cover image Algerian Chronicles

Algerian Chronicles

Albert Camus, edited and with an introduction by Alice Kaplan, trans. from the French by Arthur Goldhammer. Harvard Univ./Belknap, $21.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-674-07258-9

The “Algerian-born Frenchman,” Camus (1913–1960), author of The Stranger and winner of the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature, struggled with the concept and conflicts of colonialism. This first English translation of his Chroniques Algériennes (1958) proves parochial and universal, timely and timeless. From the observation of despair in his data-specked reportage of the 1939 famine in Kabylia, Camus’s tone mirrors the suffering he witnessed. The places are often particular and unfamiliar; the conditions are often not (“Too many people and not enough grain”). Nor does one have to work hard to update insights such as “Not all the French in Algeria are bloodthirsty brutes, and not all the Arabs are fanatical mass killers.” Programmatic at times and fixed historically in the French-Algerian war—replete with its particular repression and violence, massacre and torture—the impassioned, politically committed Camus addresses issues that feel as current today as they did more than 50 years ago. “When one looks at the recent disturbances in North Africa, it is wise to avoid two extremes,” he urged in 1945. While addressing hostile questions during a 1957 news conference, a reporter noted, “In the end, Camus managed to make himself heard, not without difficulty.” He should still be heard today. (May)