But it was like trying to count all the trees in the forest, those arms raised high in the air, waving and shaking together, all outstretched toward the nearby shore. They will march up over the broad earth and surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city. But it is not the huddled mass of Indians, with their "fleshless Gandhi-arms," that is the focus of Raspail's attention so much as the varied responses of the French and the other privileged members of "the camp of the saints" as they debate how to deal with the inexorably advancing multitude.
After mobbing the building in disgust at Belgium's change of mind, the crowd is further inflamed by a messianic speech from one of their number, an untouchable, a gaunt, eye-catching "turd eater," who calls for the poor and wretched of the world to advance upon the Western paradise: "The nations are rising from the four corners of the earth," Raspail has the man say, "and their number is like the sand of the sea. ." Storming on board every ship within range, the crowds force the crews to take them on a lengthy, horrific voyage, around Africa and through the Strait of Gibraltar to the southern shores of France.
Many of his books recount his experiences in Alaska, the Caribbean, the Andes; he is not ignorant of foreign lands and cultures.
Raspail won prizes from the Academie Francaise, and last year only narrowly failed to be elected to that august body.
It's a question of sides." And he has the President of France, puzzling over the question of inequality among races, attribute to the Grand Mufti of Paris the idea that it is "just a question of rotation," with "different ones on top at different times"--as if to imply that it is quite natural for Europe, having expanded outward for the past 500 years, to be overwhelmed in turn by non-Western peoples. But they know their strength, and they'll never forget it.
Indeed, Raspail claims that in depicting the French armed forces fleeing from confrontation rather than bloodily repulsing the armada, he shows he is no racist, for "I denied to the white Occident, at least in my novel, its last chance for salvation." Yet for much of the rest of the novel Raspail makes plain where his cultural and political preferences lie. If they have an objection, they simply growl, and it soon becomes clear that their growls run the show.
Set at some vague time--perhaps fifteen or twenty years--in the future, the novel describes the pilgrimage of a million desperate Indians who, forsaking the ghastly conditions of downtown Calcutta and surrounding villages, commandeer an armada of decrepit ships and set off for the French Riviera. Moved by accounts of widespread famine across an Indian subcontinent collapsing under the sheer weight of its fast-growing population, the Belgian government has decided to admit and adopt a number of young children; but the policy is reversed when tens of thousands of mothers begin to push their babies against the Belgian consul general's gates in Calcutta.
" --The Camp of the Saints elcome to the 300-page narrative of Jean Raspail's disturbing, chilling, futuristic novel The Camp of the Saints, first published in Paris twenty-one years ago and translated into English a short while later.
But the Golden Venture rounded the Cape of Good Hope and thus crossed some of the same waters as Raspail's imaginary armada.
The Camp of the Saints was also to some extent recalled in a special report of October 18, 1992, by the New York Times correspondent Alan Riding, about the remarkable increase in illegal immigration across the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrowest gap between Africa and Europe.
I literally saw them, saw the major problem they presented, a problem absolutely insoluble by our present moral standards. To reject them would destroy them." "During the ten months I spent writing this book, the vision never left me.
That is why The Camp of the Saints, with all its imperfections, was a kind of emotional outpouring." Is this simply a work of imagination or, as Raspail's critics charge, a racist tract dressed up as fiction?
The most startling fact in the report was not that ambitious, unemployed North Africans were heading to Europe to find jobs but that such traffic has now become pan-continental or even global.