John W. KiserMy books have a contrarian flavor: profiles of entrepreneurial scientists in the Soviet Bloc (Communist Entrepreneurs: Unknown Innovators) when the popular view was one of technological incompetence in the communist world; Muslim-Christian harmony (2006 French Siloe Prize winning Monks of Tibhirine: Faith Love and Terror in Algeria) when people were touting irreconcilable differences between Islam and the West, and now Commander of the Faithful: A Story of True Jihad. Abd el-Kader was a man of deep faith combined with chivalrous humanism and intellectual openness that made him a hero in both the East and West. Commander of the Faithful is the third book of an Abrahamic trilogy that began unwittingly with Stefan Zweig: Death of a Modern Man (1995). (Visit the Patheos Book Club for more conversation on Commander of the Faithful.)

Zweig was one of the most prolific and widely read writers of the 1930s and 1940s. I loved both his fiction and non fiction. For beginners, I would recommend Beware of Pity which ranks with the best Russian novels. Joseph Fouché, is a brilliant biography of a power hungry, ex-Jesuit who, as Police Minister, was one of the most politically astute and cold-blooded opportunists in Napoleon's government. I became perplexed by Zweig's suicide in 1942, living safely in Brazil, wealthy, world famous and with young new wife. Still read in Europe, Zweig today is virtually unknown in the United States. This book is only available commercially in French (University of Toulouse Press)

Reflecting back, I have come to realize these books have a common thread. Indirectly, they are about the role of faith, or its absence, in guiding and sustaining people in desperate times.

Other writings by Kiser related to Algeria

"Elkader shows how to build friendships with Muslim world," Des Moines Register, 10/10/2008

"Iraq, Amundson and the Zouaves," Marine Corps Gazette, 8/07

"From Algeria to Iraq," Marine Corps Gazette. (web version

"News from Algeria," Eisenhower Institute (web) 6/9/04

"The Algerian Microcosm: Monks, Muslims and the Zeal of Bitterness," Cistercian Studies Quarterly (38:3) 2003

"Letter from Algiers," Middle East International, 6/01

From Russia to Writing:

The first time I wrote for the sheer pleasure of writing was after I returned from traveling across the Soviet Union in 1969. The trip was a graduation present to myself after finishing an MBA at the University of Chicago. I became fascinated by Soviet culture, the diversity of people, their friendliness toward Americans, and their great knowledge of American literature. The complete absence of a commercial mentality was both refreshing and sometimes frustrating, especially in restaurants. My observations on everything from Russian play on the beach to their habit of starting breakfast with offerings of vodka and cognac were translated into vignettes which I read for friends-my unpublished Russian Reminiscences. I wanted to somehow put Russia on my career path.