"How long can we keep on kidding these people?" George Orwell asked in 1939 after a walk through Marrakesh's vast squalor in French-ruled Morocco. Orwell, who himself had earlier been a colonial British official in Burma, went on: "How long before they turn their guns in the other direction?"

Decolonization reshaped international politics after World War II. New states emerged and refugees, immigrants and temporary workers departed from past possessions to the cities and suburbs of the former imperial powers. France's population today is 66 million, of whom an estimated five million hail from the Maghreb, the Middle East and West Africa.

The long-term challenges of these ­arrivals are the concern of "The French Intifada," a bracing mix of journalism and history by Andrew Hussey, the dean of the University of London's Paris Institute. His book couldn't be more timely. France's ­anti-immigrant National Front has surged in recent polls, heralding what many see as a political upheaval. Hussey has no affection for this far-right party, yet his book suggests that the rest of the French political spectrum has been fooling itself. France, he believes, is "under attack" by "angry and dispossessed heirs" of its past colonial projects. This is the French intifada.

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