The Camp of the Saints

The politics of immigration peril

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 October 2006
Last updated 1 October 2006

The Camp of the Saints
1995 Social Contract Press edition

Cover photo shows Chinese
huddled on New York beach
on morning of 6 June 1993, with
Golden Venture in background.

Jean Raspail
Translated by Norman Shapiro
The Camp of the Saints
<Le camp des saints>
Petoskey (Michigan): The Social Contract Press, 1995
xviii, 314 pages, softcover

Publishing history

Paris: Robert Laffont, 1973, 1985, 2002, 408 pages
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975 (1st US)
London: Sphere, 1977 (1st UK)
New York: Ace Books / Grosset & Dunlap, 1977
Alexandria (Virginia): Institute For Western Values, 1982
Newport Beach (California): Noontide Press, 1986
Alexandria (Virginia): American Immigration Control Foundation, 1987
Petoskey (Michigan): The Social Contract Press, 1995
New York: Ace Books, 2000

This futuristic French novel portrays what happens during the three days after a flotilla of natives from the Indian subcontinent wash upon the shores of Southern France. This 1995 edition, put out by a publisher who appears to favor stronger immigration controls in the United States, includes prefatory material on immigration policy movements and controversy over the novel, and on the life and views of its author.

Proposition 187

A Publisher's Note begins with a reference to California's Proposition 187, a ballot initiative which would have denied illegal immigrants social services, health care, and public education. The note, however, only refers to "the passage" of the proposition, and leaves the impression that is still law.

The initiative passed in the 8 November 1994 California gubernatorial election, and it became law the following day. But on 11 November, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on grounds that it exceeded state authority in immigration, a federal realm. California dropped its court appeals, effectively killing the law, in 1998.

Camp of the Saints mentality

The prefatory material also include an selective overview of the aftermath of the running aground off Rockaway peninsula beach in New York City of the freighter Gold Venture at 2 in the morning of 6 June 1993. The half page overview ends with the remark that "It is noteworthy that critics who called for stiffer enforcement of U.S. immigration law were accused of displaying a Camp of the Saints mentality.

The Camp of the Saints has, in fact, been a very controversial work in the United States. As the Publisher's Note of this edition points out, interest in Raspail's novel was renewed by the December 1994 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which featured Matthew Connelly's "Must It Be the Rest Against the West?" as one of its cover stories.

Jean Raspail on his own novel

The prefatory materials of The Social Contract Press edition also include a 2-page English translation of a French overview of Jean Raspail's life and work, and a 4-page translation of Raspail's introduction to the 1985 French edition. Raspail says this about his novel as literature (pages xiv-xv).

But, to go back to the action in Camp of the Saint -- if it is a symbol, it doesn't arise from any utopia; it no longer arises from any utopia. If it is a prophecy, we live its beginnings today. Simply, in Camp of the Saint, it is treated as a classic tragedy, according to the literary principles of unity of time, place and action: everything takes place within three days along the shores of Southern France, and it is there that the destiny of white people is sealed. . . . [ ABBREVIATED ] . . . When one knows what constitutes a generation in our old European lands -- a rump-generation in the image of a rump-family and a rump-nation -- the heart constricts in anticipation, and is overwhelmed by discouragement. It's enough to go back to the scary demographic predictions for the next thirty years, and those I will cite are the most favourable ones: encircled by seven billion people, only seven hundred million of them white, hardly a third of them in our little Europe, and those no longer in bloom but quite old. They face a vanguard of four hundred million North Africans and Muslims, fifty percent of them less than twenty years old, those on the opposite shores of the Mediterranean arriving ahead of the rest of the world! Can one imagine for a second, in the name of whatever ostrich-like blindness, that such a disequilibrium can endure?

This novel has been both praised as pragmatic and vilified as racist, in the United States, where immigration policy, as in many countries, has a perilistic edge waiting to be sharpened by fear.