Images of the Algerian War: French Fiction and Film, 1954-1992

Images of the Algerian War: French Fiction and Film, 1954-1992

Images of the Algerian War: French Fiction and Film, 1954-1992

Images of the Algerian War: French Fiction and Film, 1954-1992

Synopsis

The memory of the Algerian war (1954-1962) continues to haunt French society. Although part of a much wider process of decolonization, the conflict was so traumatic that it brought France to the verge of civil war. Philip Dine has written the first full-length survey in any language of the French fiction and film generated by the war, ranging from the writings of Camus to the cinema of Godard, and from the 1950s to the 1990s. Writers discussed include Camus, Etecherelli, Marie Cardinal, Genet, Millecam, Perec, and Jules Roy. Filmmakers covered include Godard, Ophuls, Varda, Schoendorffer, Marker, Resnais, and Demy. All quotations in French are accompanied by English translations.

Excerpt

The Algerian war of national liberation is generally held to have begun on the eve of All Saints' Day, 1 November 1954, when the newly formed Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched its armed challenge to a century and a quarter of French colonial rule. However, the small-scale and amateurish execution of these first attacks on people and property meant that it was only with hindsight that their historical significance became apparent. Certainly the immediate response of the French press was to play down this latest manifestation of Algerian nationalist sentiment, presenting it as a mere footnote to troubles already being experienced elsewhere in France's North African territories. Yet, within just four years, the conflict in Algeria would come to dominate French political life to the exclusion of virtually all else. The institutional crisis which it provoked was to lead directly to the collapse not only of a succession of governments but also of the entire regime. Indeed, the moribund Fourth Republic was to follow a recent precedent as it voted itself out of existence and granted full powers to the hero of a previous war, in a desperate attempt to find a way out of the country's Algerian predicament.

The parallel between the dramatic events of May 1958 and those of June 1940 was inescapable, yet the return from the wilderness of General Charles de Gaulle was to prove essential to the final execution of France's belated and bloody retreat from overseas empire. Brought to power on the back of a threatened military coup, and in the full expectation that he would keep Algeria French, de Gaulle would take just another four years to rid the nation of its ruinous Algerian obsession. In order to do so, he . . .

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