'Stretching over that empty sea, aground some fifty yards out, (lay) the incredible fleet from the other side of the globe ... There were better than a hundred ships in all, each one caked with rust, unfit for the sea ... They had lined up in almost mannerly fashion ... and all around, thousands of floating, white clad corpses ... A hundred ships! ... On this Easter Sunday evening, eight hundred thousand living beings, and thousands of dead ones, were making their peaceful assault on the Western World."

This is the opening scene in Jean Raspail's famous -- some would say infamous -- novel, The Camp of the Saints, which offers a darkly futuristic tale of Europe inundated by wave after wave of desperate Third World migrants. When it was first published in 1973, Raspail was immediately tagged a "racist," that label used to silence anyone who speaks outside the box of political correctness.

The novel tells of the flight of hundreds of thousands of desperate Indians from the cesspools of Calcutta. Led by a self-styled messiah, they commandeer a fleet of boats and embark for the Mediterranean. When the armada arrives off the southern coast of France, the hordes simply come ashore and spread across the continent. Millions more follow suit. Europe's political and social leaders are helpless. If they try to stop the refugees, millions will die. If they don't stop them, European culture will be destroyed. I won't give away the ending; suffice to say that irrational compassion holds sway.

It's not hard to understand why Raspail's book stirred so much controversy 36 years ago. European powers had only recently abandoned their former colonies. Westerners were taught to feel guilty about their imperialist past. Intellectuals inflated themselves with self-loathing. As Susan Sontag, one of the more prominent flagellants, said in 1967: "The white race is the cancer of human history."