Algeria was an independent state in the Ottoman Empire up until 1830, and in 1815-16 had even repelled efforts at colonization from America, Holland, and Britain. In 1834, however, France took control of Algeria as a French colony. The French colonial government permitted only French citizens to hold skilled jobs, such as those in the government or education sectors.
The events in The Guest take place on the eve of the Algerian War, which lasted from 1954 until 1962. Starting in 1830 with the French colonization of Africa, there were multiple small insurrections, but the scene became more heated after World War II.
The rebellion in 1954 was led by the National Liberation Front (FLN). They used guerilla warfare tactics, destroying government buildings, communicatin centers, and military posts. The French government called in 400,000 troops, and a series of atrocities began, with the French soldiers massacring whole villages of natives, and the FLN using terrorism as a weapon against the white civilians. In 1962 the fighting finally ceased, but at tremendous cost. At least 100,000 French soldiers and civilians were killed, and approximately 1 million Algerian natives and geurillas were dead. In addition, the war uprooted 2 million Algerians, who were forced to from their homes. In July of that year Algeria achieved independence.
The rebellion began on All Saints Day, November 1st. The FLN put out a broadcast from Cairo urging all Muslims in Algeria to help in the "restoration of the Algerian state, sovereign, democratic, and social, within the framework of the principles of Islam." They attacked military and police posts, as well as communication points and government centers. The French minister and socialist Francois Mitterand called for war. The Premier Pierre Mendes-France rejected the Algerians' cause, insisting that Algeria was inherently French and that it must remain part of France. White European settlers known as colons moved to Algeria and formed an alliance against the FLN that essentially amounted to independent vigilante units. They targeted Muslims in ratonnades, declared a state of emegerency, and tried to enforce captial punishment for politically connected violent crimes.
In 1955, the FLN drastically shifted strategy by massacring 123 civilians in the town of Philippeville, includiing women and children. Before this event they had only attacked government and military targets. The French were shocked and retaliated by killing 1,273 guerillas. The FLN claimed that colons, military, and police combined to kill 12,000 Muslims. Philippeville began rampant bloodshed and an unrestrained war that would last until 1962.
By 1956, the French army had swollen to 400,000, including 170,000 Muslim Algerian volunteers. The Foreign Legion and Elite Airborne Units made up the rest of the force. 1956-1957 saw the Armee de Liberation Nationale (ALN) use classic guerilla war tactics. They employed ambush attacks, hit-run, and night-raids against the superior French force before blending back into the population. Their targets included colon farms, mines, and factories, as well as communication post, government buildings, military camps, police groups, and armed patrols. In return, the French targeted Muslims officials; later they began threatening and killing any civilians that did not support them.
The FLN/ALN had trouble gaining the support of the majority of Muslims, but they eventually gained strongholds in the regions of Aures, Kabylie, and Oran, which is south of Algiers. In these areas they set up crude codes of government and recruited manpower. In other areas Muslims formed underground social and political groups.
The French military pursued a strategy of relocation: in the years between 1957-1960, 2 million Algerians were removed from their villages. Most of these were moved from the mountains down in the planes, where they found it nearly impossible to continue their established communities. The living conditions in these camps were very poor. The French also punished villages that were suspected of sheltering or aiding the enemy in any way, often using aerial bombardment.
In 1958 Charles De Gaulle returned to power. France was worried that the Algerian war would be another disaster like Indochina, and they felt De Gaulle had the necessary ability to resolve the situation. A great many muslims also felt that that De Gaulle could end the violence, and this threatened to rob the FLN of many of its supporters. Many Muslims were tired of the war, and had never really been committed to Algerian Independence in the first place.
In 1958 the French began using predominantly mobile units that went on search-and-destroy missions. These forces targeted ALN strongholds, and soon had control in Algeria.
However, political currents during this period, both international and domestic, were beginning to be more powerful than military achievements. Many people in French society, and abroad, felt that De Gaulle should grant Algeria independence. He began shifting his public stance, and began talks with the FLN in 1961. On March 19, 1962, the French government called a cease-fire. The agreement was called the Evian Accords, and it was approved by 91 percent of the French elecorate in June, 1962. On July 1st, 1962, 6 million Algerians voted for independence. On July 3 De Gaulle proclaimed Algerian independence. The Algerian government proclaimed July 5 as the national day of indpendence.
The Guest Essays and Related Content
- The Guest: Major Themes
- The Guest: Essays
- The Guest: Questions
- The Guest: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Albert Camus: Biography
- The Guest Summary
- About The Guest
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Part I - Daru, Balducci, and the Arab
- Summary and Analysis of Part II - Daru and the Arab
- Algerian War
- Related Links on The Guest
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources