In Douglas Murray’s Strange Death Of Europe an apocalyptic novel from 1973 was mentioned, The Camp of the Saints or Le Camp des Saints, the original French title. The subject of the novel dealt with an apocalyptical vision of an uncontrollable immigration that would leave Europe to a major dilemma for the politicians (letting the masses in would destroy the Europeans, refusing to let them in would destroy the refugees). The novel at the time of publication was slaughtered by the critics and handled as a racist piece. Put in perspective to the same ineptness that European leaders demonstrated in recent years with regard to immigration, the novel had “an uncomfortable habit of bobbing back to the surface” as Murray puts it.
It made me think back of an apocalyptic publication that appeared in 1990 in the Netherlands: Downfall of Netherlands (Country of naive fools) or De ondergang van Nederland (Land der naiëve dwazen) as the original Dutch title. Like The Camp of Saints the publication was in the Netherlands surrounded with the same kind of animosity as its precursor in 1973. Ultimately the book became banned and the supposed author went on a trial and was convicted to pay a fee. I do not know if Downfall was unknown to Murray or he deliberately left it out, but it would have presented an interesting addition to be mentioned in Strange Death. It deals with most aspects that Murray writes about concerning the incompatibility and unavoidable confrontation between immigrants with islamic belief and the secular, indigenous Europeans as well as its hateful reception by media and the elite.
Contrary to Camp of the Saints the origins of the author of Downfall are vague and partiallu unknown. The name of the author in the book (Mohammed Rasoel) was a pseudonym and Dutch journalists (later even scientists) went to great lengths to uncover the true identity of the author. Many names popped up, but until today there is no conclusive answer to the origins of the author. The book was published just after the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and it is made clear in the preface the author wishes to remain anonymous to “avoid the mistakes of Rushdie”.
The style of writing shows that the author has a perfect grasp of the Dutch language and uses very specific Dutch words and expressions, something that would be almost impossible to expect from an immigrant that by the time of writing stayed in the Netherlands for some 10 to 15 years. On the other hand the situations described from the homeland of the immigrant as well as the description of the culture and traditions show an insight that goes beyond of someone who has lived his life in Western Europe. So it seems most likely that the book is the result of a cooperation between a Dutch writer and the immigrant with his roots in the Middle East.The preface mentions the aim of the book “to warn the Dutch that their optimism, naivety and guilt are misplaced when being confronted with Islam” and that “if the course of their actions is not changed drastically they will destroy and give away their own culture and ultimately their country”.
Except for the short preface, the book is described from the perspective of the immigrant/ author who tells about his origins and education. It is a concatenation of deceit, harsh upbringing and corruption. A climate where there is no place for self reflection or self critique, things that would be interpreted as weakness. His contacts with tourists from Europa make him aware that there may be another world outside the one he grew up in. For some vague reasoning, he decided time had come to leave his homeland in the Middle East behind.
After arriving in Greece and travelling around Europe, he ends up in the Netherlands and has big issues to adapt to the mentality of the Dutch. The Dutch seemed full of self-criticism and guilt, characteristics unknown to him until then. A relationship with a Dutch woman fails because of his distrust to the woman and the attempts of the woman to change him approaching him with a typical Dutch mentality. The Dutch, in his opinion, make the mistake to project their own feelings on immigrants, who can not relate to intentions of self-recflection or admitting short-comings.
These cultural differences form the largest part of the story and the general trend is that the author describe the Dutch as naive, civilized and with a complex system of do’s and don’ts. These characteristics are non-understandable for muslims especially the fanatic ones, in the authors view the majority. The author leads its reader though a number of uncomfortable thought provoking situations and positions that caused the banning of the book and the author’s trial.
In the last part of the book the author shifts attention to what will happen in the nearby future summing up how and what will change in The Netherlands seeing landmarks in 2010, 2020 and 2050. The author describes there will be laws supporting the views of muslims, like prohibition of nudeness in window shops. A few, brave Dutch will protest these laws, but will be condemned as racists by the public. He expects the Muslims to have organised their own networks that are being controlled by foreign countries like Iran. The muslims will set up a limitless influx of migrants through their political influence. In 2020 the first part of the downfall will have taken place: the Dutch culture has been lost and the Dutch will live without a soul, regretting because of all that has been lost what had been built up for centuries. Around 2050 the downfall is complete. There is a state of civil war and many Dutch people have escaped to other European countries. The Netherlands itself will be split between an old-Netherlands, where the muslims will be deported to and a new-Netherlands where the indigenous Dutch will build a new society.
If we look at the current situation in the Netherlands, most Dutch have doubts about what is happening in their country: the level of immigration has been extremely high over the past 20 years. The population grew from 15 to 17 million people and the immigration of muslims was the most important factor responsible for that growth. The origin of people with an Islamic background however is very diverse and they operate within their own communities, there is not one islamic front. Their political influence is still relatively small and hardly sufficient to suspect preoccupied policies to favour Islam.
Downfall is almost 30 years after its initial publication a readable and interesting document. Although back in the day condemned as a racist pamflet, it still has a relevant and actual message. It serves as an uncomfortable reminder what happens when you put two rather opposite cultures together while the receiving culture does not set a clear set of instructions how they expect the coming culture to behave and operate.
Downfall is available in the Dutch language and can be downloaded or read online (curiously enough from a regular government site that protects and preserves Dutch literature). An English unauthorised translation can be purchased. In 2003 a Dutch professor (Teun A. van Dijk) published a lenghty essay in which he tried to demonstrate that the author of Downfall was famous Dutch author (Gerrit Komrij), who always categorically denied having anything to do with the publication. This essay has interesting background information about the history of the publication and the commotion it caused in 1990. In 2013 a TV documentary by Dutch State Broadcasting (NTR) was released with a focus on the background of the author.
More about the question of authorship
In general I did not like the above mentioned TV documentary, because it is too eager to point the authorship in the direction of an artist with a Pakistan background (Zoka F.), who would later be trialed more than once on matters like rape and pedophilia, besides his conviction for publishing Downfall. Some interesting points were made in the TV documentary however, that also were recognised by van Dijk (but totally ignored in the TV documentary for further investigation) :
- Downfall was supposed to originally written in English pieces by Zoka F. who delivered pieces of the document to a translator (Rene Kurpershoek) who then pieced together the Dutch text
- Before the publication of Downfall, there were some columns (pre-publications) in an established Dutch newspaper (NRC Handelsblad) that are identical to the content of the book. Was Kurpershoek also involved in those columns?
Van Dijk in my opinion rightfully concludes that the story about the translation was a masquerade to distract attention to a Dutch author (whomever that might have been). In that scenario the problem remains that the book contains a lot of information about Middle East muslim culture, which makes it to me impossible that a Dutch author would have been responsible for the whole text. Therefor I still believe that Downfall was a cooperation between a Dutch author and an muslim immigrant.