Subversion, The Musical: 
Les Misérables (2012)"/>
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Subversion, The Musical: 
Les Misérables (2012)

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“My principles are only those that, before the French Revolution, every well-born person considered sane and normal.” — Julius Evola, Autodifesa, while being tried by the “Italian” democracy

From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step — especially in musicals. Tom Hooper’s cinematic treatment of Les Misérables does not lack for ambition. With sweeping panoramics and extreme facial closeups, seemingly for every song, Hooper leaves nothing to the audience’s imagination. The actors’ vocals were recorded live on set rather than matched up later, the better to capture each crack in the voice or quivering lip. This is actor porn, and will harvest the expected crop of Oscars come February. Each emotional crest is spelled out for us so Les Mis can rape our tear ducts. It works of course. Every woman in the audience was crying, and there were even a few of the sniff-transitioning-to-gruff-cough maneuvers by some of the men.

This is middlebrow mass entertainment and presupposes a certain level of competence. Hugh Jackman (a Broadway veteran) gives an assured performance as Jean Valjean, skillfully combining his work on stage and screen. Manx actress Samantha Barks’s Éponine (another veteran of the musical stage) is a high point, and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) is competent and confident, though bland. Anne Hathaway’s Fantine has received the most attention (and she will probably snag an Academy Award), though she conceals her relative lack of vocal prowess with an emotional presentation bordering on hysteria. It’s uncomfortable to watch her on screen, but that’s the point. Amanda Seyfried (another by the numbers liberal) sounds like a B-movie actress from a black and white era with a trilly, high pitched, little girl wail that luckily fits with Cosette’s banal innocence.

The most controversial performance comes from Russell Crowe. Crowe is masterful as an actor, communicating a barely disguised rage mixed with a control always on the edge of splintering. In his first scene, Valjean says he is free and Javert’s angry “No” is worthy of Maximus. Crowe’s take on the character is a naturalistic, soldierly Javert who carries himself like a centurion rather than an obsessed, self-righteous detective. It works and works well, but unfortunately, this is a musical. Poor Russell Crowe, Odin bless him, he just can’t sing like the role demands, 30 Odd foot of Grunts notwithstanding. His growly, rock influenced voice works for some of the dialogue but he simply can’t carry a song like “Stars” the way it deserves.

Javert, of course, is the Villain, a stand-in for an entire repressive system of monarchy, autocracy, tradition, and various other forms of hierarchical horror that we will wash away in a sea of sentimental tears. It would be a problem if the audience sympathized with him, and in the modern world, the way to garner sympathy is through idealized weakness. Even more than in a stage performance, the political implications of the events in the film are spelled out through aesthetics. We open with a huge tricolor floating defeated in the water, an evil indication that “France is once again ruled by a king.” The awe-inspiring opening scene is a huge ship being pulled a team of convicts singing their grief as Javert stares down at them, the embodiment of power. We are being shown the structure of power in miniature, oppressed convicts (all of whom are innocent apparently) held down by uniformed servants of the brutal counter-revolutionary state. Of course, seeing as how Jean Valjean has been in prison for 19 years, most of his time served was under the tricolor so it’s unclear why this matters one way or the other.

Valjean is released under strict parole conditions that prevent him from getting a job. He is redeemed by the kindly Bishop of Digne who gives him food and shelter, and then saves him by lying to the police when Valjean steals, even giving him some silver candlesticks to further the ruse. This act of Christian mercy touches Valjean, and he begins a new life. This is a break in the expected narrative — after all, the Bishop is based on a real person, a kindly cleric who aligned himself against the Revolution. Nonetheless, here Christianity is redefined as quite literally “pawning the silverware” to help individual people.

One is reminded of the terrifying vision of the Church of Rome in Jean Raspail’s Camp of the Saints, where the pope sells all the treasures of the Vatican so they can be thrown into the bottomless pit of world poverty. Victor Hugo himself was given a traditional altar-and-crown Catholic upbringing but later turned against it, favoring progressivism tempered with “God is love” style overtones. Thus, the Bishop’s actions are less an endorsement of the Church than a redefinition of what Christianity should mean in the New France. Rather than a source of culture, aesthetic beauty, spiritual foundation and a support to the organic society under His Most Catholic Majesty, the new Church will sacrifice its means in the name of charity. While the real French Revolution inaugurated the first modern genocide in state history against the Catholics of the Vendée, in Les Mis both heroes (egalitarians) and villains (authorities) will speak in the name of God.

Valjean goes on to become a prosperous factory owner and mayor of a French town. One of his workers, Fantine, is sending money to her illegitimate daughter Cosette. A fight erupts between her and some of the other female workers, who demand she be fired. The foreman does so because Fantine has rejected his sexual advances. Broken, Fantine is forced to become a prostitute with a heart of gold, selling her teeth, hair, and the rest of her body. The money provides for her daughter, housed by the greedy Thénardiers, who rip off their inn customers, exploit Cosette, and spoil their own daughter Eponine. After a confrontation with an aggressive customer, Fantine is arrested by Javert, but the “mayor” witnesses the event and, realizing her degradation is a result of his own foreman’s actions, obtains her release and takes her to a hospital.

Jean Valjean also rescues a man named Fauchelevent who is being crushed by a cart. The inspector Javert sees this feat of strength, which reminds him of the parole breaking convict Valjean. He reports it, but finds out someone else has been arrested for the crime. Javert confesses his mistake to the “mayor” and demands punishment; Valjean refuses. After his own internal torment, Valjean confesses to the court his identity but leaves to assist Fantine before going to prison. He tells her he will rescue her daughter and keep her safe but just as the now saintly Fantine dies, Javert arrives.

Javert’s ruthless pursuit of Valjean throughout the tale is the centerpiece of the play, but The Confrontation between the two isn’t just a plot point. It’s the conflict between two worldviews and two metapolitical foundations behind them. Valjean begs for a few days to rescue Cosette and warns that he will kill Javert if necessary, claiming he has never done anything wrong. Javert explodes and rages, “Dare you talk to me of crime, and the price you had to pay, every man is born in sin, every man must choose his way. You know nothing of Javert, I was born inside a jail, I was born with scum like you, I am from the gutter too!” Valjean responds that he will do what is necessary to claim Cosette and he will “raise her to the light.” He escapes, claims the girl, and is able to escape to a convent.

Javert of course has seen innumerable con men, criminals, and knaves in his life and has no reason to believe that some man begging for a few days before jail has any intention other than escape. His view of the world, and of God, is grounded in the reality of Original Sin. Man is inherently depraved and given to evil activity. Nor is Javert some privileged aristocrat sneering down at the proles — he has seen it every day of his life. Later, Javert breaks up a dispute on the street, crying, “Another brawl in the square, another stink in the air . . . look upon this fine collection, Crawled from underneath a stone, This swarm of worms and maggots . . .”

Racially, Javert has always been ambiguous. One of the most powerful Javerts on the stage was the black American baritone Norm Lewis. While it’s tempting to roll your eyes at yet another example of “color-blind” PC casting à la Heimdall in Thor, this does fit at least somewhat with the character. The Javert of the book is born to a gypsy mother and a convict father, hardly some fair-haired exemplar of the royalist ruling caste. He has seen the filth of the criminal world and rebelled against it. As far as capturing the essence of the character, the seething Javert of Crowe or Lewis actually fits better than the more entitled, arrogant Javert of Philip Quast.

In contrast, Jean Valjean represents a world that prizes forgiveness over justice, rights over honor. After all, he only “stole a loaf of bread,” and seemingly every other character is the book is innocent. His fallen state is not a product of his own depravity, but society’s injustice. As Victor Hugo laid out in his own will, the poor (Les Misérables) are the true moral center of society, needing only to be liberated from an oppressive social structure.

The only truly despicable characters in the story are the grasping Thénardiers, who mock the “law abiding folk” and their Christian God, con everyone they can out of every last sou, and generally serve as parasites. While Hugo at least understands the reactionary tendencies of Javert and preaches the Christian idealism of Valjean and the egalitarianism of the revolutionary students, he has only contempt for the money-grubbing of Economic Man. Among the chief sins of the Thénardiers are their boast that whatever is happening with the barricades and the revolution, they will always be there, always survive, and always profit. I should note that the Thénardiers are portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen and self-described “Jewish Catholic” Helena Bonham Carter.

Jean Valjean and the rescued Cosette live peacefully for years as the girl matures into a beautiful woman. Meanwhile, the streets of Paris are ripe for Revolution once again. “Do You Hear the People Sing” is a musical version of the Whig version of history, as the masses cry, “Do you hear the people sing, Singing the songs of angry men, It is the music of a people, Who will not be slaves again.” The film treats us to the righteous fury of the poor screaming out “Death to the King!” and besieging the carriages of the wealthy. Among the poor are a few Negroes, presumably to help modern American audiences tell which side they are supposed to root for.

The Society of the ABC (the ABC a French pun meaning “oppressed”), a revolutionary student group, prepares for action when General Lemarque (“the people’s man”) dies. One of the members is Marius, a wealthy student who has turned his back on privilege to dedicate himself to the Revolution. However, he encounters Cosette and is thunderstruck. The Society is led by Enjorlas, a student perfectly dedicated to the Revolution, who mocks Marius’s petty interest in romance. In “Red and Black” the stakes are clear — “Red — the blood of angry men! Black — the dark of ages past! Red — a world about to dawn! Black — the night that ends at last!” Marius is ultimately won over, and the united Society prepares to wage war against the nation’s own past.

However, before that is done, Éponine leads Marius to Cosette’s house, in spite of her own love for him. She even prevents her father’s gang from robbing the house. However, the noise makes Valjean think Javert has finally come for him. He tells Cosette they must leave and prepares to flee the country. The students ready for Revolution and a world where “every man will be a king” while Javert schemes to nip the revolution in the bud.

The next day, Javert infiltrates the revolutionaries as a spy but is exposed by Gavroche, a young street urchin. He is detained. Éponine delivers a letter to Cosette from Marius but Valjean intercepts and reads it, learning of their relationship. He hurries to the barricade to meet this Marius. He saves Enjorlas at the barricade and asks to shoot Javert to get him away from the students. Amazingly, he lets him go. Javert swears he will not relent even in the face of this mercy. Éponine is shot and killed, sacrificing herself for the boy she loves, even though he doesn’t love her back. Unlike the bland Cosette, Éponine suffers a genuinely tragic fate.

While the barricade holds for the night, it’s clear that the revolution is doomed. The next day, the attack comes. Gavorche is shot dead, the students massacred. Valjean manages to seize an unconscious Marius and drag him into the sewers. Enjorlas survives but is executed, red flags flowing over his heroic corpse as the bullets hit.

In the sewers, Valjean is confronted by Javert. Once again, Valjean pleas for a brief respite, so Marius can receive medical care. Javert warns he will shoot, but cannot. Valjean escapes.

Javert’s soliloquy and suicide is the most detailed presentation of his worldview. He cannot understand why Valjean spared him — rather than mercy, he sees it as an insult. In his view, it is Valjean’s “right” to kill him — as an outlaw, he lives by force, and Javert is the law. It is only natural that there be conflict and violence. Now, Valjean has a superior moral claim over him precisely because he relinquishes his right to vengeance. It is the victory of slave morality, pity and compassion over justice and law.

The movie provides additional context to Javert’s actions that the stage performance lacks. Javert walks the streets after the slaughter of the revolutionaries, staring at the dead bodies. In an ad-lib, Crowe’s Javert even pins his medal on the slain child Gavorche. This suggests that Javert is actually questioning his moral foundation. However, the song states that his disillusionment and eventual suicide doesn’t come from moral confusion, but defiance. “I am the law, and the law is not mocked. I’ll spit his pity, right back in his face.”

Earlier, when Javert is given to Valjean by the revolutionaries, he mutters, “The law is inside out, the world is upside down.” Being spared is even worse. It isn’t just a reversal of power and position, but of morality. Killing the man who spared him is somehow unjust. In an honor-based society, it is proper to kill your enemy. In a rights-based society, it is the victim who is superior to the victor, “People still fall out, but are soon reconciled — otherwise it spoileth their stomachs,” as it says in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Even as Javert confronts Valjean, the women of Paris (who could not be bothered to help during the struggle) mourn the heroes of the revolution now that they are fallen. The moral foundation of the law is undermined. Thus, Javert commits suicide for “there is nothing on earth that we share. It is either Valjean or Javert.” The movie even treats us to an unnecessary loud crack as the lawman’s spine is severed.

Marius mourns his fallen comrades but marries and begins a new life with Cosette. It is revealed by Thénardier in the midst of a con that Valjean was the one who saved Marius. The new married couple hurries to the dying Valjean’s side to thank him. Valjean dies and is welcomed into heaven by none other than Fantine. All those who fell at the barricades are reunited in the afterlife, pictured as one giant Paris Commune with tricolors and red flags waving, crying “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Only Javert is absent. We began with the Revolution in retreat, in the end, heaven itself has fallen to the Tricolor. God Himself is subverted. Decades ago, when National Review employed serious conservative writers, the late Joseph Sobran wrote, “The ultimate Progressive categories are not heaven and hell, or good and evil, or order and chaos but Future and Past.”

Les Misérables is the most attractive portrayal of the narrative that informs all liberal (classical or otherwise) journalism, scholarship, and activism. The past is dark, retrograde, “the night of ages past.” Poverty exists because the poor are oppressed by kings, people are naturally good and perfectible, and if we just remove those the dead hand of tradition, we can advance to utopia. On its own terms, the film succeeds. The heroism of Jean Valjean, the suffering of Fantine, the nobility of Enjorlas and the other revolutionaries (which even Crowe’s Javert salutes) are undeniable. But what are we really celebrating here? Once a traditional society is destroyed, a man like Javert has no place and must die, a death the film seems to actually celebrate. Red is not just the blood of angry men, but the blood of innocent men spilled eagerly from egalitarian revolutionaries from China to the Ukraine. Nonetheless, the movie tells us that the youthful idealism of egalitarians is not just noble but holy, even perfect. The soldiers who die putting down the revolt and the past memories of guillotine, Terror, and Vendée are skipped over merrily.

Les Misérables isn’t just a story — it’s a masterpiece of metapolitical propaganda. It reinforces the view of history where idealism, youth, and nobility are solely the province of the egalitarian Left. No failure or slaughter is useless because the “true” revolution exists as a kind of Platonic “form” to be striven for endlessly, a future both unreachable and inevitable. Javert thought his was “the way of the Lord” but it turns out Heaven is simply a Paris Commune that never ends. All of the preferred victim classes are laid out for us — noble criminals superior to lawmen, innocent whores and single mothers more virtuous than evil lust-crazed men, and lefty student revolutionaries more enlightened than ordinary citizens who’d rather sleep than shoot at soldiers from a barricade. As for those reactionaries that resist, well, the surround sound doesn’t just let us “Hear the People Sing” but listen to the crack of the reactionaries’ spines.

Men are moved to action not by reason, but by myth. Les Misérables is a beautifully shot film, an emotionally powerful musical, and sinisterly effective portrayal of the progressive myth that underlies our entire rotting civilization.

 

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15 Comments

  1. Etienne
    Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    In the novel, Jean Valjean gives a look of “inexprimable haine” (inexpressible hatred) to Marius after the revolutionary killings that threatened Marius’s relationship with Cosette. So there is a triplicity of Javert, Valjean and Marius in Hugo, not the duality of worldviews you attribute to the film (which I haven’t seen yet BTW). You also forget that Hugo wrote about the Vendée (in “1793”).

  2. Robert Pinkerton
    Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    “… Once a traditional society is destroyed, a man like Javert has no place.”
    I ask whether that can be applied to an individual’s subjective perception of the world around him, i.e.: Whether his perception of society around him, gets destroyed by a catastrophic misadventure or a cascading series of catastrophic misadventures — such as the situation of some soldiers in this country”s ill-advised misadventure in the Near East. Is any case among their self-terminations similar to Inspector Javert’s self-termination?

  3. Dominion
    Posted January 4, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I try to read this story as a conflict between individuals who are all trying to do something righteous, rather than a “good vs evil” tale. Javert is trying to uphold and enforce the Law; Valjean is trying to show mercy and and become a good man; Marius and the revolutionaries are trying to overthrow what they see as a corrupt order. In real life, even those who ultimately wished to preserve the Ancien Regime agreed that it was in need of reform and purification (de Maistre in Considerations on France, for example). The “opposite of a revolution” is more than just reaction, it is the rebirth of Traditional values at all levels of the order, from Throne and Altar to commoner and worker.

    Javert’s absence in the final scene is unusual. He appears in all renditions of the musical I’ve seen. Obviously, the movie is chock-full of Jacobin song and style. But one must look beneath the surface to see things of value.

  4. Deviance
    Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    As a French guy, who had to study Victor Hugo several times from school to lycée (high school), I think I am well-positioned to give some general opinion.

    I never read Les Miserables completely, though. Only read excerpts.

    The reason can be found in the words to follow.

    Victor Hugo was a very naive man. I estimate his intelligence at higher-average only. He had sufficient brains to write well and get himself riled up about tales of oppression and injustice, but he lacked the genius that confer a cold assessment of human nature and complex sociological problems. The genius that, say, a Napoleon possessed. Being born in the XIXth century, before Galton or Le Bon, is no excuse for lacking the understanding of very simple truths on human nature at a ripe old age…

    As a naive and idealistic man, he had all the attributes that one can expect: pro-democracy, egalitarian, anti-racist, feminist, Romantic, etc.

    I cannot claim to have had the same experience of outright reject and disgust a young Savitri Devi had when first exposed to the writings of Hugo.

    I remembered how, when I was twelve the teacher in the French school where I used to go had once made me stand for a whole hour in the corner, my face to the wall, as a punishment for having declared openly that the so-called ‘ideals’ of the French Revolution disgusted me. And how, another time in the same school, I had been punished for pulling out my tongue at the plaster bust of the French Republic that stood in the corridor — the symbol of all I hated — and how I had cared little for the punishment, so glad I was to feel that I had insulted and defied the detested symbol. And how I reacted to the poems of Victor Hugo, whom I was told I ‘must’ admire — but whose idiotic equalitarian sentimentalism and belief in ‘progress’ through learning alone, merely succeeded in irritating me beyond bearing, and in setting me fanatically, and definitely, against all silly morality centered around ‘man’ as such — that morality which all expected me to accept as a matter of course.

    I initially liked him, and only years later began to change my mind.

    Do I totally dislike him, now? That may surprise you, but not totally. I believe he actually made a positive contribution to French history and literature.

    – There are some general truths to be found in his altogether very pessimistic books and poems.
    – The influence of Romantism in France actually started to decline after Hugo published his books. One could say he was the fossoyeur of Romantism. He took it to the absurd, and made it explode.

  5. Deviance
    Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Also, again as a French guy, I must insist that the “French Revolution(s)” have been overly dramatized and romanticized outside of France.

    The revolutions against the monarchies of the Restoration did not involve more than 1000 people (lowlives and prostitutes more than poor children ; in fact, all the people who were not Christian) and always took time in Paris, they never spread out.

    Real and serious opponents to the monarchy (notably the bourgeois) were perfectly content with the system of Constitutional monarchy we had, or they conspired with bankers and foreign powers against the regime.

    As to the 1789 French Revolution, it was a joke. A bad joke, yes, but a joke. You are told that it was a revolt of the French people; well, as Jean Sévilla and other French reactionary historians have shown with brio, it only actually involved 10 000 people max., most of whom were not peasants but members of the Paris intelligentsia, the free-masonry and the haute bourgeoisie. It succeeded because of the crappy state of affairs at the time in France, and the disorganization of the king’s guard. It could easily have failed.

    More than 2 years after it happened, the French countryside was still overwhelmingly pro-monarchy. That was before the Terreur started, and Robespierre started to use the whip.

    • Etienne
      Posted January 6, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      I’m glad to can see good in Hugo. I find it doesn’t help me to have studied something at school, as it’s more difficult to feel that you own it. Emile Zola uses assumptions on heredity in his novels, but I wouldn’t say he was a better novelist for it. I’m not sure what works by Jean Sévilla you mean, as he seems mostly to be a journalist and popular writer. It would be interesting to hear from the radical right on the French revolution. Do you know anything about Reynald Secher for example?

      • Deviance
        Posted January 6, 2013 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        Zola, like Maupassant, is a very sinister writer. His style is, as we would say in French, “glauque”.

        Tales of failed ambitions, depressed characters, social turmoil, and injustice.

        But he is actually a very good writer, per technical qualifications. I lost all admiration for him because he absurdly sided with the Jew Dreyfus during the famous Dreyfus affair. Philo-Semitism was already strong enough in France at that precise time; why did he feel the need to add the name of a great author to the list of its adherents?

        I recommend you only one book from him: La Fortune des Rougon. Tales of ambitions and violence in post-revolutionary France. It may entertain you, but will certainly teach you the role of prudence in life: in this book, an idealist and leftist young man (Silvère) suffers a terrible fate because he ran his mouth a bit too much.

        Jean Sévillia (actually) took part in the writing of the Livre Noir de la Révolution Française.

        Someone who wrote a lot about the horrors of the Revolution (notably the destruction of the kings of France’ tombstones) is Jean Raspail. He also wrote a famous “racialist” book.

      • White Republican
        Posted January 7, 2013 at 12:22 am | Permalink

        Deviance,

        Do you know of any of good articles on Jean Raspail’s work, or interviews with Raspail, that would be suitable for translation at this site? In the English-speaking world, Raspail is known for The Camp of the Saints, but not for his other novels. In his article “Politics and the Intellectual World: Changes in Europe” (Modern Age, Winter-Spring 2004), Virgil Nemoianu writes of Raspail:

        “I will mention first the major novelist, Jean Raspail (by now an elderly figure), little known in the United States, but a constant best-seller in France, and revered, of all people, by the Canadian ecologists for his outspokenness in defense of tiny ethnic groups and cultures being erased by the steam-roller of global modernization. Raspail is a staunch old-line Roman Catholic and a conservative monarchist; he has also written with great empathy about the extinction of Tierra del Fuego tribes, and about Caribbean, Siberian, and Amerindian torments. In English he gained success by the fantastic/anticipatory book Camp of the Saints which imagined a Europe overrun by massive waves of third-world immigrants: it seemed a pretty incredible scenario in 1973, perhaps slightly less so now, thirty years later.

        “The bulk of Raspail’s work has remained untranslated and unknown in America. Of this I will refer to just two major and significant novels. One of them is the dystopian novel Septentrion that describes the institution of a Communistlike dictatorship and the flight of a number of dissidents by armed train toward a more and more inhospitable and mythical ‘North.’ This tragic work was inspired to some extent by the historical events surrounding the desperate and heartrending last weeks of Admiral Kolchak’s heroic rebellion against Red power in Siberia in the early 1920s. It also suggests the numbing conformity of modern globalism and of its attempt to destroy every individual autonomy.

        “The other major work by Jean Raspail is L’Anneau du pecheur (‘The Ring of the Fisherman’; Paris: Albin Michel, 1995), the action of which is placed on two levels. One is historical and shows the brutality through which secular powers effected the unification of the split Catholic Church at the end of the Middle Ages. According to the fictional narrative the legally most correct claim would have been that of the Avignon Pope, Cardinal Pedro de Luna, whose papal name was Benedict. He and his tiny band of faithful followers went underground (according to Raspail’s fiction) and continued the legitimate line of true magisterial faith to our days. Meanwhile, on another, contemporary level, attempts are made by the Vatican to rediscover the anonymous beggar, the papal descendant of Benedict, and bring him back into the fold. The whole novel contains a thinly disguised warning or prophecy as to the future of Catholicism, indeed of all Christianity in the twenty-first century. Raspail’s most celebrated and feted work was devoted to Antoine Tounens, a nineteenth-century eccentric whose dream was to establish an independent feudal monarchy in Patagonia. This quixotic and ultimately despairing mode of thinking pervades all of Raspail’s novels.”

        Although Raspail is a traditional Catholic and Saint-Loup (Marc Augier) was a pagan, there appear to be remarkable parallels between the themes and character of their works: their identitarian orientation, their defense of “patries charnelles,” their horror at the ethnocide of primitive peoples, and their “quixotic and ultimately despairing mode of thinking.” Interestingly, Raspail and Saint-Loup both wrote novels involving the French adventurer Antoine de Tounens: Raspail wrote Moi, Antoine de Tounens, roi de Patagonie (1981) and Saint-Loup wrote Le Roi blanc des Patagons (1950).

  6. Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    ” The past is dark, retrograde, “the night of ages past.””

    I don’t think I shall ever forget the typical Portlandia lady who was quoted in the papers in opposition to the San Francisco city counsel instituting a ban on public nudity — “We don’t want to go back to the dark ages!” Ah yes, the Dark Ages of up to last week. Sans-culottes indeed!

  7. Armor
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    “the movie tells us that the youthful idealism of egalitarians is not just noble but holy, even perfect. The soldiers who die putting down the revolt and the past memories of guillotine, Terror, and Vendée are skipped over merrily.”

    I haven’t seen or read Les Misérables. I didn’t realize that Hugo was a admirer of the French revolution. The strange thing is that that is still the predominant view given today by the French media, especially by Jewish activists, who say that the ideals of the French revolution sum up what it means to be French. It is even used to justify the race-replacement policy, as if Robespierre had been an African immigration enthusiast. In French schools, as far as I know, the massacres are minimized and the revolutionaries are still presented as the good, well-meaning guys, confronted to the stupid, backward peasantry. I guess Stalin meant well too.

    The French succession of republican and monarchical governments was like this :

    … – 1789 Monarchy
    1789-1804 Revolution period
    1804-1815 Napoleon
    1815-1830 Monarchy
    1830-1848 Monarchy
    1848-1852 Republic
    1852-1870 Napoleon Junior
    1871-1940 Republic
    1940-1944 German interlude
    1944-1946 Provisional government
    1947-1958 Republic
    1959-… Republic

    The revolutionaries must have had a bad press between 1815 and 1848, when the monarchy was back in power. But the anti-revolutionary elites were like today’s conservatives. They didn’t press their advantage against the leftists. During that time, the Republicans should have taken pain to distance themselves from the destruction, wars, and mass murder committed during the French Revolution. Instead, they recycled the vocabulary of the 1789 head choppers, using the words “citizen(ly)” and “republic(an)” in every second sentence. They are still at it today.

    Victor Hugo published Les Misérables in 1862, not long after the monarchy had ceased to exist, and before the so-called republic was back in power. Why did someone like him had any sympathy for the revolution? It seems that the revolution had been romanticized not just by the leftists, but by people who should have known better. Then, in the last decades of the 19th century, the country fell under a “republican” regime led by a small philosophical and dictatorial mafia made of enemies of traditional society and religion. They could only approve of the 1789 bloodbath. The journalist Édouard Drumont wrote his book La France juive (Jewish France) at that time (1886).

    In recent decades, the historian Reynald Secher has been fighting a lonely battle to disclose the scope of the revolutionary massacres to the public.

  8. guiscard
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    “Among the poor are a few Negroes, presumably to help modern American audiences tell which side they are supposed to root for.”

    I had to laugh at this though I still think ‘modern’ audiences will be a little confused. I’m sure they’d be surprised that Fantine didn’t magically regain her health, marry Valjean, only to to divorce him because of his traditional family values. Then, after acquiring his wealth, she helped Cosette buy her own brothel while leading the revolution, sword and martial arts skills in hand.

  9. Deviance
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    @ White Republican

    I know an article (actually, a very short excerpt from one of his book) that could perhaps fit with the editorial line of C-C. I could translate it but am frankly very occupied currently, and a quality translation would take at least 4 hours of intensive work.

    It describes the sacking of the royal tombstones, that I was mentioning above. More than the frankly sinister details, what is important is the symbolism of the event: to completely destroy an old order, you must strike at its shrines and symbols.

    In the case of the Christian monarchy, it was the sanctity of death itself that was attacked, as well as the kings themselves — of course. It paved the way for the period of ultra-rationalism and anti-clericalism of the 1790s. Period that was followed by a sort of return to more conservative values thanks to Napoleon; so, perhaps the revolutionaries did actually too much when it comes to the psychological effect it had on the French masses. It is a very rare case of common sense actually revolting against orders coming from above.

    Yes, few non-French people know that, as it is a very inglorious part of our history, but “they” actually de-interred the corpses of our monarchs and played football with their skulls. Charming people, weren’t they?

    Le sac des tombeaux de Saint-Denis, par ordre de la Convention, du 12 au 25 octobre 1793. Treize jours de honte.

    Extrait du livre de Jean Raspail : Le Roi au-delà de la mer – Albin Michel, 01-2000

    Au milieu d’une foule surexcitée qui encourageait de la voix et du geste les terrassiers, on commença à creuser aux abords immédiats de la basilique deux fosses carrées. La première était destinée à recevoir les ossements des Bourbons, la seconde ceux des Valois et des Capétiens directs, ainsi que les restes des rois des deux premières races, si l’on en retrouvait quelque chose. Puis l’on enfonça au bélier les portes de la crypte où s’alignaient les tombes royales sur plusieurs niveaux de profondeur. Le premier «tyran» forcé dans son repos éternel fut le bon roi Henri IV. Lorsqu’on eut fait sauter le couvercle de son cercueil, son corps apparut presque intact. Dans l’air raréfié de la crypte, il répandait une forte exhalaison d’aromates. Ce roi-là sentait bon. Ce ne fut pas le cas des autres. Son visage était admirablement conservé, la barbe presque blanche, les traits à peine altérés. Le cadavre fut ainsi dressé, comme un mannequin, et adossé à un pilier. La foule qui l’entourait, impressionnée, suspendit un instant sa haine. Allait-elle tomber à genoux, en témoignage d’ancien respect ? Mais la loi qui régit les masses humaines ne souffre pas d’exception : c’est toujours le plus vil qui l’emporte. Se poussant au premier rang, un courageux sectionnaire tira son sabre et coupa ras une mèche de barbe dont il se fit une moustache postiche sous les rires et les applaudissements. Puis ce fut le tour d’une mégère qui gifla le roi à toute volée, si fort que son corps tomba à terre. Après des heures d’outrages et d’insultes, réduit à l’état qu’on peut imaginer, il fut balancé sans ménagements, le premier, dans la fosse des Bourbons.

    Louis XIII fut expédié dans la fosse sans même l’aumône d’une injure. Il puait trop. Avec Louis XIV, on avait un compte à régler. Son corps fut éventré au couteau, d’où s’échappa quantité d’étoupes qui remplaçaient les entrailles, après quoi l’éventreur, avec son couteau, ouvrit en force la bouche du roi dont les mâchoires étaient bloquées depuis soixante-dix-huit années. Prélevant un chicot noir et pourri, il le montra au peuple, comme un trophée. Cette fois indifférente à l’odeur effroyable que répandait la bouche royale, la foule rugit de bonheur. Quant à la reine Marie-Thérèse, l’épouse du roi Louis XIV et fille de Philippe IV d’Espagne, elle fut basculée dans la fosse où elle S’abîma, la tête tordue et renversée, les jambes écartées levées vers le ciel, elle qui avait été si vertueuse, et cela fit bien rigoler. Marie de Médicis ne fut pas mieux traitée. On s’en débarrassa très vite, car elle coulait comme un vieux fromage. Les patriotes se disputèrent quelques cheveux qui surnageaient dans cette putréfaction. Anne d’Autriche, la fière Anne, la reine de cape et d’épée, fut balancée en hâte dans la fosse. Ses membres ne tenaient plus à son corps et la foule se bouchait le nez, agglutinée autour de ces caveaux béants méphitiques. On entassa, dans la fosse des Bourbons, des dauphins, des grands dauphins, des petits dauphins, des Mademoiselles, des Grandes Mademoiselles, quelques Orléans, des ducs de Bourgogne, d’Anjou, d’Aquitaine, de Bretagne, de Montpensier, des princes mort-nés qu’applaudissaient les mégères parce que au moins « ceux-là n’avaient pas vécu », une Stuart égarée, des duchesses de Parme, d’Artois, de Berry, et la Palatine, et Turenne, et le Grand Condé, et tant de filles de France qui s’appelaient Marie, Marie-Zéphirine, Marie-Adélaïde, Louise-Marie, Marie-Élisabeth, Marie-Anne, lesquelles coulaient comme des fontaines de mort au fond de leur cercueil de plomb. La basilique n’était plus respirable. La foule reniflait avec passion.

    C’est alors qu’on découvrit Louis XV. Dieu sait qu’on l’attendait, celui-là, pour lui montrer combien on l’avait haï, à sa mort, le Bien-Aimé ! Que n’avait-on dit, qu’il était mort de la vérole, déjà pourri vivant, et qu’on ne l’avait point embaumé parce que les embaumeurs étaient morts après l’avoir à peine touché… Il déçut. Son cercueil ne répandit aucune exhalaison mauvaise. On le trouva très bien conservé et la peau blanche aussi fraîche que s’il venait d’être inhumé. On aurait dit qu’il prenait un bain, car il flottait dans une eau abondante formée par une dissolution de sel marin. Mais, l’eau vidée, ce fut l’horreur. Le corps du Bien-Aimé parut aussitôt se digérer lui-même jusqu’à n’être plus qu’une empreinte de chair au fond du cercueil d’où s’échappait un nuage d’une effroyable puanteur. On enflamma force poudre, on tira même des feux de salve dans l’espoir de purifier l’air, comme lors des épidémies de peste.

    Ainsi fut salué le roi Louis XV. C’était le 16 octobre 1793, à l’heure où la reine Marie-Antoinette était menée à l’échafaud dans la charrette ordinaire du bourreau, tournant le dos au cheval, les mains liées derrière le dos et les cheveux roides sur la nuque…

    Dois-je continuer, Monseigneur ? C’est une déplaisante façon, je le reconnais, d’évoquer de la sorte votre famille en ces jours de 93 où la France et les Français cessèrent d’aimer d’amour leurs rois. Peut-être cette haine populaire représentait-elle une sorte de salut dévoyé à la Majesté fracassée. On vous haïssait très fort parce que vous aviez été tout, si longtemps. On vous faisait payer, par votre supplice, le bien que le pays vous devait et la grandeur où vous l’aviez hissé. Quand la tête de Louis XVI tomba dans le panier de son, le 21 janvier 1793 à dix heures et vingt-deux minutes, il se fit un grand silence qui s’étendit jusqu’aux Tuileries à travers la foule innombrable.

    C’est la haine qui, un instant, suspendait son cours, un dernier acte de communion parfaite entre la France et ses rois. Cette communion-là est anéantie à jamais, Monseigneur. L’indifférence et l’ignorance l’ont aujourd’hui remplacée, avec, au mieux, chez ceux d’entre les Français qui connaissent votre existence – j’allais écrire : votre survivance -, un peu de cette sympathie du coeur et de ces élans d’émotion que l’on réserve aux causes perdues. Allez-vous vous en satisfaire durant toute votre vie ?

    Mais revenons au sac des tombeaux de Saint-Denis. Qui sait si ce n’est pas là, justement, que vous pourriez puiser la force et la volonté de ne pas vous résigner à n’être qu’un souvenir..

    La fosse des Bourbons étant comblée, on passa aux Valois. Dans les mêmes conditions d’horreur, en deux jours le niveau monta si bien qu’un ouvrier fit remarquer qu’il n’y aurait pas de place pour tout le monde. Puis la tâche devint difficile. Il fallut plusieurs sondages obstinés et des campements de taupe pour repérer l’entrée du caveau de François Ier. Le créateur du Collège de France reposait là avec sa famille, sa mère la reine Louise, Claude de France, sa femme, et trois de leurs enfants. Ils se transformèrent, au contact de l’air, en un liquide boueux et nauséabond, qu’on vida, au seau, comme des excréments, dans la fosse aux Valois. Ce fut le dernier souverain qui pua et beaucoup le regrettèrent, car cette puanteur attisait la haine. Mais au-delà du XVIe siècle, les cercueils de plomb disparurent, faisant place à des sarcophages de pierre. Les chairs étaient réduites en poussière. Certaines avaient été bouillies afin de les séparer de leur squelette et enfermées dans des sacs de peau. L’élément solide ne comportait que les ossements et les crânes dont l’accumulation épaississait notablement la soupe de teinte indéfinissable, mêlée de chaux vive, qui atteignait presque le rebord de la fosse et qui était une sorte de concentré, de quintessence de nos rois. Les représentants du peuple crachaient dedans, car la récolte d’objets précieux n’avait pas été à la hauteur de leurs espérances. Nos princes s’étaient le plus souvent couchés dans leur tombeau en chemise, sans bijoux ni attributs royaux, en signe d’humilité chrétienne. Il y avait aussi, auprès d’eux, faisant monter le niveau de la fosse, toute une foule de dignitaires, abbés, ministres, connétables, chambellans, le sénéchal de Beaucaire, le chevalier de Barbazan, le grand Suger, abbé de Saint-Denis, et Bertrand Duguesclin, et Léon de Lusignan, dernier roi franc d’Arménie et premier d’une longue série non close de réfugiés chrétiens en France…

    Le roi Saint Louis, inhumé aussi à Saint-Denis, ne fut jamais retrouvé. Doublement odieux, comme roi et comme saint, on imagine l’acharnement avec lequel on le chercha, on le traqua de caveau en caveau. Peine perdue. Sa grande ombre s’étend, tutélaire, sur la vieille basilique assiégée. Et l’on continua à creuser. Il y eut quelque chose d’épouvantablement sacré l’insondable sacré populaire, celui qui s’oppose au divin, celui qui fait douter de Dieu – dans l’acharnement des violeurs de tombes à s’enfoncer comme des termites en plein fondement des siècles premiers, comme si c’était un nouveau droit de vie et de mort sur le passé découlant naturellement de la Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen. Épuisés, toussant, crachant, asphyxiés, les nécrophages entreprirent de se frayer un chemin à travers les plus anciens sédiments funéraires de l’antique basilique. Ce ne fut pas sans peine. Le 21 octobre 1793, au-delà du sarcophage de Philippe Auguste, mort en 1223, ils piétinaient en territoire inconnu, sans plan, sans repères, doués dans leurs boyaux souterrains qu’il fallait étayer et aérer. Avec le poids des siècles, peut-être celui de la honte commençait-il à leur peser. On doit leur reconnaître un singulier courage. Furent ramenés au grand jour et balancés dans la fosse le roi Louis VII Lejeune et Louis VI le Gros, son père, qui ne livra de lui-même qu’une poignée de poussière lumineuses Henri Ier et son épouse la reine Anne, fille du roi viking de Kiev, et d’autres, et d’autres, jusqu’à Robert II le Pieux, le second des Capétiens, né en l’an 970, à partir duquel les violeurs de tombeaux changèrent de millénaire, et changeant aussi de dynastie, à deux reprises, se coulèrent sous le dallage du choeur par d’étroites galeries inclinées, dans un labyrinthe sépulcral.

    Sur plusieurs niveaux de profondeur s’entremêlaient en un étroit espace une foule de Carolingiens et de Mérovingiens. Les inscriptions gravées étaient effacées. On trouva des ossements en tas regroupés dans des auges de pierre mais que l’anonymat ne sauva pas du plongeon dans la fosse aux Valois. En revanche, ce qui restait de Charles le Chauve fut identifié et découvert à l’intérieur d’un petit coffre de bois marqué à son chiffre, inexplicablement intact et enfermé dans un sarcophage. Charles II le Chauve, roi de France, signataire du fameux traité de Verdun, en 843, peut-être le véritable fondateur de votre royaume après le partage de l’empire de Charlemagne… Le coffre flotta quelques instants à la surface de la fosse, au milieu de grosses bulles immondes, puis bascula comme un navire qui sombre et disparut au sein de ce magma royal.

    Mais le triomphe final, l’apothéose de l’abjection, ce fut la découverte de Dagobert Ier Enfin ! On avait détruit l’abbaye, dévasté la basilique, anéanti la nécropole, les tombeaux, et voilà qu’on allait pouvoir, avec autant de jubilation, faire disparaître à jamais le despote qui était à l’origine de tout cela, le fondateur de l’abbaye, celui qui l’avait élevée au rang d’unique sépulture royale: Dagobert, le Salomon des Francs ! Lorsqu’ils tombèrent sur son sarcophage, après un épuisant labeur souterrain, les fils du peuple eurent l’excellente surprise de constater qu’il n’y était pas seul. La reine Nantilde, son épouse, qu’il avait si romantiquement enlevée dans un couvent, reposait auprès de lui, dans un coffret à deux compartiments, sous la forme d’un petit tas d’ossements enveloppés d’un tissu de soie. Deux inscriptions au poinçon étaient encore lisibles sur le coffre : Hic jacet corpus Dagoberti et Hic jacet corpus Nantildis. Le triomphe se tempéra d’une amère frustration car le plus fastueux des Mérovingiens s’était fait enterrer comme un gueux. On étala les ossements sur une dalle. Pas la moindre petite pierre précieuse, pas le plus mince anneau d’or. A la pelle et au balai furent réunis Dagobert et Nantilde, et balancés, à la volée, dans la fosse.

    La fosse aux Bourbons avait été fermée le 16 octobre 1793. Celle des Valois et autres souverains le fut le 25 de ce même mois. Ainsi fut consommée la seconde mort de nos rois, la seconde mort, Monseigneur, de tous ces souverains dont vous procédez. On combla les deux fosses. On les recouvrit de terre. On les piétina méticuleusement. On fit passer des rouleaux traînés par des chevaux. On plaça des sentinelles pour prévenir d’improbables manifestations de la ferveur populaire. C’était une précaution inutile. Le peuple avait perdu la mémoire. Il ne l’a pas récupérée depuis. Par la conjonction d’attentats répetés et concertés contre l’unité de l’Histoire de France, après plus d’un siècle de laïcité militante républicaine et de démantèlement acharné du sacré, elle a sombré dans un néant d’où seul un miracle pourrait aujourd’hui la tirer. Croyez-vous aux miracles, Monseigneur ?

    • White Republican
      Posted January 7, 2013 at 4:51 am | Permalink

      Deviance,

      Your observation that “to completely destroy an old order, you must strike at its shrines and symbols” is quite correct. As Thomas Molnar remarked in The Counter-Revolution (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1969):

      “A terroristic act is one of daring and defiance through which a traditionally sacred person, office, institution, or symbol is desecrated. Its chief effect is not that it results in the physical destruction of a person or persons, but that it shakes a community in its belief in accepted values and habits, and, behind them, in the permanent nature of things. When an act of terror occurs, suddenly everything appears possible, a crack opens in the compactness of things.”

      “Terror thus defined is what the revolutionary media now practice and encourage. It may be considered as the last phase in an historical process in which the counter-revolutionaries were first reduced to minority status; they were then isolated and surrounded by a wall of silence; the third phase is terror, the discreditation and dissolution of counter-revolutionary concept and forms. It is supposed to bring about their final demoralization and dispersal. It corresponds to the act of missionaries who demolish the pagans’ idols, extinguish their sacrificial fires, and instill in the disoriented souls elements of a new cult.”

      The French Revolution was a veritable orgy of insanity. According to Gustave Le Bon, Joseph Fouché even called for the bell towers of churches to be pulled down because they “wounded equality.” I don’t think this was a sincere expression on the part of Fouché, but rather a reflection of his surroundings, for he was an utterly cynical chameleon. There are some who believe in egalitarianism, and there are others who use it. As Abel Bonnard remarked: “En vérité, si les Français sont à ce point égalitaires, c’est précisément parce que chacun d’eux brûle de prendre l’avantage sur les autres. Ce sont des égalitaires perpétuellement avides de distinctions.”

    • Nick
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      Deviance,

      Regarding your excellent post:
      Le sac des tombeaux de Saint-Denis, par ordre de la Convention, du 12 au 25 octobre 1793. Treize jours de honte. (The sacking of the tombs of Saint-Denis, by order of the Convention, from the 12th to the 25th of October, 1793. Thirteen days of shame.)

      Extrait du livre de Jean Raspail : Le Roi au-delà de la mer – Albin Michel, 01-2000 (Extract from the book by Jean Raspail: The King Beyond the Sea-Albain Michel, 01-2000)

      (Please forgive any translation errors.)

      Wow. This account of the sacking of the royal and noble tombs in October 1793 is somehow more telling of the inherent horror and degradation of the revolution than the better known descriptions of the guillotine in action. As just one example: to take a virtuous queen like Marie-Thérèse or “Maria Teresa” in Spanish (wife of king Louis XIV and daughter of Philip IV of Spain) from her sarcophagus and throw her remains, legs splayed into the air, into a pit to mix with dozens of other cadavers is just a deeply disturbing action among the many, many others described in this passage. This entire account is very deeply troubling to me, and one of the most depressing accounts of human behavior I can recall. It truly brings to a gut level the degradation to which dogmatic egalitarianism inevitably leads. Thank you for presenting this.

  10. Jaego
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    The Last King of France was kept dirty and naked in a cold, dark room. His tormentors mocked him and made him sing dirty songs about his parents. He died after about a year – one of the faithful was able to secure his heart as a relic. It was interred with full honors by the Church a few years ago.

    These are the people that were the precursors and heroes of the Commuists. People don’t know and don’t want to know. Thus Evil lives on. Idealism is so often the ally of of it. Jean Paul Sartre couldn’t let go of his Perfect Society fixation. He was the last to learn the truth about the Soviet Union and then he switched his fixation onto Mao. If he was alive now he’d be an Obama worshiper.

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