Two high-profile French novelists portrayed two influential visions of France in the future.
Two high-profile French novels, dissimilar in timing and tone, portray two influential visions of France in the future. Not just good reads (and both translated into English), together they stimulate thought about the country’s crises of immigration and cultural change.
Jean Raspail (1925-) imagines a racial invasion coming by sea, of rafts and boats taking off from the Indian subcontinent and heading slowly, inexorably for the south of France. In Le Camp des Saints (The Camp of the Saints, 1973), he primarily documents the helpless, panicked French reaction as the horde (a word used 34 times) “kept coming to join the swelling numbers.”
It’s a stark dystopian fantasy about the white race and European life that corresponds to fears articulated by no less than Charles de Gaulle, the dominant politician of post-war France, who welcomed non-white French citizens “on condition that they remain a small minority. Otherwise, France would no longer be France. We are, after all, primarily a European people of the white race.”
Camp also anticipates the notion of “The Great Replacement” (Le Grand Remplacement) conceptualized by the French intellectual Renaud Camus, which anticipates the quick replacement “of the historic people of our country by peoples of immigrant origin who are overwhelmingly non-European.” Roughly this same fear – of immigrants pushing the indigenous French people aside and taking over the country – inspires the National Front party, now polling close to 30 percent of the vote and growing.
Michel Houellebecq (1956-) tells the story not of a country (France) but of an individual (François) in Soumission (Submission, 2015). François is a weary, somewhat decadent professor of the decadent movement in French literature. He lacks family, friends, and ambition; although only in his mid-40s, his will to live has eroded through the ennui of take-out food and a procession of interchangeable sex partners.
When an ostensibly moderate Muslim politician unexpectedly becomes president of France in 2022, many radical changes to French life follow quickly. In a surprise twist, what begins ominously (a corpse in the gas station) soon enough turns benign (delicious Middle Eastern food). Lured by a well-paying and satisfying job with the perk of having access to marry multiple pretty, covered students, François readily abandons his old life and converts to Islam, which offers him the rewards of luxury, exoticism, and patriarchy... Read more