Yes, it’s racist. But we’ll get to that later.
I read this book a while ago but withheld review until I got through Michel Houllebecq’s Submission. I figured they would be topical reads, given the refugee and immigration crisis in Europe (and, more recently, the terror attacks). Now an even more notable coincidence inspired me to finally post the review: a Greek boat allegedly attempted to sink a boat of Syrian refugees, eerily similar to a Greek boat plowing through survivors of a sunk boat in The Camp of the Saints.
The plot of the novel is not a secret, so I’m not spoiling anything by summarizing it here. During a famine in India, the Belgian government suspends its policy of adoption of local children, prompting a riot that ultimately leads a million or so of India’s most backward citizens to seize a hundred ships and set sail toward, ultimately Europe. On the way, they’re redirected by the guns of Egypt and South Africa (who want no part of the Last Chance Fleet) around the Horn or Africa. During the two-month voyage, Europe shakes. The self-proclaimed liberalism of its elites – media, government, church – has left them without a way to say “we don’t want you here” even though no country wants to receive the undifferentiated mass from India. Those opposed are quickly denounced as racists, while the most idealistic on the left actively wish for the arrival of the comers. The non-white underclasses of Europe begin to rise in anticipation of the change, rebelling in France, the US, and the UK against the perceived domination by the white natives. The military, castrated by soft leadership, bails. It’s no secret that the ship arrives, its masses spill onto southern France, and slowly European civilization is destroyed. (No character is worth singling out. They’re all types.)
In many ways, Raspail has correctly predicted many aspects of the current refugee crisis. There is a certain subset of social-justice-warriors that finds Europe guilty and thus responsible for accepting hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of refugees. There is a media elite that is quick to denounce as racist anyone who mentions that refugees are Muslim and that ISIS has announced plans to use them to infiltrate the West. There is an imbalance of judgment and moral agency assigned to different groups (“Now, it’s a known fact that racism comes in two forms: that practiced by whites — heinous and inexcusable, whatever its motives—and that practiced by [non-whites]—quite justified, whatever its excesses, since it’s merely the expression of a righteous revenge, and it’s up to the whites to be patient and understanding.”). There is the assumption in public discourse that Western wealth is stolen, not earned or created. There is a softer, nicer Catholic church asking for accommodation.
There’s also a barely-mentioned subplot involving Chinese mass migration into Russia (that didn’t age well) and the story of the white state of South Africa (ditto). Asia, in general, doesn’t get nearly enough attention in this story, and even Africa, which presents the most demographic pressure onto Europe, is an aside.
Most importantly, Raspail has underestimated the European response, as we are seeing the closing of borders, the rise of isolationist parties, and general resistance to increased immigration flows. Those messages filter to potential migrants (not refugees, necessarily, but fellow travelers) and present a bulwark against the unlimited migration that could overwhelm European institution. (Say what you want, but post-Enlightenment European institutions work really well.)
Raspail, however, seems to care much more about the white race than European institutions, which is why I started this post the way I did. His portrayal of the Indians is in parts disgusting, delving into the details of the “monsters” on board the ships, smelly and engaged in a giant orgy with semen flowing freely. It’s an ugly image, and one that undercuts the message of the book. (It’s much easier to resist such a group than a nicer, friendlier group of immigrants that later votes to curtail women’s rights and free speech.)
In a particularly ugly instance, a woman raped by the mob is impressed into sexual slavery with other girls. Raspail hauntingly notes “A guard fed them and opened the door to all comers,” a phrase that I still think about, but Raspail’s main concern is that only a white woman can make a white baby, and once white women lost their racial pride, they’d lose all resistance.
There are important issues raised here – can an open society defend itself to remain open? – and the language is great in parts. If this were a movie, it could use a remake. Then again, we might be watching the remake in Europe right now.
Highly recommended, obviously without endorsement.