Renaud Camus was once known as a man of the left. After being cut out of his parents’ will for revealing his homosexuality, he marched in the May 1968 protests in support of gay rights. In the 1970s, he ran in the most avant-garde circles in France. Roland Barthes wrote the preface to Camus’s quasi-autobiographical 1981 novel, Tricks, which recounted homosexual encounters in several countries. Camus coined new terms to describe the gay lifestyle. Even now, at age 75, he in many ways remains an exemplary liberal. He praises Nelson Mandela as a liberator of his people from a foreign oppressor. He mocks the “Putinolatry” of some on the European right. He deplores Jean-Marie Le Pen and denounces anti-Semitism.
But then there is that other issue. In a 2012 speech to a Parisian Jewish forum, Camus quoted the question posed by Christopher Caldwell’s 2009 book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: “Can you have the same Europe with different people?” His answer, like Caldwell’s, was “No.” Camus dubbed the demographic transformation wrought by mass migration the “Great Replacement”—a phrase that has since been invoked by mass murderers and the French president, influencing not only marginal figures but mainstream politics.
If the gunmen in Christchurch, New Zealand, and more recently in Buffalo, NY, had read Camus, they would have been disappointed. Camus categorically rejects violence. He mocks conspiracy theories. He abhors pseudo-scientific racism that reduces cultural and civilizational complexity to genetic factors. He criticizes rapid cultural change brought about by immigration of any kind, not Muslim immigration as such. And as a committed environmentalist who opposes population growth, he denounces efforts to boost the white birth rate. “Our culture, civilization, and people are under no menace whatsoever of demographic disappearance per se,” he said in a recent interview with me. “Indigenous Europeans or white Americans have never been so numerous in the past as they are now.” He jokes that Putin is a great president because the Russian population has declined on his watch.
“Even those who argue against him have been forced to concede his significance.”