31 August 2014

Book review -- the racial nightmare of The Camp of the Saints

The Camp of the Saints -- a novel by Jean Raspail (original French publication 1973, published in English 1975)

This astonishingly stupid novel has been almost as influential on fringe-right thinking as Atlas Shrugged, which it resembles in several ways, but it doesn't seem to be nearly as well known by name, or at least not cited anything like as often.  It's a good idea to be aware of it, though, since the memes it spawned live on today in the heads even of people who have never heard of it.

The storyline is simple enough.  In Calcutta, India, an impoverished mob of a million people commandeers a fleet of decrepit ships and sets sail for France, where they hope to settle and enjoy material prosperity unavailable in their own country.  Never mind the logistical implausibility of this (such as assembling the amount of food that would have to be taken along to feed so many people on such a long journey) -- nothing in this book has any connection with the real world.

As the fleet works its way around Africa and then northward through the Atlantic toward Europe, the French and the Western world in general debate how to respond.  In Raspail's version of reality, they are so feckless and demoralized by liberalism, atheism, and suchlike right-wing bogeymen as to be unable to recognize an obvious existential threat when it's staring them in the face, and so they do nothing.  As it becomes clear that the West has no intention of stopping the fleet, hordes of people elsewhere in the Third World gather and prepare their own mass migrations to various Western countries, and populations of immigrant ancestry in Europe (and even black Americans), all presented as faceless menacing aliens, get ready to join with the waves of migrants in seizing control of the West.

The novel ends with the fall of Western civilization, overwhelmed by vast hordes of Third World migrants, its societies decaying toward Third World levels of poverty, corruption, violence, and general backwardness.

I'm not being quite honest in my use of the term "Western", because the novel is explicitly and proudly racist.  The fate of white but non-Western nations like Russia is depicted the same way (overwhelmed by Chinese migrants), while the existence of advanced and wealthy non-white nations like Japan and South Korea is simply ignored.  Modern civilization is implicitly presented as something that only the superior white race can build and maintain, doomed to collapse once the dusky lesser races get their hands on it.  This theme is not subtle.  Race, the contrast of civilized white and backward non-white, is thrown in your face again and again throughout the novel.

The real villains, though, are not the non-white people (most of whom Raspail depicts as barely human), but rather the white liberals who, in his view, have undermined the West's sense of race-consciousness and therefore its ability to defend itself against the dark-skinned hordes.  He also despises atheists and pretty much anyone who doesn't live a traditional, conservative lifestyle.

As I mentioned, The Camp of the Saints noticeably resembles Atlas Shrugged.  Much of the "dialog" consists of people making interminable, stilted, turgid speeches, utterly unlike the way actual humans converse.  The left-wing characters, like Rand's "statists" and "moochers", are cardboard caricatures bearing no resemblance to any actual left-wing person you have ever met.  The world-view is absolutist, black-and-white, devoid of nuance or ambiguity.

One difference from Atlas Shrugged is the omnipresent theme of menacing sexuality.  The sexual threat presented by dark-skinned males against white women hovers constantly in the background.  The million Indians of the migrant fleet are described as passing their time at sea with pansexual orgies which would startle anyone familiar with India's actual sexual mores.  The subject of rape keeps cropping up, to the point where one wonders if Raspail has an inordinate fascination with it -- notably a lurid scene where a liberal journalist's wife is gang-raped by a mob of escaped convicts, though the episode seems to serve little purpose in the story (unless it's simply to relish a liberal getting his just desserts).  Near the end of the book, with the West under the rule of the new order, mention is made of an official "White Female Practice and Experimentation Center" where white women are to be made sexually available to non-white men in order to "demythify" them.  This novel really is that crude in its appeals to the sexual anxieties which have always been part of the racist mentality.

Preposterous though it is, The Camp of the Saints has sold surprisingly well ever since publication.  It probably serves the same function for racists as Atlas Shrugged does for elitist libertarians -- a lurid depiction of their worst nightmares made real, and a reassurance of the utter depravity of their opponents.  And just as Atlas Shrugged provides libertarians with a template to use in interpreting real-world events, The Camp of the Saints provides racists, or even just those with an inordinate fear of immigration, with a sort of funhouse mirror that warps real-world events into harbingers of a racial apocalypse.  Why have the relatively small and gradually assimilating Muslim populations in European countries inspired endless absurd predictions that they would ultimately overwhelm and Islamize those countries?  Why are demographically-insignificant numbers of boat people crossing the Mediterranean or unaccompanied minors on the US-Mexican border repeatedly described with terms like "flood" or "siege"?  I'm convinced that the memes and imagery offered by The Camp of the Saints are a big part of the reason.

[Note:  The image at the top of this post was actually on the cover of the copy of The Camp of the Saints which I read when I was young.]


Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Never heard of it.

I did try to read Atlas Shrugged when I was in my twenties. I couldn't get past the middle of the book. I don't enjoy turgid prose.

31 August, 2014 18:51  
Blogger Tommykey said...

I remember reading about that when I was involved in the immigration restrictionist movement in the late 90's, though I never actually read it. Thanks for saving me the time!

01 September, 2014 07:31  
Blogger Ahab said...

I hadn't heard of this before, so thank you for enlightening me. The anxieties and black-and-white thinking in "The Camp of the Saints" are very much alive among the far right today.

01 September, 2014 08:22  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

Of course, the white westerners who, in the real world, spent several centuries getting on ships and going to the rest of the world to thieve their resources and enslave their people are totally innocent of any blame for the state of those very same impoverished people who right wingers fantasize are about to overwhelm white people.

01 September, 2014 11:05  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

Forgive me please for a second comment. I went to see if this book was available today, and at the Amazon site found this useful piece of information:

Customers who viewed The Camp of the Saints also viewed:

Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa

'White Girl Bleed A Lot': The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore It

Jewish Domination of Weimar Germany

Well, there you go.

01 September, 2014 11:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how well the "advanced" countries would do without the brown hordes' resources. That would be a story. Does the asshole that wrote the book really believe that a place like the UK or France would make it if the oil shipments stopped? How the hell does one build a boat that can hold a million people? That level of engineering genius can turn any country into the real Garden of Eden. What do those lunatics have against orgies? I think that might be some projection anxiety going on. They might have that Andrew Sullivan looking for Black guys to drill them out thing going.

I take my hat off to you for having the fortitude to read that infant excrement.


01 September, 2014 12:28  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: I've read both, and they're about equally bad as far as quality of writing goes. All the rather ugly sex in Camp might make it either more or less readable, depending on taste.

Tommy: Unless you're a real student of right-wing thinking, reading it is not worth the time, but it's a good idea to know it exists.

Ahab: That's my impression. It's a surprisingly influential book in its way.

Green: Good point. For that matter, it's still going on. American drug laws enrich the drug cartels in Latin America which generate a lot of the violence that is driving illegal immigration.

The racism in Camp is completely blatant and undisguised, so it's hard to imagine anyone reading it with approval unless they themselves were fairly racist -- and chose their other reading accordingly.

Your comments are always welcome here -- I don't have a "one to a customer" policy:-)

Anon: In the novel it was a fleet of a hundred or so ships, but the concept is still ludicrous.

Besides being a racist, Raspail is a strict traditionalist Catholic -- atheism and even Protestantism get their share of insults in the novel. He depicts the Indians as engaging in orgies to make them seem animalistic (this is very obvious if you read that passage in the book), not because orgies are actually part of Indian culture, which I suspect he doesn't know anything about.

01 September, 2014 13:57  
Blogger Jono said...

The first thing that came to my mind while reading this was Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles enticing KKK members into a trap with the words, "Where de white women at?"
My guess is that Raspail didn't mean this to be a farce.

02 September, 2014 11:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jono: Hah! Good comparison.

03 September, 2014 02:32  

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