A reading list for travelers to Algeria
There is no complete narrative history of Algeria readily available in English, so readers have to pick their way through books about the whole of North Africa or very specific periods of Algerian history. The Deep South of Algeria, the central Sahara, has by contrast a vast bibliography and a mass of photographic surveys (so listed elsewhere).
Barnaby Rogerson, North Africa: A History from the Mediterranean Shore to the Sahara, 4th edition published by Duckworth/Overlook, 2012. The most easily accessible paperback history which covers the ancient, classical, Islamic and modern periods of this region. He has also written in greater depth about the Spanish attempt to seize Algeria, 1415-1578, in The Last Crusaders, Abacus 2010.
Bovill, E.V., The Golden Trade of the Moors, OUP - traces the influence of how the trans-Saharan trade dominated North African commercial life. Written with an enthusiasm that has inspired many subsequent writers and historians.
Raven, Susan, Rome in Africa, London 1993 (3rd edition), Routledge - fluent review of classical and Christian eras of the Roman Empire with a useful book list for those who want to study this period in further depth.
The Academic Texts
Abun-Nasr, Jamil M., History of the Maghreb in the Islamic Period, Cambridge, 1987 - a very great and still unsurpassed regional history.
Berque, Jacques, Le Maghreb entre deux guerres, Paris 1962 - a study of how the magnificent early success of French-ruled North Africa began to turn sour around 1934.
Brett, Michael and Fentress, Elizabeth, The Berbers, Blackwell, 1996 - essential building block for any real understanding of the indigenous race, language and traditions of North Africa.
Julien, Charles-André, Histoire de L’Afrique du Nord (2 volumes), Paris 1978 - a prime source to be placed right beside Abun Nasr.
Modern and contemporary ALGERIAN History
Ageron, Charles Robert, Histoire de l'Algerie contemporien, 1871-1954, Paris 1979. With an English translation by Michael Brett - the best and most concise single explanation of modern Algeria.
Horne, Alistair, A SavageWar of Peace, Algeria 1954-1962, London 1977 and later editions - one of the great histories of the twentieth century by a distinguished British historian specializing in the role of the army in French politics. Also contains a reasonably selective six-page bibliography for those wishing to dig further.
Kiser, John W., The Monks of Tibhirine; faith, love and terror in Algeria, St Martins, 2002 - this curious tale of Christian monks murdered by terrorists takes us on a fascinating journey of personal redemption.
Fergus Fleming. The Sword and the Cross, Granta, 2003 - rattling good tale, and elegantly researched, not the brutal conquest of northern Algeria but the more quixotic story of nineteenth-century Saharan exploration and twentieth-century conquest centred around the characters of father Foucauld and general Laperrine.
Roberts, Hugh, The Battlefield: Algeria 1988-2002: Studies in a Broken
Polity. Verso, 2003 - the long-awaited account of the recent civil war by
Britain's leading observer of Algerian political realities. Which stands beside two other academic studies of the recent Algerian civil war: Evans, Martin and Phillips, John, Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed, Yale UP, 2007 and Martinez, Luis, The Algerian Civil War 1990-1998, Hurst, 2000.
Bowles, Paul, The Sheltering Sky, London 1949 - although renowned for his Moroccan connection, Bowles's most powerful novel and many of his short stories are set in the Algerian Sahara.
Rashid Boudjedra, The Barbary Figs, English translation 2102, Arabia books - confessional reverie from an aged mujhadeen, and a fascinating meditation on modern Algeria.
Camus, Albert, Noces, Paris 1938, L'Etranger, Paris 1942 (translated as The Outsider, London 1946), La Peste, Paris 1947 (trs The Plague, London 1948), Le Mythe de Sisyphe, (trs The Myth of Sisyphus, New York 1954), Resistance, Rebellion and Death, London 1961 and most recently - in 1995 - his memoir of an Algerian childhood, The First Man. Camus is one of the great and original writers of the twentieth century whose works now also keep the vanished culture of the pied noir colonial settlers alive.
Eberhardt, Isabelle, A L'Ombre chaude de L'Islam, Notes de Route, Pages d'Islam, Au Pays des Sables - possibly the greatest female travel writer of the twentieth century with a life as vivid as any of her writing. She was the bastard daughter of an Orthodox priest who lived as rough as any of her corporal lovers from the Algerian ranks of the French army.
Ferraoun, Mouloud, Le Fils du Pauvre, 1950, La Terre et la Sang, Paris 1953, Les Chemins qui montent, Paris 1957 - novels that portray with documentary accuracy the reality of Algerian peasants in the last years of the colonial society.
Fromentin, Eugene, Une Année dans le Sahel, Un été dans le Sahara - nineteenth century travel writing from one of the greatest French painters of the steppe, delighting in the freedom of horse, wind and falcon, seemingly images of the
Gide, André, L'Immoraliste - the first great novel to chronicle the destruction of European morality in the alien culture of North Africa, and in particular the Algerian oasis of Biskra.
Robert Irwin, Mysteries of Algiers, Penguin 1988 - political thriller and satire on the culture of violence. Entertaining and very nasty - something to read on your return….
Maupassant, Guy de., Le Vie Erranate, Pierre et Jean, Au Soleil - are all novellas set in Algeria.
Brian Moore. The Magicians Wife, Flamingo 1998 - entertaining and engrossing historical novel set in Algeria and the court of Napoleon III.
Travel & Memoir
Bodley, Ronald V.C., Wind in the Sahara, London 1947, The Soundless Sahara, London 1968, Algeria from Within, London 1926, The Warrior Saint, London 1954 - all by Britain's leading post-war Algeria hand. The son of a Paris-based British historian of France, Ronald fought in the First World War trenches before rising, aged 26, to become one of the youngest Lt Colonels in the army. After the war he turned his back on western civilization, travelling through Algeria with nomad shepherds for the next eight years. Later work as a journalist, a script writer, and a lecturer prepared him for work in the intelligence services during the Second World War.
Buchanan, Angus, Sahara, John Murray, London 1926 - endearing but very British Saharan adventure where animals - especially camels - come first.
Belloc, Hilaire, Est Perpetua: Algerian Studies and Impressions, London 1906 - a curious period piece of colonial propaganda, washed over by a dangerous enthusiasm for the re-planting of the Roman Catholic church in North Africa.
Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, mystics and the sixties, Robert Irwin - the youthful memoir of Britain's reigning orientalist amongst the Alawi Sufi community at Mostaganem
Seguin, L.G., Walks in Algiers and its Surroundings, London 1878 - half guide, half travelling companion to Algiers when it was the undisputed expatriate resort and ‘wintering' station.
Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Jaques, Lieutenant en Algérie, Paris 1957, Lieutenant in Algeria, New York 1957 - devastating critique of the French military suppression of the Algerian rebellion by a serving officer who went onto found L'Express.
The Private Life of Islam; An Algerian Diary, Ian Young, Penguin 1974 - gritty, harrowing but fascinating memoir of a young volunteer doctor working amongst Berber mountain community in post-independence Algeria.
Art & Architecture
North Africa, Antony Hutt, Scorpion 1977 - slim but still inspirational photographic survey of Islamic and traditional Berber architecture
Roman Imperial Architecture, J.B. Ward-Perkins, Pelican 1981 - the standard art-history summary.
Algeria, Jonathan Oakes, Bradt Algeria, an editorial team - fortunately lifted by the sections contributed by Antony Sattin, Lonely Planet
MacKendrick, P., The North African Stones Speak, Croom Helm, London 1980 - A somewhat quirky archaeologist's eye view of the Classical ruins of North Africa but achieved with diligence and honesty - and has a copious bibliography.
And for their detailed coverage of the Roman sites, there are two French language guidebooks worth reference. The 1974 edition of the Guide Bleus Algerie (which is better than the current edition) and the color photograph filled Sites et monuments antiques de L'Algerie by Jean-Marie Blas de Robles et Cladue Sintes, published by Edisud.
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by Barnaby Rogerson