Journal, 1955-1962: Reflections on the French-Algerian War

Journal, 1955-1962: Reflections on the French-Algerian War

Journal, 1955-1962: Reflections on the French-Algerian War

Journal, 1955-1962: Reflections on the French-Algerian War


"This honest man, this good man, this man who never did wrong to anyone, who devoted his life to the public good, and who was one of the greatest writers in Algeria, has been murdered.... Not by accident, not by mistake, but called by his name and killed with preference." So wrote Germaine Tillion in Le Monde shortly after Mouloud Feraoun's assassination by a right wing French terrorist group, the Organisation Armée Secréte, just three days before the official cease-fire ended Algeria's eight-year battle for independence from France.

However, not even the gunmen of the OAS could prevent Feraoun's journal from being published. Journal, 1955-1962 appeared posthumously in French in 1962 and remains the single most important account of everyday life in Algeria during decolonization.

Feraoun was one of Algeria's leading writers. He was a friend of Albert Camus, Emmanuel Roblés, Pierre Bourdieu, and other French and North African intellectuals. A committed teacher, he had dedicated his life to preparing Algeria's youth for a better future. As a Muslim and Kabyle writer, his reflections on the war in Algeria afford penetrating insights into the nuances of Algerian nationalism, as well as into complex aspects of intellectual, colonial, and national identity. Feraoun's Journal captures the heartbreak of a writer profoundly aware of the social and political turmoil of the time. This classic account, now available in English, should be read by anyone interested in the history of European colonialism and the tragedies of contemporary Algeria.


During the morning of March 15, 1962, in El Biar, on the hills above Algiers, Mouloud Feraoun was taking part in a work session in his function as inspector of Centres Sociaux. He was inside one of the barracks of an estate where the director’s office of this division was located. Soon after 11:00 A.M., armed men rushed inside the room and ordered those present to go stand along the walls with their arms up. Once everyone had been checked, they called seven names. One of the people they had selected was not there. Feraoun was among the six others. The leader of the group of assassins assured them quite casually that no harm would come to them, that all that was required was to record a statement on a tape recorder. People thought that it was a “pirate broadcast” of the OAS.

The six victims were led outside, single file, to the corner of two buildings where other armed men were waiting for them. They took their ID cards from them. Then the massacre started. Feraoun was the last one to fall, his chest crushed by a burst of machine gun fire. His body fell over that of his friend, Ould Aoudia.

It was 11:15 A.M. In a nearby field, an old woman and some children were witnesses to the killing.

It is very difficult for me to speak of him now that he is no longer with us. In any case, what portrait of him could be better than the one that emerges from these pages? Yes, here he is as he was, patient, generous, stubborn, imbued with all the virtues of the people of the Kabylia Mountains, filled with honor and justice. Here he is with his human kindness, his confidence in people as well as the anger and the heartbreak that he used to express to me during our meetings or in his letters, and that so specifically answered mine!

He was a wonderful storyteller; we could spend entire nights listening to him. When the insurrection began, he brought us so many facts, so many anecdotes, that I strongly urged him to write them down. Indeed, it seemed to me regrettable that such a wealth of information might be lost. I ended up convincing Feraoun to do so, and he undertook this task primarily with the aim of later using these memories in an elaborate text.

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