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My Battle of Algiers: A Memoir by Ted Morgan
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My Battle of Algiers: A Memoir

by Ted Morgan

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I don’t believe this is truly a memoir. It is a novel. Morgan (originally Sanche de Gramont, he changed his name when he became an American citizen) uses the relationships of his central character (himself) to introduce the reader to the different groups involved in the Algiers mess: the rich, rootless amoral French, personified by the don’t-you-wish Georgette, who makes Ted her gigolo, while providing him with classy downtown digs, and leaves Algeria as soon as the slender tie that binds her (her husband’s life) is cut; Genevieve Zimmer, the pied-noir receptionist (black shoes were what the Alsace-Lorainers wore when they chose to leave for Algeria rather than live under German rule) who turns out to be an army spy; Aisha, the Algerian receptionist who turns out to be an FLN spy, and all the others. Morgan’s attitude going into the French army that the war is a lost cause seems to pick up the mood of our current malaise. Morgan really brings the world of postwar France and Algeria alive. This is one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. ( )
  baobab | Jan 18, 2009 |
Nonfiction account of the depressing mess that teh French faced in Algiers from 1955 to 1960. Shades of the US in Iraq? ( )
  Gary10 | Jan 14, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060852240, Hardcover)

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 with the 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:58 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Historian and biographer Morgan recalls a war that we would do well not to forget, recounting his own experiences as a French soldier in the savage Algerian War in 1956-1957. A Yale graduate who had grown up in both France and America, he relives the harrowing conflict in which every Arab was considered a terrorist--and increasingly, many were. He spends months in the back country, where everyone, including himself, becomes involved in unimaginable barbarities. "You cannot fight a guerrilla war with humanitarian principles," an officer tells him. Later, in Algiers, his brief journalistic experience gets him a job writing for a newspaper. He lives through the day-to-day struggle to put down the first Arab urban insurgency in modern history, with its unrelenting menu of bombings, assassinations, torture, show trials, executions, and the deliberate humiliation of prisoners. Though these events happened half a century ago in Algiers, they might as well have taken place in Baghdad today.--From publisher description.… (more)

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