A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Terror, Trauma, and Text: Writing Counterrevolution in Colonial Algeria

Terror, Trauma, and Text: Writing Counterrevolution in Colonial Algeria


On June 22, 1957, a 22-year-old Muslim teacher in an Algiers primary school asked the thirty-two Muslim children of his class to write a response to the question, “What would you do if you were invisible?” One 10-year-old wrote, “the first thing I would do would be to go and take revenge on the paratroopers...I will torture them twice before I kill them... I would put bombs in the French areas, I would go all the way to [Prime Minister Guy] Mollet and [Resident Minister] Robert Lacoste, I would kill them.” The students said they would “rob a French bank,” steal fruit, jewelry, and “my mother’s sugar to make a bomb,” and “kill all the French and the soldiers.” Their teacher passed these responses to sociologist and ethnographer Germaine Tillon, who showed them to Mollet and, years after the war, to historians Alistair Horne and James D.Le Sueur. These short essays continue to serve as a stark statement of the profound anger and alienation produced by colonial and wartime violence in French Algeria. While French paratroopers fought the National Liberation Front (Front de libération nationale, FLN) in the Battle of Algiers, thirty-two of the capital’s children were writing revolution.

Publication Information

Full Citation: 

Nickels, Benjamin P.. 2010. "Terror, Trauma, and Text: Writing Counterrevolution in Colonial Algeria." In Culture as Text, Text as Culture, eds. Elodie Lafitte, Christina Wall
and Mary Cobb Wittrock. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 5-21.

Publication URL: 
Visit Website