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Sugar-coated Blackpills

Essay
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Sugar-coated Blackpills

Seven riders left the City at dusk, by the Western Gate, which no longer had guards… Thus begins perhaps the bleakest, one of the most haunting novels by Jean Raspail. The opening sentence is also the title, although it is typically referred to as Seven Riders for short.

In the Anglosphere, Raspail is best known as the author of The Camp of the Saints, the prophetic novel that envisions France and Europe overrun by third-world immigration until it becomes a dystopic slum (so, fiction). But in France, to former teens with reactionary parents and grandparents such as yours truly, he is better known as the author of historical adventure novels, often featuring members of the fictional noble family of Pikkendorff.

Raspail is truly a great writer, in every sense of the term. With its Latin roots, French rewards brevity and precision, and yet its complex grammatical structure and numerous tenses allow for the construction of sentences of great complexity, giving the writer a wide palette from which to draw. (This also means that French is uniquely suited for the expression of complex philosophical thought, in the opinion of this writer and many others, not all French.) And Raspail does so masterfully, managing to be both highly readable and profound. You plowed through the books as a teenager for the stories of adventures and battles, and you read them again as an adult for the literary merit. Raspail is not completely averse to a few winks at postmodernism, including when he appears as a character in one of his novels. In the endnotes of another novel, he references the work of a real, famous anthropologist as a source on the fictional native tribe featured in the story.

I start out saying this because The Camp of the Saints, since it is the best-known Raspail novel in the Anglophone world, is hardly representative of Raspail’s oeuvre, in either form or content. Doubtless he would agree: he said that the book came to him as if in a dream, and that he wrote it “in one go.” The Camp of the Saints has a rushed, hallucinatory quality, which is part of its appeal, but also makes it unlike the rest of Raspail’s polished oeuvre.

(By the way, if someone tells you that The Camp of the Saints is “rayciss,” I suggest pointing out that Raspail, a lifelong advocate for the rights of all indigenous peoples, wrote another novel, The Kingdoms of Borea, which tells the story of an indigenous tribe in Lapland being replaced by industrial white Europeans, with clear sympathy for the tribesmen. Is this also “rayciss”? Why, why not? Tell me what your interlocutor responds…)

There is one way, however, in which The Camp of the Saints is representative of Raspail’s work: it is hopeless. The good guys never had a chance, the bad guys were always going to win.

When you plow through Raspail’s books, as I tend to do when I’m on vacation, at first you marvel at the inventive stories and the writing, but then you realize this. Raspail is a writer of despair. In every Raspail novel, the world is fundamentally aligned with the forces of evil, and the good guys are relentlessly ground down. It’s not just that they lose, it’s that they never had any hope at all.

Raspail is a blackpill merchant.

Seven Riders may be the best example of this. It is, to my mind, one of his most beautiful novels; certainly his most haunting. It is set in a fictional European kingdom, it is not clear where, though several hints point to the Caucasus, or perhaps the Balkans, the hard, mountainous edge of Europe anyway, and it is not said specifically when, but people move by horse and steam train and defend themselves with six-shooters.

Organized life has collapsed following “the Events.” It is also never quite clear what the Events are, except that it entailed a near-complete destruction of society. The reader pieces together that it began with children going feral, violently insulting and physically assaulting parents and teachers – using words no small child should know, drawing blood with their teeth, poking eyes out with forks – for no discernible reason. Then arrived “ammonite”, a highly-addictive hallucinatory mushroom which in a matter of months causes violent insanity and then death, whose spread was enabled by the pusillanimity and corruption of government authorities. Mysterious epidemics followed. And then, for reasons that are never quite clear, the entire realm descended into protests, chaos, mob violence, pillage, and a generalized orgy of destruction.

The Margrave, the monarch of this little kingdom, a kindly old Christian man who was caught completely out of his depth by the Events and now waits for death in the remains of his once-glorious palace, sends out the eponymous Seven Riders from the capital City – because seven horses are all that is left in the palace stables, and there aren’t many more men left who could ride them anyway – to investigate the causes of the Events, to try to make contact with civilization, if any is left outside the borders of the realm, and to find the Margrave’s only daughter, the beautiful Princess Myriam, who was sent away from the City at the beginning of the Events and not heard from again; she is also the woman the head of the expedition, Colonel Silve de Pikkendorff, is secretly in love with.

As the Seven Riders progress through the stricken land, they find little but desolation. Some scenes will grip your heart with a hand of ice, and stay stuck in your memory for ever, as when the riders find the remains of children in a chapel, who had carried out a kind of ritual sacrificial orgy with the seeming goal of breaking as many commandments of God and man as they could. Even rays of hope turn dark, as when they unexpectedly find an intact, wholesome family that has escaped the Events by taking refuge in the lighthouse manned by the father, only to find that their ten year-old son is seized by the mysterious hatred that has gripped so many children, and in the end successfully plots the demise of his family. The only priest in the story is one who does not believe in God.

There are a few actual points of light: hard times have made some strong, and a few have carved out bits of land, some for plunder, but some to rebuild, protecting the women and the weak from outsiders by meting out frontier justice. This is the exception, however, and it is clear that if this is where civilization is to be rebuilt from, it will take longer than the last Dark Ages, if at all. As the Riders progress, they read poetry, and meditate on God, and hope, both of which seem to have vanished.

The Riders reconnoitre a large Oriental army, with its trains of African slaves, preparing to invade the stricken land, indicating by its wealth and organization that only white European man is stricken by the strange curse that caused the Events. The Riders, who seem to forget their past over time, die or fall away one by one, and time seems to stretch and contract in dreamlike ways – all four seasons are described as occurring, even though by the calendar’s reckoning the action takes place over a few weeks – and by the end, the two remaining horsemen, who have lost their by-then starving horses, scarcely even remember who they are or what mission they are supposed to carry out.

I will not spoil the breath-stopping ending, only to say that it makes explicit the not-too-implicit message running through the whole story, that this remote ancient kingdom of the Events is not some fairy land, but is really a metaphor for the current West. Oddly for men who all come from the same place, the characters have names from all over Europe: Pikkendorff, Van Beck, Clément, Kostrowitsky… It doesn’t take a doctorate in French literature from the Sorbonne to decipher the symbolism.

Seven Riders is, as I say, beautiful, captivating, and haunting. I have read it several times and will read it again with pleasure.

It is also spiritual poison.

It is dark, dark, dark, and hopeless. The message for the current day is hard to miss. In every Raspail novel, the blackpills come in industrial quantities, so effective because they are coated in such delicious sugar. The eponymous men who build The Camp of the Saints have no hope of success, do not even imagine the possibility of success, fully accept their defeat and the end of their civilization, and simply have a good laugh as they shoot at the hordes of barbarians until they are finally overwhelmed.

The same goes with the rest of Raspail’s novels, all of which are great, and equally poisonous. Sire tells the story of the Return of the King – the rightful King of France, that is. Except that the country no longer recognizes or remembers its king, not that the king expects any different or tries to do anything about it. The climax of the story is that he gets crowned at a surreptitious ceremony, in the middle of the night, with no witnesses, and then vanishes into oblivion again. The useless beau geste, we are told, is all that matters.

The Fisherman’s Ring tells of a 700 year conspiracy whereby the Pope in the Vatican is a false Pope; but thankfully, true believers have created a succession of Real Popes in secret. The possibility of somehow fixing this situation never occurs to anyone in the story. It’s taken for granted that This Is Just How It Is.

Hurrah Zara! tells the history of the Pikkendorff family which so often features in Raspail’s novels, as told by a contemporary Pikkendorff to Raspail acting as narrator. It begins with the foundress of the dynasty, Saint Zara, a Gothic warrior-queen who converted to Christianity in-between smashing Roman legions, and goes on in numerous beautiful, sometimes side-splittingly funny, vignettes. But as the story progresses, the fate of the contemporary Pikkendorff storyteller, who loses his money, goes into poverty, and eventually dies of a grisly cancer, serves as a clear metonym for the decline of the line, itself a metonym of the decline of Europe. In the end, one learns that the Pikkendorff family can only keep the decrepit family seat because a niece has opened a successful chain of pizza restaurants, and the remaining Pikkenddorffs, whose ancestors were dashing knights, mercenaries, and administrators, are now lawyers, doctors, and accountants, which one senses is worse than extinction.

Even though The Camp of the Saints was a huge best-seller, Raspail received critical acclaim with I, Antoine de Tounens, King of Patagonia, which won the highly prestigious Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française. This tells a fictionalized version of the true story of a French lawyer who tried to found a kingdom in South America, only to fail miserably, return home to widespread mockery, and die in poverty. In Raspail’s novels, everyone aspires to greatness, but every actual attempt at greatness turns out to be a pathetic failure, or a lie, or a mirage. If you had to summarize Raspail’s message, it would be: It Would Be So Beautiful If We Could RETVRN, But We Cannot. The best that a good man can hope for is to meet inevitable Fate with some combination of Roman stoicism and French aristocratic laughter.

I think the point I’m trying to make is that young men should read Raspail, but that his books should perhaps come with a health warning, like a pack of cigarettes (while packs of cigarettes shouldn’t). “Known To Increase Risks Of Blackpilling.” Raspail’s mentality is sadly one which we encounter too much in right-wing circles. The blackpilled doomer, the it’s-all-for-nothing-anyway mentality, and associated copes. It is, perhaps, more characteristic of men of a certain generation, but I also encounter it too frequently among young men. The problem with this mentality is that we know it to be false, since it is human will that shapes history, and therefore nothing is ever doomed. More seriously, it risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Though Raspail deeply loved Christian civilization, he was not a believer himself, and there is a little of the pagan about him. Not so much the joyful Dionysiac lover of the real (which comes standard with French genes anyway), however. Rather the grim fatalist, who believes we are all ruled by the pitiless Goddess Fate, or else we are trapped in a material world destined to end in fire, before an endless, deterministic cycle of rebirth and death.

I recently read a memoir by a French special forces doctor, who tells of one of his patients, a young NCO, who was reading Raspail in-between shooting terrorists. At first I felt a burst of pride, that my country still produces people like that, young men of power with little formal education who read books of reactionary ideology and high literary quality in their spare time. But then I was not so sure. If that kid, who I don’t know but who in many ways embodies the best possible future of the nation, gets merely literary nourishment from Raspail, then great. But if he spiritually imbibes his Roman sense of hopelessness, then not so great. For all our sakes, I really hope the former and not the latter.

Seven riders left the City at dusk, by the Western Gate, which no longer had guards… In my story, they return victoriously, at the head of a large army, Princess Myriam riding sidesaddle next to Silve, banners glittering in the rising sun.

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