Dominique Venner, the far-right French essayist who shot himself before the altar of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Tuesday, was a bitter opponent of same-sex marriage and influence of Islam in France.
In the final entry in his blog, dated the day of his death, he wrote about the failure of peaceful mass protests to prevent the passage of the marriage law and talked of "new, spectacular and symbolic gestures to wake up the sleep walkers and shake the anaesthetised consciousness".
"We are entering a time when words must be backed up by actions," he said. Venner, 78, was a former soldier who willingly served with the French army in Algeria during the war for independence. On his return, he engaged in far-right politics, taking part in an attack on Communist Party headquarters in Paris in 1956. He joined the outlawed OAS paramilitary group, which campaigned against Algerian independence and tried to assassinate Charles De Gaulle. His OAS activities earned him 18 months in La Sante prison in Paris. In the 1970s, he turned his back on party politics and made a career writing about military history. Numerous published works include Pistols And Revolvers and a history of the Russian Civil War.
In the age of the internet, he kept a blog on which he fulminated against what he perceived as threats to French identity. In his final blog post, he quoted an Algerian blogger predicting Islamists would rule France within 15 years, overturning the new law on same-sex marriage. For Venner, the prospect of Islamist rule and the reality of same-sex marriage were equally "disastrous". He closed his entry with lines reminiscent of French existentialist authors of the left, active during the war in Algeria. "It is here and now that our destiny is played out to the very last second," he wrote. "And this final second has as much importance as the rest of a life." Later on the same day, he entered the country's most celebrated cathedral, where he pulled out a pistol and shot himself through the mouth. Police said he had made no statement though a note was found next to his body. The cathedral's rector, Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, said Venner had not been known as a worshipper at Notre Dame. The dead man's editor, Pierre-Guillaume de Roux, suggested it would be wrong to link his suicide to the same-sex marriage affair because it went "far beyond". The essayists had been preparing a new work called A Samurai Of The West, The Breviary Of The Unsubued, he said. Venner's death, de Roux told AFP news agency, might be compared to that of the far-right Japanese writer Kimitake Hiraoka, known better as Mishima, who performed ritual suicide in 1970 after a failed coup attempt.