an eminent historian and biographer recounts his own experiences in the savage Algerian War, an event all too reminiscent of America's present difficulties in Iraq.
Ted Morgan recalls a war that we would do well not to forget. A Yale graduate who had grown up in both France and America he was then known as Sanche de Gramont and was then a French citizen he was drafted into the French Army and served in Algeria 1956 and '57. In this memoir, Morgan relives the harrowing conflict in which every Arab was considered a terrorist and increasingly, many were.
As a newly minted second lieutenant, he spends months in the back country the bled where everyone, including himself, becomes involved in unimaginable barbarities. You cannot fight a guerrilla war with humanitarian principles, a superior officer tells Morgan early on. He beats up and kills a prisoner who won't talk and may have been responsible for the death of a friend. He kills another man in a firefight. He sees men die in encounters too small to be recorded, ones that his fellow soldiers quickly forget. For Morgan, the memories will never go away.
Later, in Algiers, Morgan's journalistic experience he had spent all of four months as a reporter on the Worcester, MA, Telegram gets him a job writing for an official newspaper. He lives through the day-to-day struggle to put down an Arab urban insurgency, the first in modern history, with its unrelenting menu of bombings, assassinations, torture, show trials, executions, and the deliberate humiliation of prisoners. He misses death when a beach casino explodes just as he is going in for lunch. He becomes disillusioned withthe war and what it is doing to his country. He is himself arrested, but not for the real offense he committed, helping a deserter to escape.
Though the events Ted Morgan describes so vividly happened nearly half a century ago in Algiers, they might as well have taken place in Baghdad today.
"In this candid, powerfully wrought memoir, Pulitzer Prize winner Morgan (Churchill; Maugham; Reds) recalls his service as a young officer in France's bitter war in Algeria. A native of France, Morgan was working as a journalist in the United States in the mid-1950s when he received his conscription notice. Following a brief posting to a regiment in the Algerian countryside, he was transferred to Algiers, arriving just in time for the Battle of Algiers, which featured history's first 'systematic use of urban terrorism.' Placing crude bombs at bus stops, cafes and soccer stadiums, the rebels hoped to 'create a climate of insecurity' among the French and to invite reprisals that would turn 'moderate Arabs into rebels.' The French responded by using torture to extract intelligence. 'Torture produced immediate results,' Morgan notes, and the French slowly dismantled the urban terrorist cells. By the end of 1957, France had won the battle, but it would lose the war. The country's tactics sparked an antiwar movement in France, and the war continued to rage in the Algerian countryside until the French conceded defeat in 1962. Morgan recalls this fierce history with an intensity that belies that it happened a half century ago. Anyone interested in the origins of modern terrorist tactics will benefit from his recollections." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Only a writer as masterly and mischievous as Ted Morgan could make such a lesson so readable." Christian Science Monitor
"My Battle of Algiers is superb....[A] well-remembered, beautifully composed memoir that rings with the authority of first-hand experience and the compassion of a humanitarian thinker." Philadelphia Inquirer
"[T]his absorbing personal narrative will capture readers." Library Journal
"Morgan paints a grim picture of hopelessness leading to desperate militancy, reminding us that electroshocks and guillotines rarely solve anything." Kirkus Reviews
"Morgan describes the atrocities committed by both sides. He became an ardent opponent of the war, but his account takes no sides." Booklist
A personal account of his experiences as a young officer during the horrors of the Algerian War in the 1950s by a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian details the horrific events of the conflict, which included bombings, assassinations, torture, and other unimaginable barbarities. Reprint. 10,000 first printing.
In My Battle of Algiers, eminent historian and biographer Ted Morgan recounts his experiences in the savage Algerian War. In 1956, Morgan was drafted into the French Army and was sent thousands of miles overseas to help quell the Algerian uprising. Once there, he witnessed—and became involved in—unimaginable barbarism that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
About the Author
Ted Morgan is the author of more than fifteen books, including FDR: A Biography and Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth-Century America. As Sanche de Gramont, he was the only French citizen to win the Pulitzer Prize (for journalism). He lives in New York City.