Jules Roy

Writerly Contradictions

Distinguished by a life of military valor and decades of writing that marked the courage of his convictions, Algerian-born writer Jules Roy died in June at 92. Roy was one of France’s most productive writers, and one of the sharpest critics of its war against Algerian independence.

Catherine Tasca, the minister of culture, who called him a “fertile and prolific writer, a fierce fighter in the great wars of national liberation,” eulogized Roy, a former journalist for the centrist Paris magazine L’Express, in that publication. “Universally known and loved for his fits of choler and his returns to calm, he left us with a body of work of multiple reflections,” she said.

In the liberal Le Monde, he was recognized as one of the mainstays of literature on the French experience in Algeria. He bitterly opposed the suppression of independence campaigners, referring to them as his Arab “brethren.”

Across the English Channel, Roy was recognized as a man of contradictions, a soldier who bombed Nazi Germany and then wrote an acclaimed novel about the Free French air force, The Happy Valley, which won the Renaudot Prize in 1946. He resigned from the French army as a colonel in 1953, in protest of his own nation’s conduct in its losing war to retain control of Vietnam.

“He always felt he had blood on his hands, on his conscience,” James Kirkup wrote in London’s centrist Independent. “He was constantly torn between two people, two ideals, in both love and war.”

A close friend of Albert Camus after World War II, Roy decried the tactics and attitudes of the French in Algeria and wrote about the war for L’Express.

He wrote more than 60 books, essays, plays, and film and television scripts.