cover image Algiers, Third World Capital: Black Panthers, Freedom Fighters, Revolutionaries

Algiers, Third World Capital: Black Panthers, Freedom Fighters, Revolutionaries

Elaine Mokhtefi. Verso, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-78873-000-6

The behind-the-scenes work of post-WWII liberation movements comes to the fore in this gripping memoir from Mokhtefi, an “innocent American” whose 1951 move to Paris after college leads her into an unexpected and awe-inducing life of revolutionary activity in Algeria and beyond. After renting a room in a cheap hotel on the edge of the North African quarter in Paris, Mokhtefi (née Klein) becomes involved in the Algerian immigrant labor struggle and soon an essential fixture in the Algerian war for independence thanks to her skills as a translator. Algeria’s war of liberation from France (1954–1962) changes the course of Mokhtefi’s life, rerouting her in 1960 to a New York City office where the “hands and feet” of the Algerian revolution operate, and eventually to Algiers, which becomes a hub of activity for numerous liberation movements. The arrivals of Eldridge Cleaver and several fellow Black Panthers as the party splits triggers a tumultuous period of clandestine activity and international intrigue that concludes with Mokhtefi’s 1974 deportation from Algeria. Despite her pivotal role aiding various leftist movements, savvy handling of delicate situations, and connections to world-historical persons, Mokhtefi remains humble throughout, even when describing hobnobbing with singer Miriam Makeba during a Pan-African music festival while trying to convince a drunk Nina Simone to perform. Mokhtefi has never been back to Algeria, but she makes palpable the turmoil and fervor of her experience there while sharing unbelievable stories previously known only to their participants. (Aug.)