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Electric Koran

Richard Vinen, 7 June 2001

Services Spéciaux Algérie 1955-57: Mon témoignage sur la torture 
by Paul Aussaresses.
Perrin, 198 pp., frs 99, May 2001, 2 262 01761 1
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Appelés en Algérie: La Parole confisquée 
by Claire Mauss-Copeaux.
Hachette, 332 pp., frs 140, March 1999, 2 01 235475 0
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... In 1957, Louisette Ighilahriz, a member of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) in Algeria, was captured by French paratroopers. She was tortured and repeatedly raped. Until a French Army doctor arranged for her to be transferred to hospital and then to prison, her only hope was that her guards might be careless enough to leave her with the means of killing herself ...

Our God is dead

Richard Vinen: Jean Moulin, 22 March 2001

The Death of Jean Moulin: Biography of a Ghost 
by Patrick Marnham.
Murray, 290 pp., £20, June 2000, 0 7195 5919 7
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... One Monday morning in September 1940, Raymond Aron was lying in bed at a camp for Free French soldiers in Aldershot. His roommate, who had arrived the previous afternoon, asked him the time and, when told, replied: ‘Déjà sept heures moins vingt.’ Aron left the room. When he returned, his companion had shot himself. The inquest was unable to establish any motive for the suicide and Aron never found out who his roommate had been ...

No Mythology, No Ghosts

Owen Hatherley: Second City?, 3 November 2022

Second City: Birmingham and the Forging of Modern Britain 
by Richard Vinen.
Allen Lane, 545 pp., £25, September 2022, 978 0 241 45453 4
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... set within a shopping mall, Grand Central, which blurs into another shopping mall, the Bull Ring. Richard Vinen, writing the first serious history of Birmingham in a long while, is aware of how hard it is to pin the city down, to explain what it is or what it is for. Planners in the 1960s, he says, ‘were sometimes perplexed as to why Birmingham had ...


Keith Thomas: Two Years a Squaddie, 5 February 2015

... and spires of the university city flash past, so near and yet so remote. Until the publication of Richard Vinen’s superb history, the best accounts of National Service were fictional: David Lodge’s Ginger, You’re Barmy is a particularly successful evocation of the miseries and absurdities of the conscript’s life.* But ...

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