Patti Mckenna-Jones

Algiers, Third World Capital

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Elaine Mokhtefi arrives in Paris in 1951. Over the following decades she gives her all to facilitate the movement for Algerian Independence, on the way mingling with the best — and worst — political figures of the time.

Mokhtefi ascribes her political awakening to May Day 1952 when she witnesses a huge protest and is at first “bewitched by the formidable display of worker solidarity and trade unionism.” At the rear of the parade she notices thousands of men “young, grim, slightly built and poorly dressed” without banners, rushing with arms raised to join in.

No Place To Lay One’s Head

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Polish born Françoise Frenkel begins by giving us a sensory image of her love of books. She recalls that as a child she imbued personality into each book, describing their “attire” in multi-coloured bindings: “Balzac came dressed in red leather, Sienkiewicz in yellow Morocco, Tolstoy in parchment, Reymont’s Paysans clad in the fabric of an old peasant’s neckerchief”. We watch her progress as she opens and runs a French bookshop, La Maison du Livre, in Berlin from 1921 to 1939.

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