You don't expect a modern history of Algeria to be a book with a lot of jokes in it. Surprisingly, Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed by Martin Evans and John Phillips has many. But they are of the blackest variety and quoted by the authors to illustrate the utter terror the Algerian people ‘lived through’ (if they were fortunate) during much of the 1990s when, after the army had moved to stop the Islamic Salvation Front, or FIS, taking power through the ballot box, more than 150,000 people, mostly innocent civilians, were killed.
One of the most ‘popular’ stories on the Algerian streets at the height of the bloodletting is worth recounting. A man, stopped at a roadblock, is asked whether he supports the army or the Islamists. Not knowing what to reply, he finally says, ‘the army’, only to have an ear