What the Editors Are Reading

When the review copy of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962, by Alistair Horne, hit my desk at National Review in 1977, I found a reviewer immediately and waited for a second copy to follow from the publisher (as is so often the case in the publishing business).  When it failed to arrive, I made a mental note to buy the book from the Strand Book Store on lower Broadway—but never got round to doing so.  Three revised editions appeared over the next 30 years, the last of them in 2006.  All of them missed me somehow.  When, a week ago, I found a paperback edition in a secondhand bookshop, I bought it.  And have now begun to read it.

To call A Savage War of Peace (title courtesy of Kipling) great history is a severe understatement.  It is a superb work of literature embracing narrative, political and cultural history, ethnology, and travel writing of a sort.  Sir Alistair, who died last year, was a good friend of Bill Buckley’s; I met him once, at WFB’s funeral Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 2008, but only with a handshake.  The encounter was too brief to form a personal impression.  Horne’s book, however, shows a stylist, a poet, a person of superior intellect, and a supremely civilized man, one able to convey the feel of an epic struggle between civilization and barbarism (on both sides)...

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