Henri Alleg

Alleg headshot from Minuit web site
Henri Alleg (1921-2013), born Harry Salem to Jewish parents from Russia and Poland, studied literature at the Sorbonne, became a French-Algerian journalist and a member of the Communist Party. He started writing under the name Alleg for the Alger Républicain, a daily newspaper sympathetic to Algerian nationalism, and became its editor-in-chief in 1951. In June 1957, he was arrested on suspicion of undermining the power of the French state, and underwent torture for one month in El-Biar, a suburb of Algiers, at the hands of the French Army. Alleg’s account of his interrogation was smuggled out of prison and published in 1958 by Editions de Minuit as La Question, and that same year in English as The Question. Alleg gained international recognition for his stance against torture in the context of the Algerian War. The French government banned La Question after 60,000 copies had been sold. In 1960, a military court which barred the public and the press from the trial condemned Alleg to 10 years of hard labor in France, but he escaped from prison in 1961 and took refuge in Czechoslovakia.

After the 1962 Evian Accords, Alleg returned to France and then to Algeria. He helped rebuild the Alger Républicain but was declared persona non grata after the 1965 military coup by Houari Boumédienne. Alleg moved back to France where he worked as a journalist for L’Humanité until 1980 and wrote several books, including a three-volume history of the Algerian War of Independence and Algerian Memoirs published in 2005. He died at age 91.

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The Question cover