America is funny about writers. When it comes to her homegrown novelists, she ignores them in favor of topical clickbait nattering (sometimes even the novelists’ own nattering). When it comes to European writers, however, we prefer a sample of their thoughts in fictional form over the most sparkling essay.
To wit: most of the Alt-Right and even half of the Left in the States has now heard of Michel Houellebecq, author of the cautionary novel Submission, in which he satirizes a possible ‘soft takeover’ of a ridiculously apathetic France by Islamists. Submission was released January 7, 2015—the day of the Charlie Hebdo shootings—and Houellebecq was caricatured on the cover of that week’s Charlie, which may have helped his cause. Rarely does a novelist have the luck to be so perfectly, if macabrely, newsworthy.
However, Houellebecq is only one-third of the unholy trinity of anti-Leftist intellectuals who’ve made it their duty to disturb the French bobo-gentsia. His essay-writing brethren—Alain Finkielkraut and Éric Zemmour—get short shrift this side of the pond. Zemmour’s 2014 bestseller, Le Suicide Francais, has yet to be translated into English, though it moved 5,000 copies a day for the first two weeks after its release.
As for longtime intello Finkielkraut, precious little of what he has written since he abandoned the Left in disgust has appeared in English; dear me, what a coincidence. A former soixante-huitard (which means ’68’er, which is to say a hippie—or, as I prefer to say, soixante-retard), Finkielkraut slowly turned toward the Right over the years as his comrades grew more ridiculous.
Finally, all hell broke loose when he released last year’s L’Identité malheureuse—a gentle and subtle argument for French identitarianism. Notably, Finkielkraut is the progeniture of an earlier wave of immigration, back when France still expected immigrants to become culturally French. But neither his Jewish-Polish background (off to the races, tinfoil-hat brigade!— a Jew never loves his country, which is why Finkielkraut repeatedly slaps his neck on the media chopping block for her) nor the cautious, reasoned tone of the book slowed the hip young press in their race to fling ideological offal at him. Like their counterparts in the U.S., France’s youthful media establishment proudly fancy themselves rebels when they attack the old and dispossessed.
More a philosopher than a politico—even if, as Le Figaro recently noted, he’s often denigrated as a populist—Finkielkraut usually seems bemused when he’s called a Nazi. But he seems to be getting less patient of late.
Finkielkraut’s new book, La Seule exactitude, was released in France a few weeks before the recent Paris attacks; I only last week received my copy via Kindle in the States, since apparently the ocean Intertubes are slow this time of year. Before the Friday the 13th attacks, the French press, having already forgotten that they’re all Charlie, tore Finkielkraut apart for trying to warn against filling the country with people who hate the natives.
As he said in a November 20, 2015 Le Figaro interview:
The weeks that preceded the carnage were occupied by a deafening press campaign against the ‘neo-reacs.’ The editorialists drew up blacklists. Historians, sociologists, philosophers, even ‘humorists’ worried about the risk of contamination and recommended the most extreme vigilance. There was a price on my head for the crime of naming the enemy, when I should have been denouncing the humiliations inflicted on the Other and indicting the Same (that is, the national identity).
Such violently bitter irony: while the mainstream was looking the other way and wagging their fingers at those who would argue for European civilization, the Islamists were beavering away at their bloodbath plans.
It’s macabrely fitting, I suppose: the main theme of La Seule exactitude is, you guessed it, bitter irony. The shitstorm that followed Finkielkraut’s last book was barely over before the advent of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, on the heels of which the press wasted no time before issuing admonitions to be nice to Muslims—at which point Finkielkraut seemed to give up any hope that the rest of the French media could ever become rational.
The greatest irony explored in the new book is the Left’s claim that French Muslims are so pitifully persecuted and picked on that they’re the ‘new Jews’. With a wry grimace, Finkielkraut highlights the grim gusto with which the ‘new Jews’ enjoy shooting up the old ones.
He asks what sensible parallel could be made between the reasonably pro-assimilation Euro-Jewish community of the 1930s and an ‘oppressed’ modern Muslim population that costs the country billions in welfare goodies, generally hates French culture, shoots and beheads civilians on a drearily regular basis, and writes charming rap lyrics like ‘Nique la France’ (‘Fuck France’). It’s like comparing a kid who gets punched and locked in a closet to a brat who sets his parents’ house on fire.
The carefully tended memory of Auschwitz itself—“Never again!”—was supposed to be a safety measure. But it’s become a danger to Jews and Gauls both; it is, as Finkielkraut puts it, ‘the Trojan horse of the new anti-Jewish violence’—an injunction to be tolerant of the benefits-hungry and the bloodthirsty alike. Islam is not a sacrificial lamb; it is the slaughterhouse.
But it’s native neo-Nazis whom the press keeps desperately trying to blame for anti-Semitic attacks in Europe—which is like saying Napoleon is in charge of Hamas. These days, the majority of the Franco-French population that hasn’t been bullied into the PC cattle car is too busy worrying about their hostile Islamist neighbors to bother with Jews. But it’s racist to blame anyone but Whites for racism.
And as if endless comparisons to the Holocaust weren’t melodramatic enough: when it came time to make excuses for the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Prime Minister Manuel Valls blamed it all on ‘French apartheid’. But as Finkielkraut points out, France has recently spent 40 billion Euros to renovate the Muslim-occupied suburbs, while letting the less glamorous parts of the country decay:
If there are areas of neglect today, they’re out in rural France and the remote provinces.
Arranged chronologically as a series of meditations upon recent developments, the book isn’t all about terrorists and fire. Finkielkraut also bemoans the irony of dumbing down the school curriculum in order to fight bourgeois privilege and make the stupid kids feel good about themselves. In consequence, smart lower-middle-class kids—for whom, a mere generation ago, the rigorous baccalaureate process was the gateway to social advancement—are stuck singing the ABCs with the lowest common denominator, while the rich kids attend the last few bastions of high standards. Égalité!
Other prize ironies include allowing anti-racists to be blindingly racist toward White people; killing the principles behind laïcité (secularism) with dogmatic atheism; and the death of all cultures in the culture-worshipping PC stew.
As he told the paper: “Fat lot of good it’s done us to have a democracy; from now on, our fate is the dictatorship of History.” Coincidentally, in the same interview, Finkielkraut voiced the same idea that I did a couple of weeks ago: that we need to stop assuming everything Islamists do is a reaction to the West. We aren’t the center of their God’s universe, and they have their own barbaric agenda, much of which includes crushing all infidels into a whimpering pulp.
In the new book, as in L’Identité malheureuse, Finkielkraut is always reasonable if not always right. His subtle humor makes him a pleasure to read, even if he does insert so many learnèd quotes from other writers that he occasionally reminds me of a drier Malfew Seklew. I only wish he didn’t sound so beaten down.
Then again, sounding beaten down might be logical at this point, if not perversely inspiring; we may be nearing rock bottom as far as losing the will to defend ourselves goes. On the May 2014 attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels, Finkielkraut remarks:
It would be hard to blame the EU for not having prevented this crime, but you have every right to suppose it did everything it could to make it possible.
If that statement isn’t equally pertinent to the Paris shootings, I’m a monkey’s uncle.
Actually, considering the EU’s limp-wristed reaction to the ‘refugee’ crisis this year, it’s more pertinent. And yet our learning curve remains dismal. This weekend, a climate-summit protest in Paris devolved into fresh horror when some classy demonstrators chucked bits of the Friday the 13th memorial at riot police, leaving a depressing mess. Even an act of warfare against civilians is apparently not enough, in the eyes of the Antifa, to expunge Europeans’ original and universal sin; true believers must dishonor random victims even in death.
France as well as the West in general needs to begin asking itself some not-so-polite questions. We all want to be fair. And no, it isn’t fair that some people are born in Third-World shitholes. But is it any more fair when random civilians in the West take a bullet because their leaders are more concerned with helping everyone in the world than with safeguarding their people?
To the Left, the latter apparently is fair; to quote the misanthrope cartoonist Ivan Brunetti’s gag, “All White babies are pigs.” But if it’s justice to punish the monolith of living Europeans for everything their DNA did in colonial times, is it not parallel righteousness to lump them together when you pass out the credit for building their civilization? If the West and only the West must pay penance for all the world’s ills, then, to indeed be fair, only Westerners should be able to directly benefit from centuries of Western economy- and culture-building.
So stay right where you are. We’ll mail you a check.
Like Finkielkraut’s last book, this is unlikely to be made available in English. Therefore, I have prepared a selection of translated quotes and commentary here.