Jean Raspail is author of the 1973 ‘Le Camp des Saints’ (The Camp of the Saints), a dystopian novel describing an invasion of immigrants from the Indian Subcontinent who land on the shores of Southern France in a flotilla of boats, then take control of the entire country. Raspail died on 12 June 2020, shortly before turning 95.
First translated into English in 1975, and still available in the 1994 edition by Social Contract Press, the novel has been quoted as a source of inspiration by Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Rep. Steve King and has, so far, been re-published eight times in France, for the last time in 2011 with a foreword by the author, entitled ‘Big Other’.
It has often been compared to William Pierce’s ‘Turner Diaries’, although it lacks its rabid Antisemitism and does not reach the same climax of hysterical violence, even though it is also a book about the native French taking up arms against the ‘invaders’.
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Raspail was born the son of a wealthy industrialist and was educated in the best upper-class, Catholic, private schools. In 1940, he was willing to enlist in the elite Free Corps, but was considered too young. He was active in the Scouts de France (French Scouts) until at least 1949, at a time when the Scout movement was still influenced by the Catholic Church and traditional values.
In 1973, when the liberal ideas of 1968 had gained influence in the movement, Raspail spoke out against this left-wing turn. It is through the Scout movement that he started his career as an explorer, going on an expedition from the Great Lakes to New Orleans with three friends and following the steps of Father Marquette, as narrated in his 2005 book ‘En Canot sur les Chemins d'Eau du Roi, une Aventure en Amérique’ (On a Canoe on the Sea Paths of the King, Adventure in America).
In 1952 he traveled from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of South America, where he met with the last remnants of the native Alakaluf people. The sad fate of those colonized people who were deprived of their customs and were slowly but surely becoming extinct moved him, especially since, like Raspail, the Alakaluf were sailors at heart. His 1986 book, ‘Qui se souvient des hommes?’ (Who remembers Men?), as well as his 1975 ‘Journal Peau-Rouge’ (Redskin Diary) are examples of his fascination with native people who are desperately trying to resist eradication.
The author who is considered an extremist and racist by the left, has attained the status of a prophet of ‘identity politics’
This might be the key to understanding how and why Raspail wrote a novel depicting the armed uprising of the ‘Français de souche’ (Native French) against non-Europeans. In February 2011, Raspail gave an interview to the Far-Right FM station Radio Courtoisie in Paris. He explained that he refused to talk openly about race because of the existing legislation but that according to him, «true French diversity made French richness, but only when immigration led to ‘a Whites-only melting-pot’ ».
Raspail, who was in regular contact with the New Right despite being a diehard Monarchist and Catholic Traditionalist, certainly shared Renaud Camus’ belief that that ‘Great Replacement’ was on its way. As a reactionary pessimist, he believed that it was probably too late for ‘White Europe’ to reverse the trend of immigration, thus his ethno-nationalist stand and his idea that European civilization of old could perhaps remain in isolated White enclaves.
Raspail was driven by the nostalgia of traditional France as he knew it before World War II. His entire literary career bears testimony to his refusal of the modern world. This is why he devoted several books to the romantic myth of the ‘King of Patagonia’, among others the 1981 ‘Moi, Antoine de Tounens, Roi de Patagonie’ (I, Antoine de Tounens, King of Patagonia).
Drawing from the real story of the short-lived independent kingdom set up between 1860 and 1862 by a French adventurer, Raspail was a self-proclaimed general Consul of Patagonia in France. He led a fan-club of devotees who shared his dream, appointed vice-Consuls in various French cities but although the flag of Patagonia was draped around his coffin, all this fantasy was not about gaining political power in a faraway land, it was but a means to escape what he perceived as the doomed future of Europe and the dullness of everyday life, the paradox being that Raspail and his friends had a real interest in the Mapuche people whose way of life is subject to constant repression in their native country.
Jean Raspail was buried on 17 June. A crowd of about 1,000 people attended the funeral among them many figures of the far and mainstream right such as Marion Maréchal, former Minister Philippe de Villiers, former MEP Bruno Gollnisch from Front National, journalists Gabrielle Cluzel and Ivan Rioufol, as well as Jean, Comte de Paris. Marine le Pen also paid tribute to Raspail in a tweet, so did Bruno Retailleau, senate leader of Les Republicain conservative party, and other concervative politicians.
Raspail was also eulogized by the mainstream conservative newspapers Le Figaro and Valeurs Actuelles. The author who is considered an extremist and racist by the left, has attained the status of a prophet of ‘identity politics’, and his influence has expanded beyond the small world of the radical right.