Andrew Hussey doesn't give you the France of the guidebooks. His vision of the Republic extends far beyond the faded cafes of St Germain-de-Prés, or warm summer nights in Provence. In Paris: The Secret History, he told the story of those excluded from mainstream accounts, "marginal and subversive elements" as he described them, "insurrectionists, vagabonds, immigrants, sexual outsiders, criminals, whose experiences contradict and oppose official history". Flecked with the slang of the streets and off-the-beaten-path wanderings, this was about as unofficial as history gets.
In his dark, disturbing new book, The French Intifada: The Long War Between France and Its Arabs, Hussey, dean of the University of London Institute in Paris, again ventures to parts of France that aren't on any tourist itinerary – the impoverished, outlying areas of French cities known as the banlieues. More than one million immigrants reside in the banlieues around Paris, mostly from North and Sub-Saharan Africa, living in gritty housing estates. Not all banlieues are poor; but the perception remains in France that such places are rife with social problems.
"The banlieue is the very opposite of the bucolic suburban fantasy of the English imagination," Hussey observes. "For most French people these days it means a threat, a very urban form of decay, a place of racial tensions and of deadly if not random violence."