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A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 10, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


“He brings a long historical perspective and six decades of experience to bear on the affairs of the day.” –

"First the Pentagon plugged the movie, now President Bush is reading the book...A Savage War of Peace, British historian Alistair Horne's celebrated 1977 account of the [Algerian] war...Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who recommended A Savage War of Peace to Bush, said recently on PBS' Charlie Rose Show that he did not believe 'that the French experience could be applied precisely to the United States. But I thought there were enough similarities and enough complexities and enough tragedy for the president to gain a perspective on his own period.'" —Associated Press

"Anyone interested in Iraq should read this book immediately." —Thomas Ricks, The Washington Post

“[Horne’s] tome is so well written it reads more like a novel but is, in fact, a work of superior historical narrative…There are few historical works that provide so comprehensive a treatment of revolutionary and counterinsurgency warfare, domestic and international politics, and economics and ideology.” –Marine Corps Gazette

“When Horne’s book first appeared, it seemed to be an account of one major, but now largely closed, chapter in the history of postwar decolonization. Subsequent developments–in Algeria and elsewhere–have made the past prologue. [It] has become a de facto textbook for American Military officers facing time in Iraq...” —Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed

“This thirty-year-old history, written before the Iranian revolution, the Algerian civil war, and Al Qaeda, captures a contingent moment in the conflict between the West and the Arab world, when present-day dogmas were hardly imagined by most. It provides a much needed reminder that modern history is not made by the ‘clash of civilizations’ but by people.” —Harper’s Magazine

"The present conflict in the Middle East is frighteningly similar, making this book a good volume to have on library shelves. Horne provides a new preface."—Library Journal (Classic Returns)

"[T]he read of choice for many U.S. military officers serving in Iraq...[this] universally acclaimed history...should have been mandatory reading for the civilian and military leaders who opted to invade Iraq" —The Washington Times

“There is enough to make this the most complete history of the Algerian war yet written, one which will be indispensable for future historians. It is compelling reading, filled with intimate detail about characters and situations that have served as inspiration for a dozen novels from The Day of the Jackal on.” The Los Angeles Times

A “highly readable, toughly edited history that blends the pace and sweep of a work of fiction with a relentless pursuit of every main actor still alive and willing to talk about the war.”–The Washington Post Book World

“Alistair Horne is one of the best writers of history in the English speaking world. A Savage War of Peace shows him at the peak of his powers."–The Financial Times

“An awesome and superlative piece of historical narrative…Mr. Horne has a terrible and tremendous tale to tell, one full of omen for posterity.”–The Times (London)

“An accomplished historian of earlier French wars has written an admirably impartial, lucid and readable book…as full and objective a history of the Algerian war as we are likely to see for some years.” –The New York Times Book Review

“A book of compelling power…magnificent. It has the poetic sense of place without which no great work of history can be written.”–The Spectator

“…brilliantly and compassionately told by an historian whose mastery of this subject is complete.”
The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172183
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172186
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 90 people found the following review helpful By T. Graczewski VINE VOICE on May 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Alistair Horne's "A Savage War of Peace" -- a narrative of the Algerian death struggle with France in the 1950s and early 1960s -- is history at its finest. Clearly written, passionate and authoritative, this book is a shining example that objective and powerful history can be written on "current events" (the book was first published barely a decade after the French pulled out of Algeria).

As the US-led coalition in Iraq struggles to impose order, comparisons with France's ultimately unsuccessful attempt at holding on to Algeria in the face of Islamic insurgents have become fashionable. Such analogies, however, should be used cautiously. There are a number of salient differences in the two cases. None looms larger than the relatively large and vocal pied noir community in Algeria that Paris had to contend with, first politically and then militarily. In some Algerian cities in the 1950s, such as Constantine, a majority of the residents were of European extraction (although not necessarily French). These pied noirs had roots in Algeria for generations and had a powerful lobby in Paris. A simple political withdrawal from Algeria in 1955 was thus (in my opinion) a political impossibility. The ugly war that erupted was, in the end, tragically unavoidable.

Horne would certainly disagree with this assessment. Myopic intransigence by the French and pied noir leaders is a leitmotif of the narrative. Yet, the author just as consistently praises the FLN leadership for laying out their aims at the 1956 Soumman Conferences and never wavering from them. Algerian inflexibility, it seems, was a virtue; for the French/pied noir community it was a sin.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
At the outset Alistair Horne bemoans the complexities and difficulties involved in writing recent history, where many of the main players are still alive and active. Ironically, he is the one who falls into that trap - for the only faults to this otherwise excellent rendition is the occaisonal of-the-cuff cryptic reference by the author to some event that happened at the time. He obviously assumes that everybody would share his joke. But these are few and tiny details. Over all this is an excellent text. Horne admirably makes up for the lack of documentation on the Algerian side of the war and manages, somehow, dispite that massive misbalance in printed references between France and Algeria, to present a text which presents both sides with equal scholarly depth.
More than a million people died in the Algerian war, yet it is poorly remembered today. Books like this are needed.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Rusty Greenland on February 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've read most of this author's works. His trilogy--The Fall of Paris, The Price of Glory, To Lose a Battle---is excellent, but the author reaches his pinnacle in "Savage War". He shows a masterful understanding of politics, strategy, tactics, and national feeling. I have met men who served under Salan, Massu, and Challe, and the portrayals of these leaders by the author harmonize with what I've been told. The subject may seem remote in time and in interest, but the author has written a gripping story, and also gets "down and dirty" into the details. This is a rewarding book for anyone with an interest in military as well as political history.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Teemacs on December 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
I am somewhat of a fan of Alastair Horne's, having come to him via his trilogy of books on Franco-German conflicts, and I went looking in Amazon to see if there was anything new from him. And I came across this book, whose purchase many years ago was prompted by the desire to know more about the world of Freddie Forsyth's outstanding thriller "The day of the Jackal". Seeing it again on the Amazon website reminded me as to how relevant it is to the modern story of the US and Iraq. Of course, there are substantial differences; the US is not Iraq's colonial power and the US most certainly does not regard the place as part of the USA, the way the French did Algeria. And because of the lack of a US equivalent of "pieds noirs" (French settlers in Algeria), no matter how badly George Bush messes up, no US paratroop regiment is going to mutiny, try to assassinate him and bring the US to the brink of civil war.

However, the similarities are scary - the reliance on pure military power to win, the use of tactics (particularly in the battle of Algiers) that alienated the locals and effectively made them into allies of the FLN rebels or at least tolerant of them, and the widespread use of torture (a subject that touches raw nerves in France to this day). As with Iraq, the FLN didn't confront the French military head-on, but relied on ambush and, more particularly, on intimidating and murdering local allies of the French, policemen, local officials and the like. There were also French near-equivalents of "Mission Accomplished", even as the war was being lost where it desperately needed to be won - in the hearts and minds of Algerians themselves.

As I write this, former French soccer captain Zinédine Zidane is in Algeria, being feted as a hero.
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