Although Jean Raspail is not known as a famous writer in Austria, enthusiastic admirers gathered here in his honour on 3 July. Beginning with a Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form — complete with a reconstruction of his coffin — in Vienna’s Karlskirche and accompanied by Mozart’s “Requiem in D minor,” about 130 people paid tribute to the late writer. This was followed by a private reception and solemn tribute at a home in the 5th District known locally as ‘Ferdinandihof.’ And in one of the more ceremonious rooms of the house, the candlelit ‘Sala Terrena,’ readings from Raspail’s various works and classic chansons prevailed.
The event was organized by Konrad Markward Weiß, the Vice-Consul of Patagonia to Vienna, and Mag. Ronald Schwarzer, a historian, renowned antiques dealer, and jewel merchant. Weiß is also a leading German-language translator and publisher — through Karolinger Verlag — of Raspail’s works, so the evening began with his introduction to Raspail’s life and work.
Weiß — who had been personally appointed ‘Vice-Consul’ by Raspail many years ago, thereafter maintaining a long friendship with him — had introduced Schwarzer to the writer during a visit to Paris last year. Raspail was then already 94 years old but graciously received them. They had planned to meet again this year, but the pandemic lockdown prevented it. For Raspail, the consequences of the pandemic were particularly bitter: bedridden in a Parisian hospital, it was the first time in 70 years he was not allowed to see his wife.
After Raspail went to his eternal rest, Schwarzer and Weiß had planned to attend Raspail’s funeral, but again measures to contain the Coronavirus made travel difficult. Instead, Weiß organized a “dignified act of mourning” with Schwarzer. “It was important not only to honour Raspail but to contribute to his greater fame in Austria,” says Schwarzer. The tribute at Sala Terrena thus became a “tour d’horizon through Raspail’s life and work.”
In an essay titled “Jean Raspail’s Patagonism: The Royal Game,” published in the August 14, 2016, edition of the German-language Sezession, Weiß had noted that Raspail’s stories saved “doomed peoples from complete oblivion.” In fact, “[a]t the centre of his most famous novels, Raspail depicts chivalrous fighters for lost causes” — characters embodying heroism, idealism. At other times, his writings were prophetic. Raspail’s famous Le Camp des saints is said to have foreseen the refugee crisis of 2015. It is also a rather depressing work, notes Schwarzer, “because it portrays the world of today in such a devastating way.”
Raspail’s profound importance in the world of letters was underscored by the presence at the tribute of numerous well-known publishers and translators. In addition to Konrad Markward Weiß, guests included Götz Kubitschek, managing director of Verlag Antaios in Schnellroda, Germany; Martin Lichtmesz, another well-regarded Raspail translator; and Mag. Wolfgang Dvorak-Stocker, managing director of Leopold Stocker Verlag and Ares Verlag, both in Graz. Each of them read aloud selected passages from Raspail’s books.
It was a poignant tribute to one of the great conservative men of letters of Europe. Guests learned about Raspail the writer; but they also learned about his politics and his Catholicism. In fact, Raspail was truly “the last representative of Catholic, royalist France,” notes Schwarzer. He was not — as some have asserted — a representative of the Nouvelle Droite. “He was a writer of the Old Right. There is nothing ‘new’ about him.”
So, even if only for an evening, Raspail’s determined, unapologetic, vibrant spirit lived on, amid the readings, libations, and chansons — and in the hearts and minds of all those gathered.