Algiers, Third World Capital by Elaine Mokhtefi review – Black Panthers, freedom fighters, revolutionaries

In the 1960s Algeria became a beacon to the world, and exiled artists, intellectuals and guerrilla fighters flocked there. The militant author met them all

“This is a story with a beginning and an end,” Elaine Mokhtefi writes in the preface to her extraordinary memoir. The title is a bit misleading – this is no dry history – but it carries something of the revolutionary optimism of her tale’s beginnings, and, in its anachronism, something too of the heartache of its ending. Because who can even talk of a first or a third world any more, rather than a whole planet of uncertainty and want, dotted here and there with well-guarded islands of cosmopolitan abundance? And who can remember anything as unitary as a capital, or as beautiful as a solidarity that doesn’t care for borders?

Mokhtefi, born Elaine Klein in prosaic Hempstead, New York, was 23 when she moved to Paris ...