The book is a chronological account of the author's imprisonment and ordeals in El-Biar and then Lodi camps. La Question opens with the statement: "By attacking corrupt Frenchmen, it is France that I am defending". (En attaquant les Français corrompus, c’est la France que je défends.) La Question then narrates Alleg's arrest on 12 June 1957 by paratroopers of Jacques Massu's 10e Division Parachutiste. Alleg was visiting Maurice Audin, who had been arrested the day before and whose apartment the paratroopers had turned into a trap.
Alleg was detained at El-Biar, where he was tortured. The paratroopers first attempted to intimidate him by bringing in Audin, who had already been tortured the day before. He told Alleg that "it's tough, Henri" (c'est dur, Henri). Alleg writes that he did not know he was seeing his friend for the last time. Nevertheless Alleg refused to talk.
Alleg notably sustained water torture which he describes in the following account of what is now known as waterboarding
...they picked up the plank to which I was still attached and carried me into the kitchen. ... fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag... When everything was ready, he said to me: 'When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.' And he turned on the tap. The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, all the muscles of my body struggled uselessly to save me from suffocation. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably. ‘That’s it! He’s going to talk,’ said a voice.
He suffered torture by electricity, and was threatened with summary execution. Alleg describes in precise details the two types of hand generators (the so-called "gégène", in Army inventory to power radio communication equipment) used for this purpose and their effect on the body.
I felt a difference in quality. Instead of sharp and quick bites that seemed to rip my body apart, it was now a larger pain that sank more deeply into all my muscles and twisted them for longer (je sentis une différence de qualité. Au lieu de morsures aiguës et rapides qui semblaient me déchirer le corps, c’était maintenant une douleur plus large qui s’enfonçait profondément dans tous mes muscles et les tordait plus longuement)
After physical duress and psychological pressure proved ineffective, Alleg was injected with pentothal, which also failed to make him talk.
Alleg describes hearing cries from other detainees, notably voices of a woman who he thought was his wife. He also reports hearing what he thought was Audin's execution.
After all efforts to make him talk failed, Alleg was first threatened with execution, and did believe he would be executed. Actually, an official attempted to exchange his return to civil justice against signing a testimony of good treatment by the paratroopers; Alleg refused to comply, and was eventually returned to civil justice without condition.