Albert Camus published Chroniques algériennes on June 16, 1958, one month after pro-French Algerians stormed government offices in Algiers, which led to the decline of the Fourth Republic and the eventual re-installment of General Charles de Gaulle. This is the sort of happenstance of which, I am sure, at least a few contemporary publishers dream and should have created a ready-made audience for Camus’s work.

Yet, as Alice Kaplan notes in her introduction to the first English translation of Chroniques algériennes, it was almost entirely ignored. “The press file in the archives at Gallimard,” she writes, “is practically empty.” By contrast, Henri Alleg’s personal account of torture at the hands of the French army published in February 1958 by Éditions de Minuit sold 66,000 copies in a little more than a month...


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