Jean Raspail—Our Cassandra


February 20, 2007

At a recent lunch at McCormick & Schmick`s Seafood, on K St. near 16th St. in Washington, D.C.—Ground Zero in the planning and enforcement of a new, completely “multicultural” United States of America—a friend capped the excellent meal of Cajun-spiced sea scallops with an even finer dessert: the gift of a book I had never heard of, by a writer unknown to me (although, as I would find, familiar to many conservatives), The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail (b. 1925).

“I know you`ll love it, after our conversation last week!” he said; and how right he turned out to be, even though I am the kind of person who loves to recommend books to others, while rarely taking advice on what to read.

I would later learn that Raspail`s stunningly prophetic and apocalyptic fantasy of the denizens of the Third World effortlessly taking over the First was published (incredibly!) in 1973 in Paris, as Le Camp des Saints, and translated into English by Norman Shapiro (at the time, a professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Wesleyan), and published in New York by Charles Scribner`s just two years later.

It was never issued in England, although Derek Turner, the redoubtable editor of Right Now! has recently called attention to the latest of several American editions, published by Social Contract Press, in Petoskey, Michigan (1996).

After just a few pages, I knew that I was in the presence of one of the tiny handful of thinkers and writers who have grasped the demonically suicidal psychology of what is left of the West, but one who has laid it out more fully and accurately than anyone else—with the sole exception of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (whom Raspail quotes in one of the three epigraphs to the novel).

Raspail imagines that a convoy of rustbucket ships, a “Last Chance Armada”, sets out from the Ganges laden with a million impoverished refugees, who simply head West, finally landing on the southern coast of France and moving northwards, effortlessly taking over the new “paradise” they had come in search of. The French either withdraw in fear, or, on the contrary, gleefully rush to greet their new “brothers”, only to be trampled, or absorbed, or simply ignored by the advancing mass.

Once it becomes apparent that France has fallen with hardly a shot being fired, other convoys follow, from Africa, Indonesia, and other locales throughout the globe. . . . It is the end of the West.

Today, we know for certain the truth of what Raspail saw over a quarter of a century ago. But we realize that it is happening, not in one sudden uprising, but rather in an inexorable series of waves, breaking upon our shores without respite.

Our entire cultural establishment—the professoriate (to which I belong), the press, both print and electronic, the entertainment industry, and much of the clergy—assure us that not only is this a problem only for bigots and fascists,” but that we should on the contrary “celebrate” this glorious transformation of our nation into a new, “multicultural” world where all traditional barriers have come down, removing any possible cause for conflict and war!

This lie, like most successful lies, has seemed to have had some grain of truth in the USA. We are a “nation of immigrants”, so any type and any magnitude of immigration must be a good thing; we are all familiar with this tired argument. But how did it come about that the exact same thing has been happening in France, England, Germany, Spain, Italy. . . .places where presumably people have known who they are, have had a sense of identity grounded in the centuries?

This puzzled me for years. It does so no longer, because Raspail shows that the same force is at work on both sides of the Atlantic. He calls it “The Monster.”

The Monster is Raspail`s term for the whole mind-set of the cultural elites, based on a false sense of guilt for enjoying the benefits of Western civilization while entire countries wallow in poverty. He shows how journalists especially, but indeed the entire opinion-making spectrum of the society, successfully have implanted into the minds and hearts of virtually the entire population this thought:

“Far be it from us to pass judgment. Far better to think of these poor, homeless souls as citizens of the world, in search of their promised land.”

This is how the novel portrays a French government minister, at a press conference, openly acknowledging that “our hearts”—rather than our heads—“are at issue.” In other words, sentimentality trumps reason. And Raspail lays out unsparingly the fact that the “agitators” in the West itself who yearn to see its destruction

“aim for those remote lobes of the brain where remorse, self-reproach, and self-hate, pricked by thousands of barbs, come bursting out, spreading their leukemia cells through a once healthy body.”

Such is “The Monster,” the now internalized, false repentance of the West, a form of terminal decadence.

It is as if, once faith in the Transcendent was lost, the legitimate guilt once felt for enacting in one`s own person the Seven Deadly Sins, and for failing to enact the Cardinal Virtues, devolved and degenerated into a poor, secular mockery of itself, the “Devil Imitating God” and convincing his hapless victims that they deserve to lose their very being because they are guilty, not merely of petty personal faults, but of the entire weight of suffering of the entire human race. Of course, this is a burden no individual can or should try to sustain. The attempt to do so, masquerading as limitless compassion, is in fact a form of enormous orgueil, pride, the original and supreme sin.

Raspail even imagines a Vatican III in which the Catholic Church itself has reduced itself to a vessel of The Monster. The priests, bishops, monks who make their appearance have virtually all lost their faith, or have mistaken engagement in political and social “activism” for the true, salvific mission of the Church. As a group of monks make their way southward to greet the newly arrived “brethren,” hoping to achieve a (false) redemption by welcoming them with open arms, along the way they pause for a much-needed rest:

“The latter-day Church stood whimpering about, with hardly a notion of what was going on. One was idly wiping his bruised and battered feet, raw from all the walking. Another was mumbling scraps of disjointed prayers that had managed to escape from the shipwreck of his mind. . . ”

This is all that is left.

But Raspail`s greatest triumph is his portrait, as definitive and irrefutable as Dostoyevsky`s depiction of 19th century radicals in The Possessed (1871), of the modern Left, combining utopian idealism with personal decadence, and yet utterly lacking in a sense of humor:

“[I]t`s contempt is so heavy with hate. When it spits on the flag, or tries to piss out the eternal flame, when it hoots at the old farts [military] loping by in their berets, or yells `Women`s Lib!` outside the church, at an old-fashioned wedding (to cite just some basic examples), it does so in such a grim, serious manner—like such `pompous assholes,` as the Left would put it, if only it could judge. The true Right is never so grim. That`s why the Left hates its guts, the way a hangman must hate the victim who laughs and jokes on his way to the gallows. The Left is a conflagration. It devours and consumes in deadly dull earnest. . . .”

And so Raspail shows that underpinning and driving the entire horrible apocalypse of the West, is hatred: hatred of the Third World for us, and far worse, self-hatred.

Apocalypse: Side by side with Solzhenitsyn, Raspail opens with an epigraph from Revelation 20:

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison, and will go forth and deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, and will gather them together for the battle; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth and encompassed the camp of the saints, and the beloved city.

What a stunning, epic film this would make! Hollywood directors—why haven`t you optioned the book?

Jonathan Chaves [Send him mail] is Professor of Chinese at The George Washington University in Washington D.C.