The Question

Redaction, publication and censorship

Alleg was transferred to Lodi camp for one month, and later to the civil prison of Barberousse, where he was returned to the regular legal circuits. There, he secretly redacted the text of La Question, which he transmitted through his lawyers, bit by bit.

La Question was published on 18 February 1958 by the Éditions de Minuit, with a preface by Jean-Paul Sartre;[1] Several newspapers which reported its publication had their issues confiscated by the police, upon a request by the military tribunal of Paris, and the book itself was censored on 27 March,[6] after selling 60,000 copies.[7] The motive invoked was "contribution to an endeavour to demoralise the Army, with the aim to hinder National Defence."[8][9]

Two weeks later, Nils Andersson published it again at the Éditions de la Cité in Lausanne, Switzerland.[10]

Through articles pertaining to or citing the book, the memoir itself became a "near bestseller and a subject of lively debate" in France.[11] The French government also seized an article published in L’Express[12] in which Jean-Paul Sartre outlined the implications of Alleg’s book for the French nation.[13] Still, the essay was circulated secretly to become the preface to the book’s English translation.

The French government officially banned La Question to deal with the increasingly tense political atmosphere. Acting on a warrant from the military tribunal which began legal action against what it claimed was "attempted demoralization of the Army with intent to harm the defense of the nation," French authorities seized the 7,000 remaining copies at the Èditions de minuit publishing house on the 27th of March 1958;[14] however, the 60,000 copies that had already been sold continued to circulate,[15] and due to defiant publishers continuing the work throughout the Algerian war,[16] there were more than 162,000 copies in France by the close of 1958.[17]

The book was instrumental in revealing the extent to which torture was used in Algeria by the French Army; the methods used; how it maintained a low profile in the public opinion; and how torture had slipped from being used on terrorists, under preemptive, "ticking time bomb scenario" excuses, to being used freely to terrorise political opponents and the general population.[1]

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