The French colonial empire began to fall apart after World War II, first in Madagascar and then in Vietnam and Cameroon. In 1954 nationalist forces in Algeria began an effort toward independence that lasted until 1962 and grew into a brutal struggle that ripped apart French society—in much the same way that the war in Vietnam would later split the United States. Algeria’s proximity to Europe, its political integration into France, and its large population of French settlers made it a unique possession. As France sought to hold on to its colony, both sides escalated the nature of the conflict to a point where it became a shameful betrayal of historic French values.
In a new release from Now and Then Reader, Lisa Lieberman tells the story of this “dirty war” and in particular its impact on French intellectuals and political and military leaders. Coming so soon after the Nazi atrocities of World War II and the heroism of the French Resistance, the war in Algeria became a blot on the conscience of the French republic.
Lisa Lieberman's writings on postwar France have appeared in a variety of media. She is the author of Leaving You: The Cultural Meaning of Suicide, which addresses the suicides of notable Holocaust survivors including Primo Levi, Bruno Bettelheim, and Jean Améry. She has also translated and introduced Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Paris Under the Occupation” and Simone de Beauvoir’s “An Eye for an Eye,” both available from Now and Then. Trained as a modern European cultural and intellectual historian, she studied at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University and has taught at Dickinson College. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.