The Camp of the Saints
Cover of the first edition
|Original title||Le Camp des Saints|
|Publisher||Éditions Robert Laffont|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ4.R227 Cam PQ2635.A379|
The Camp of the Saints (French: Le Camp des Saints) is a 1973 French dystopian fiction novel by author and explorer Jean Raspail. A speculative fictional account, it depicts the destruction of Western civilization through Third World mass immigration to France and the West. Almost forty years after its initial publication, the novel returned to the bestseller list in 2011. On its publication, the book received praise from some prominent conservative French literary figures but has been dismissed by both French- and English-language commentators. It is controversial and has often been denounced as racist and xenophobic, especially due to its anti-immigration themes. The Southern Poverty Law Center has compared the book to The Turner Diaries, attributing its popularity with white nationalists to the plot's parallels with the white genocide conspiracy theory.
Raspail has said his inspiration came while at the French Riviera in 1971, as he was looking out at the Mediterranean.
What if they were to come? I did not know who "they" were, but it seemed inevitable to me that the numberless disinherited people of the South would, like a tidal wave, set sail one day for this opulent shore, our fortunate country’s wide-gaping frontier.
The name of the book comes from a passage in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 20:7–9) depicting the apocalypse. Satan influences most of the nations of the Earth to gather for one final battle against "the camp of the saints," before being defeated for eternity:
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them.
In Calcutta, India, Catholic priests promote the adoption of Indian children by those back in Belgium as a form of charity. When the Belgian government realizes that the number of Indian children raised in Belgium has reached 40,000 in just five years, an emergency policy attempts to halt the migration. Desperate for the chance to send their children to what they call a "land of plenty", a mob of desperate Indians swarms the consulate. As a Belgian aid worker works through the crowd, an Indian gong farmer begs him to take them back to Europe, to which the worker agrees.
The worker and farmer bring the crowd to the docks, where there are hundreds of ships once owned by European powers, now suited only for river traffic. Nevertheless, the crowd boards, and a hundred ships soon leave for Europe; conditions on board are cramped, unsanitary and miserable, with some passengers publicly fornicating. As the ships pass "the straits of Ceylon", helicopters swarm overhead, capturing images of the refugees on board to be published in Europe. Meanwhile, on the Russian Far East, the Soviet troops see masses of Chinese ready to enter Siberia but are reluctant to fight them.
As the fleet crosses the Indian Ocean, the political situation in France becomes more charged. At a press conference about the crisis, a French official who offers a speech in praise of the refugees is confronted by a journalist who claims he is merely trying to "feed the invaders" and demands to know if France will "have the courage to stand up to" the migrants when they reach France. The official decries this question as morally offensive and threatens to throw the journalist out when he continues to yell. Other journalists seek to inflame tensions between the French and Africans and Arabs already living in the country. Over time, these journalists begin to write that the migrant fleet is on a mission to "enrich, cleanse and redeem the Capitalist West". At the same time as the fleet is praised by those in Paris, the people of Southern France, terrified of the migrants' arrival, flee to the north.
As the fleet approaches the Suez Canal, Egyptian forces fire a warning shot, causing the fleet to steer south, around the Cape of Good Hope. To the surprise of observers, the apartheid regime of South Africa floats out barges of food and supplies, which the migrants throw overboard. The international press is thrilled, believing the rejection of these supplies to be a political statement against the apartheid South African regime. Western leaders, confident the refugees will accept supplies from their "more virtuous" nations, organize a supply mission, funded by governments, charities, rock stars and major churches, to meet the refugees off São Tomé. However, the fleet does not stop for these barges either, and when a worker from the Papal barge attempts to board one of the ships, he is strangled and thrown overboard. The press attempts to contain coverage of the disaster.
When the migrants pass through the Strait of Gibraltar, the French president orders troops to the south and addresses the nation of his plan to repel the migrants. However, in the middle of the address, he breaks down, demands the troops simply follow their consciences instead. Most of the troops immediately desert their posts and join the civilians as they flee north, and the south is quickly overrun by the migrants. Some of the last troops to stand their ground take refuge in a small village, along with Calguès, an old man who has chosen to remain at his home, and Hamadura, a Westernized Indian who is terrified of his "filthy, brutish" countrymen and prides himself on having more in common with whites than Indians. The troops in this village, total of nineteen Frenchmen and one Indian, surrounded by what they deem "occupied territory", remains the last defense of Western values and "Free France" against the immigrants.
The migrants make their way north, having no desire to assimilate to French culture, but continuing to demand a First World standard of living, even as they flout laws, do not produce, and murder French citizens, such as factory bosses and shopkeepers, as well as the ordinary people who do not welcome them. They are also joined by the immigrants who already reside in Europe, as well as various left-wing and anarchist groups. Across the West, more and more migrants arrive and have children, rapidly growing to outnumber whites. In a matter of months, the white West has been overrun and the pro-immigrant governments are established, while the white people are ordered to share their houses and flats with the immigrants. The village containing the troops is bombed flat by airplanes of the new French government, referred to only as the "Paris Multiracial Commune". Within a few years, most Western governments have surrendered. The mayor of New York City is made to share Gracie Mansion with three African-American families from Harlem, migrants gather at coastal ports in West Africa and South Asia and swarm into Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, London is taken over by an organization of non-white residents known as the "Non-European Commonwealth Committee" which force the British queen to have her son marry a Pakistani woman, millions of black Africans from around the continent gather at the Limpopo River and invade apartheid South Africa, and only one drunken Soviet soldier stands in the way of hundreds of thousands of Chinese peasants as they overrun Siberia.
The epilogue reveals that the story was written in the last holdout of the Western world, Switzerland, but international pressure from the new governments, isolating it as a rogue state for not opening its borders, and the internal pro-migrant elements, force it to capitulate as well. Mere hours from the border opening, the author dedicates the book to his grandchildren, in the hopes they will grow up in a world where they will not be ashamed of him for writing such a book.
A translation by Norman Shapiro was published by Scribner in 1975 (ISBN 0-684-14240-6). It was republished in mass market paperback format by Ace Books in 1977 (ISBN 0-441-09120-2), and in softcover format by The Social Contract Press in 1995 (ISBN 1-881780-07-4). The novel is available in Amazon Kindle format.
According to historian of literature Jean-Marc Moura, The Camp of the Saints received a positive reception, with most critics focusing on the "prophetic" nature of the story. According to Matthew Connelly and Paul Kennedy, "[s]ixties radicalism still prevailed in Paris... [and] French intellectuals and bureaucrats swiftly dismissed [the book] as a racist tract". It was praised by Bernard Pivot and conservative intellectuals such as Michel Déon, Jean Cau and Louis Pauwels.
After the book was translated to English, Max Lerner said that it had "irresistible pace of skill and narrative", while Sidney Hook said that it would "succeed in shocking and challenging the complacent contemporary mind." In 1975, Time magazine panned the novel as a "bilious tirade" that only required a response because it "arrives trailing clouds of praise from French savants, including Dramatist Jean Anouilh ('A haunting book of irresistible force and calm logic'), with the imprint of a respected U.S. publisher and a teasing pre-publication ad campaign ('The end of the white world is near')".
Kirkus Reviews compared the novel to Mein Kampf, while Jeffrey Hart in the National Review mocked the rejection of the novel by critics - deriding them as "respectable, comfortable reviewers" - and lauded the book, stating "in freer and more intelligent circles in Europe, the book is a sensation and Raspail is a prize-winner [...] his plot is both simple and brilliant." Syndicated columnist Garry Wills condemned the embrace of the novel by the "more 'respectable' channels" of American right-wing media, including Hart, drawing parallels between the "racial implications" of the book and the National Review's "overtly racist analysis" of school integration efforts. In 1983, Linda Chavez called the novel "a sickening book", describing it as "racist, xenophobic and paranoid." The December 1994 cover story of The Atlantic Monthly focused on the themes of the novel, analyzing them in the context of international relations, while describing it as "the most politically incorrect book in France in the second half of the twentieth century". This was at about the same time that The Social Contract Press chose to bring it back into U.S. publication.
In 2001, the Southern Poverty Law Center described it as "widely revered by American white supremacists and is a sort of anti-immigration analog to The Turner Diaries." Again, in October 2015, the SPLC condemned the novel as "the favorite racist fantasy of the anti-immigrant movement in the US." Ryan Lenz of the SPLC notes that "[t]he premise of Camp of the Saints plays directly into that idea of white genocide. It is the idea that through immigration, if it's left unchecked, the racial character and content of a culture can be undermined to the point of oblivion."
In 2002, Lionel Shriver described the novel as "both prescient and appalling," certainly "racist" but "written with tremendous verbal energy and passion." Shriver writes that the book "gives bilious voice to an emotion whose expression is increasingly taboo in the West, but that can grow only more virulent when suppressed: the fierce resentment felt by majority populations when that status seems threatened."
William F. Buckley, Jr. praised the book in 2004 as "a great novel" that raised questions on how to respond to massive illegal immigration, and in 2014, Mackubin Thomas Owens noted Buckley's praise of it, while remarking that "Raspail was ahead of his time in demonstrating that Western civilization had lost its sense of purpose and history—its 'exceptionalism'." In 2005, the conservative Chilton Williamson praised the book as "one of the most uncompromising works of literary reaction in the 20th century."
The book returned to the bestseller list, ranking in the top 5 in bookstores in France as of March 2011. It has been referred to often by Steve Bannon, U.S. President Donald Trump's former chief strategist. Detail on the attractiveness of the novel for Bannon and how that is based on Raspail's depictions of 1943-1944 Bengal Famine transposed into the 1970s, are found in a substantial review article of the Kindle French edition of the novel on the French Books on India website.
- The March, a 1990 movie with a similar plot
- Submission, a 2015 French novel about a political takeover of France by Islamic fundamentalists
- List of dystopian literature
- L'Express: "Le camp des Saints, de Jean Raspail, un succès de librairie raciste?", 6 April 2011, retrieved 30 November 2012
- "Le camp des saints finit par obtenir une critique imposante, non pas tant par le volume (demeuré incomparable à celui que provoque le moindre texte d'une vedette de variétés) que par la qualité de ses laudateurs. Ils s'appellent Anouilh, Bazin, Cau, Clavel, Déon, Dutourd, Fourastié, Maulnier, Pauwels..." Deschodt, Eric (April 1985). Utopies en noir (in French). Le Spectacle du monde. p. 71.
- "arrives trailing clouds of praise from French savants, including Dramatist Jean Anouilh"
Gray, Paul (1975-08-04). "Poor White Trash". Time. Archived from the original on August 15, 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
- Raspail, John. Le Camp des Saints (Édition 2011). ISBN 978-1881780076.
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- "Amazon.com: The Camp of the Saints (1973) eBook: Jean Raspail: Kindle Store". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
- "... a connu de nombreuses traductions et, en France, un accueil critique favorable" p. 124 Moura, Jean-Marc (1988). "Littérature et idéologie de la migration : « Le camp des Saints » de Jean Raspail". Revue européenne des migrations internationales (in French). 4 (3): 115–124. doi:10.3406/remi.1988.1182. ISSN 0765-0752.
- Matthew Connelly and Paul Kennedy (December 1994). "Must It Be the Rest Against the West?". Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
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- The Camp of the Saints, reviewed in Kirkus Reviews, published July 28, 1975; retrieved from Kirkus Online, March 5, 2017
- Hart, Jeffrey (26 September 1975). "Raspail's Superb Scandal". National Review. 27: 1062–63.
- Wills, Garry (23 October 1975). "The Right and Racism". Manchester Journal Inquirer: 27.
- Crawford, James (1992). Language Loyalties: A Source Book on the Official English Controversy. University of Chicago Press. p. 174. ISBN 0226120163.
- John Tanton. "The Puppeteer Replies - The Social Contract Press". The Social Contract Press. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
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- Buckley, Jr., William F. "No Irish Need Apply." National Review Online. July 23, 2004
- "Camp of the Saints, 2014 Style? - National Review". 13 June 2014.
- Williamson, Chilton (2005). The Conservative Bookshelf: Essential Works That Impact Today's Conservative Thinkers. Citadel Press. p. 279. ISBN 0-8065-2691-2.
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