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I Was a French Muslim by Mokhtar Mokhtefi

I Was a French Muslim

Best Seller
I Was a French Muslim by Mokhtar Mokhtefi
Hardcover $26.99
Sep 21, 2021 | ISBN 9781635421804

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Praise

“Mokhtefi was able to reconstruct the sights and sounds of life in his village of Berrouaghia and the constant pressure he felt to be [a ‘French Muslim’]…moving.” —Alice Kaplan, The Nation
 
“Mokhtar Mokhtefi’s autobiography holds an original position in the panorama of increasingly abundant memoirs of veterans of the war fought by the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) against France between 1954 and 1962…For freedom of tone, irreverence, assumed subjectivity, as well as for the elegance of a swift and precise style, the work is also an anomaly.” —Journal of North African Studies

“Dashing and charismatic, Mokhtar Mokhtefi dedicated himself to the liberation of his country, French-occupied Algeria, only to become an exile in France, then in the US, because the post-independence government could not tolerate a man of his integrity and democratic principles. Instead of succumbing to bitterness, nostalgia, or vanity, the sanctuary of many political exiles, he remained faithful to the ideals of self-determination and freedom that had led him into the liberation struggle. And at the very end of his life, he wrote this powerful memoir of his revolutionary years, lyrical in its evocation of the Algerian independence movement, yet keenly aware of the tragic dimensions of that history. I Was a French Muslim—fluently translated by his widow, the writer, artist, and activist Elaine Klein Mokhtefi—is more than a chronicle of one man’s life; it is the story of a generation, a bildungsroman of the Algerian freedom struggle.” —Adam Shatz, contributing editor at the London Review of Books

“Mokhtar Mokhtefi’s singular memoir of Algeria’s War of Liberation has something for every reader—a vivid portrait of a young man’s rise to political consciousness under the French colonial system, a blow-by-blow account of military training and combat that will be of great interest to historians. A gifted storyteller, Mokhtefi communicates an infectious love of country, yet he firmly dispenses with the pieties of official nationalism by depicting infighting, internal purges, and political ambitions within the nationalist ranks. I Was a French Muslim has been brilliantly translated from the French by the person closest to the author—his widow, Elaine Klein Mokhtefi, in her own right a talented writer and veteran of the Algerian Revolution.” —Madeleine Dobie, Professor of French & Comparative Literature, Columbia University

“Mokhtar Mokhtefi and I met and became friends in the last year of his life. We spent hours discussing the manuscript of his memoir; it was his reason for being. He had two essential objectives: one was to remind today’s youth that under colonialism one was never a citizen but a ‘French Muslim,’ a subhuman being, treated as such. His second goal was to display how independent Algeria, as other former colonies, became the continuation of colonization, in the form of dictatorship. The colonialists departed but would be replaced by Algerians who in effect colonized fellow Algerians, and it is not over.” —Amara Lakhous, author of Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio

“Mokhtar Mokhtefi’s autobiography holds an original position in the panorama of increasingly abundant memoirs of veterans of the war fought by the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) against France between 1954 and 1962. For freedom of tone, irreverence, assumed subjectivity, as well as for the elegance of a swift and precise style, the work avoids any eagerness of edifying narrative or systematic theories; what emerges is, in contrast, almost a social history of Algeria during the colonial era.” —Andrea Brazzoduro, Marie Sklodowska Curie Global Fellow, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and University of Oxford

“When I read Mokhtar Mokhtefi’s memoir, I had the feeling I was discovering my Algerian heritage. It represented the promise of belonging. It made me see how little I had understood colonialism, the war, the people, their resilience, and their humor. It has been a breathtaking adventure. Through him, I have felt the fear of persecution, the incommensurate anger against colonialism, the salty smell of the streets of Algiers, the electrifying atmosphere of independence, the dreams of a boy and soldier who became a free spirit, and the sounds of laughter and rapture. I Was a French Muslim is the gateway to a world so distant today, a world pregnant with promise and fury, of life and joy, of dignity, passion, and utopia. May his words resonate in our hearts and our lives.” —Karim Aïnouz, Brazilian film auteur and director

“Mokhtar Mokhtefi recounts in the first person an intimate page of history that marked him for life. He was a soldier of the National Liberation Army at the heart of one of the most heroic anticolonial struggles of the last century. The personalities he frequents will become the idols of the revolution; school children will recite their exploits, and their names will adorn the avenues of independent Algeria. Mokhtefi describes these men and women in their human reality—their grandeur and their courage but also their flights of ego and battles for power that emerge following independence. I Was a French Muslim tells the story of the battle, not only against colonialism, but above all, for liberation. The personal and the political come together to trace the ideal of emancipation that retains its currency and remains to be achieved, in Algeria and elsewhere.” —Walid Bouchakour, Algerian journalist, doctoral candidate at Yale University

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