Essay: The Camp of the Saints, Jean Raspail, trans. Norman Shapiro, 1973, 2018.
Would you kill to preserve civilization? Specifically, would you kill defenseless children, women, and men to preserve civilization?
That is the question posed by Raspail’s novel, surely the most significant science fiction novel written in 1973 and certainly still the most talked about.
The novel’s theme is encapsulated by a remark of the French president in a radio address as Easter Sunday becomes Easter Monday:
cowardice towards the weak is cowardice at its most subtle, and, indeed, its most deadly.
We’ll return to that radio address later.
Reading this book, to say nothing of liking it and agreeing with its message, is enough to get you denounced and used as a weapon against you if you are a politician. In the month since I read this, that indeed happened to one American politician. You can do the experiment yourself. Do a Google search using “The Camp of the Saints” and “Raspail” and look at the first 12 pages. Three quarters of the entries will use words like “hateful”, “lurid”, “despicable”, and, of course, “racist” to describe the book.
Originally, I was going to do a three-part series on this book: the story, reactions to it, and the validity of its projections. Frankly, I didn’t think most people would want to read that nor would I change any minds in the related moral and political arguments.
So, I’ll mostly describe the book and conclude with some brief thoughts on its relevancy and place in science fiction.
You’ll get a better sense of the book here that any other place online I think.