The Prestige of Terror is the title of a pamphlet written by the Egyptian Surrealist George Henein and published in Cairo, in French, several days after the dropping of the atomic bomb. It was not a thesis so much as a manifesto, in which he re-affirms his distaste for fascism, describes this moment in history as the worst day in the career of humanity, in which the ally’s have come to resemble their antagonists. Henein despised the politics of compromise, ‘The Lesser Evil’ as he called it. The Prestige of Terror was a rejection of racism and murder as a justification to win a democratic war.
August 8, 1945
This is not a thesis. Because a thesis should be written not only with sang-froid and all the usual literary precautions, but also requires an accumulation of references and general statistical data to which I am loathe to sacrifice the reaction of disgust and fury that dictates this text to me. On top of which, the former audience for theses, now deserting all prolonged reflection, wallows in the reading of the many copies of “Digests” in circulation and the stories of intrigue, whether sentimental, diplomatic or criminal, that the press, worn-out by all sorts of ignominy, serves it each morning with breakfast.
This is not a thesis and will not be satisfied with being simply a protest. This is ambitious. This needs to provoke men asleep in lies; to give a sense, a target and a lasting impact to the disgust of an hour, the nausea of an instant. The values that presided over our idea of life and which looked after for us, here and there, those small islands of hope and intervals of dignity, are being methodically wrecked by events at which, to make matters worse, we are invited to watch our victory, to salute the eternal destruction of a dragon eternally reborn.
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Images from an exhibition presented by
Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin