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Jean Respail’s “The Camp Of The Saints” In Retrospect

Jean Respail’s apocalyptic 1973 novel The Camp Of The Saints has as of yet not been widely accepted, or even noticed, by the Western literary community, despite the author’s bona fides as an award-winning author. This is no doubt due to its nature as an outright declaration of war against the Western political, cultural, and ideological system which developed in the second half of the 20th century. The Frenchman’s writing is unabashedly racialist and displays a Western cultural chauvinism par excellence, qualities which understandably turn off a large portion of the general audience. However, to dismiss its commentary in its totality, especially in the context of today’s political upheaval, is shortsighted.

The Camp Of The Saints goes well beyond offending on the basis of race – if that was all it had to offer, it would belong in a trash heap. Rather, Respail wants to communicate to the reader the vast extent of societal decay that has, in his view, already accomplished its goal of setting the inexorable decline of the West into motion. Part warning, part prophecy, his vision of the future is incredibly bleak, meaningless, irredeemable. A lot of the narrative is plainly revolting to any “decent” person’s sensibilities, though it’s not by accident that the author emphasizes the sheer horror of the situation. It’s not something to pick up if you’re looking for lighter fare.

The name of the novel itself is taken from the Book of Revelation and sets up an allegory that persists throughout. The section reads:

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.

The allegory is made abundantly clear in the first few chapters – this is not a story that keeps you in suspense as to its conclusion. The titular Camp of the Saints, the West, European civilization, the White world, whatever you choose to call it, is overwhelmed by the godless and innumerable tide of the Third World.

Paralyzed from within by decadence, social rot, and nihilism, led to its doom by pathological altruists and preachers of charity, the West simply refuses to defend itself against nonviolent invasion. A weak and universalized Christianity and a military drawn from the same demoralized masses are no bulwark, either outright aiding or standing aside for the Third World’s revenge. The disaster is brought on more than anything by a crisis of willpower, a social psychosis which manifests itself in wanton destruction and irresolution.

This is all well and good, but aside from a critical review of Respail’s work – which is excellently written and drives the reader inexorably to its apocalyptic conclusion – it’s important to consider the value it holds for those of us who are still around 45 years after its publication. It was after all recent events, and not a surge in appreciation for last century’s niche French literature, which have led to the book’s resurfacing as of late.

Respail certainly managed to predict quite a bit, from the official stance taken by Western governments towards Third World problems, or the proliferation of useless altruistic do-gooders, to the installation of a radical South American universalist to the Papacy. One hardly has to look far to see the attitude of Respail’s fictional Pontiff mirrored in the attitude of the current resident of the Vatican towards the “Refugee Crisis” that similarly washed up thousands of third-worlders on Europe’s shores. Neither does one have to be an exceptional intellect to point to the rapid degradation of the Church’s social role in the postwar years.

The migrant crisis itself is a massive vindication of Respail’s work. Though, in his scenario, the seaborne invasion plays out with far more pomp and circumstance, and represents a battering-ram’s blow against the gates of the West, as opposed to the steady infiltration which has played out in reality. The similarities are beyond simple coincidence. Clearly, his understanding of the nature of the crisis then engulfing the West was complete enough for him to make projections that turned out to be almost horrifyingly accurate.

However, whereas The Camp Of The Saints paints a bleak picture for those of us who would avert the West’s suicidal frenzy, it’s important to consider that not everything Respail wrote is set in stone, and it can in many ways act as a warning for us. After all, in this fictional world, the West dies with a whimper precisely because it refuses to act on behalf of its own survival, precisely because nobody, or not enough people, chose to avert this fate. European civilization has faced existential threats before and been saved by the heroic actions of its greatest champions, men like Charles Martel and Jan Sobieski, to say nothing of the thousands of unnamed heroes who fought by their standards.

Today we have no such situation as dire as that envisioned in The Camp Of The Saints. The novel’s France is led by weak-kneed suits, dominated institutionally by the Left, and crippled by Communist-Jacobin insurrection. The opposition simply does not exist.

The one man speaking the truth in the public sphere publishes a daily paper out of a dingy apartment and rents the presses of a leftist paper simply to stay in business, relying on large cash donations to stay afloat. As much as the alternative media may fancy themselves in the same style, sacrificing everything to preach to the masses, our job is much easier. This publication, run by students on practically no budget, has no such overhead costs and demands no such sacrifice of economic means, though we inevitably sacrifice some opportunity for employment by taking a combative stance towards popularly accepted notions. At that, we represent a growing trend, and one that shows no signs of slowing down, all while the old mass media fumbles and stumbles its way to irrelevance.

Politically, we face similar challenges, but for us they are challenges, not inevitabilities. Our politics does indeed define itself in relation to the same fundamental dichotomy that stands at the core of The Camp Of The Saints, but where Respail’s impotent France cannot muster a peep in its own defense, we have at worst fought a successful delaying action and at best been able to retake ground formerly ceded.

We do possess a rightist press, we have successfully made immigration restrictions an overwhelmingly favorable issue, and American conservatives are overwhelmingly in favor of deportations, a border wall, restrictions on citizenship, and an end to refugee resettlement. We have successfully rallied huge numbers of people around an electoral platform which explicitly rejects the ideas that make The Camp Of The Saints possible.

One can forgive Respail for speaking in terms of defeatism – after all, until recently this phenomenon had gone completely ignored by the political elite – but the West today is not so ready to throw in the towel. Not only are people more aware of the situation than ever, images like those of the Central American migrant caravan on its way to invade our borders provoke massive reactions. The idea of these mass migrant invasions coming to America is enough for the average person to advocate shooting the whole lot of them before letting them take one step onto our soil.

Ultimately, Respail’s scenario could never play out in the same way now as when he put it to pen. The rot has indeed set in deep, but the reaction has already begun: the West can not be sated with junk food, pornography, and suicidal altruism forever. The Camp Of The Saints can only come to pass when the vast mass of the people are unaware of or complacent in their own dispossession.

 



Kevin Fenchak

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