Following the Algerian war for independence and the defeat of France in 1962, Algiers became the liberation capital of the Third World. Elaine Mokhtefi, a young American woman immersed in the struggle and working with leaders of the Algerian Revolution, found a home here. A journalist and translator, she lived among guerrillas, revolutionaries, exiles, and visionaries, witnessing historical political formations and present at the filming of The Battle of Algiers.
Mokhtefi crossed paths with some of the era’s brightest stars: Frantz Fanon, Stokely Carmichael, Timothy Leary, Ahmed Ben Bella, Jomo Kenyatta, and Eldridge Cleaver. She was instrumental in the establishment of the International Section of the Black Panther Party in Algiers and close at hand as the group became involved in intrigue, murder, and international hijackings. She traveled with the Panthers and organized Cleaver’s clandestine departure for France. Algiers, Third World Capital is an unforgettable story of an era of passion and promise.
“Elaine Mokhtefi’s newly published autobiographical account of her life as an engaged anti-imperialist, Algiers, Third World Capital, provides an ideal occasion to reconsider the politics of ‘Third Worldist’ internationalism linking Black Power, European radicals, and anti-colonial militants during (the late sixties).”
“Mokhtefi (née Klein), a Jewish American from Long Island, has had an exhilarating life … In the nineteen-sixties, she served as a press adviser to the National Liberation Front in postwar Algiers, before going to work with Eldridge Cleaver, who was wanted in the U.S. for his role in a deadly shoot-out with Oakland police. Half a century later, as an eighty-nine-year-old painter living on the Upper West Side, Mokhtefi still seasons her prose with the argot of revolution.”
“Mokhtefi handles some spectacular material in brisk, modest fashion. The inevitable doubts and conflicts that arise are not agonized over … Mokhtefi focuses less on how her political allegiances developed than on telling, in lively, lucid fashion, what happened and who did what…it [seems] possible that this readiness to minimize herself on the page is related to whatever capacity allows a person, over the years, to participate in politics, navigating the compromises involved.”
“A fascinating insider’s account of the Black Panthers’ exile in Algiers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Legendary figures take to the stage in the world capital of the national liberation movements: Ahmed Ben Bella, Frantz Fanon, Eldridge Cleaver. Mokhtefi was a key intermediary between the Panthers and the FLN during her own time in Algiers, and a militant anti-imperialist. This is a clear-eyed, first-hand recollection of the way things fall apart.”
“A return to a time when Algiers was Mecca and the Vatican for revolutionaries. Indeed, at the time Amilcar Cabral said: ‘Muslims go on pilgrimage to Mecca, Christians in the Vatican and national liberation movements in Algiers.’”
“A memoir of international radical activism, from helping Algeria and Africa shake the yoke of colonialism to helping the Black Panthers establish a revolutionary outpost in exile … A firsthand account of a time when so much seemed up for grabs.”
“The behind-the-scenes work of post-WWII liberation movements comes to the fore in this gripping memoir from Mokhtefi … she makes palpable the turmoil and fervor of her experience there while sharing unbelievable stories previously known only to their participants.”
“Extraordinary … written with great humility and with love.”
“The story she tells in her book is one of intrigue, political and otherwise. It is also about a revolution trying to create a government equal to its ideals in the face of very powerful enemies. Mokhtefi writes as a believer in the revolution, but does not hesitate to critique some of the twists and turns it took over the years she was part of the government.”
“Mokhtefi artfully weaves together these various strands of radical struggle, while enriching our understanding of the Third World with personal anecdotes … this story reminds us that the Third World was not merely a destination. It was also a fabric of people woven together, even if the patchwork was sometimes unexpected, and at other times, imperfectly sewn.”
“A beautifully written account full of fascinating anecdotes of a life totally given to revolutionary causes.”