La Dame aux Camélias

“I am convinced that the fate of France is sealed,” Jean Raspail wrote three years ago in Le Figaro.  “The deed is done.”  Strolling down Rue de Mogador toward the Place de l’Opéra in Paris on a bright September morning with a copy of that paper rolled under my arm, I found Raspail’s words close to incredible, a dark illusion.  Yet the illusion that the prophecy is an illusion is the principal reason why its realization is a virtual certainty.  That same evening, one of France’s keenest minds, most discerning intellects, and uncompromising voices confirmed Raspail’s prophecy as we drank champagne at twilight in his flat on the Left Bank with a view toward the brooding banlieues of Africa on the city’s perimeter.  In the spring of 2006, haute couture became couture carnage—Moorish headwraps and tunics stained with splashes of red expressing a macabre sense of popular humor recalling that of Paris during the Reign of Terror.

And yet, the illusory has a reality of its own, like the artistic creation that it is.  Paris is so lovely!  Rome is the universal as well as the Eternal City, an endless arrangement of labyrinths arrayed vertically in descending layers that seem to approach the center of the earth.  Rome has infinite variety, infinite complexity, deepening shades of mystery as impenetrable...

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