The Rapture came and went. But California prophet Harold Camping and his followers are still here, Earth-bound, with the rest of us. Some of his flock had gone so far as to quit their jobs and give away all their possessions, only to find themselves destitute the day after.
The Toronto Star reported that “Camping, who predicted that 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven Saturday before the Earth was destroyed, said he felt so terrible when his doomsday prediction did not come true that he left home and took refuge in a motel with his wife. His independent ministry, Family Radio International, spent millions — some of it from donations made by followers — on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs plastered with the Judgment Day message.”
For some, the apocalypse is an extraordinary one-time event that occurs with regularity. Take the Randall family, a creation of Quebec fiction writer Nicolas Dickner. For generations, each young Randall becomes a full-grown woman, or a man, when the details of the Apocalypse are revealed to them. They see mass death, fire, flood and fury, and know to the very depth of their being exactly when and how the world will end.
To each Randall is revealed a different date.
Each Randall, obsessed with The End, spends years preparing for the devastation, only to discover that their personal date is wrong. Their own death, usually self-inflicted, follows soon after.
Apocalypse For Beginners (2010), translated from the French by Lazer Lederhendler, may sound serious and dreary, but this is in fact a gently funny book filled with charm and insight. It focuses on a new generation of Randalls: Mum Ann is hoarding flour and ramen noodles, while teen daughter Hope is coping as best she can as she awaits her own revelation.
Hope confides to her new friend Michel (the narrator), soon after mum and daughter arrive in Riviere du Loup from New Brunswick. There is curiosity and expectation as the youngster prepares to face her own destiny.
“Once inside, Mrs. Randall said she was not hungry anymore, that she would rather sleep until 1997, or even longer, if possible. That she would wake up only in the event of an unaccredited apocalypse, thank you very much. While Hope removed her boots and coat, I pulled open the sofa bed. The springs creaked, indicating the need for a few drops of oil. Everything in that dump rusted from the dampness.
“Hope helped her mother climb under the sheets, pulled the blankets up to her chin, kissed her on the forehead. Ten seconds later, Mrs. Randall was droning away in Aramaic.”
How will Hope choose to live her own life? Perhaps her apocalypse will be environmental in nature, given her love for David Suzuki ? There are so many, many possible ways for the world to end…
As for Camping’s religious apocalypse, there seems to be little patience out there for the preacher and his followers. “Jeff Hopkins had figured the gas money he spent driving back and forth from Long Island to New York City would be worth it, as long as people could see the ominous sign atop his car warning that the End of the World was nigh,” the Star reported.
“I’ve been mocked and scoffed and cursed at and I’ve been through a lot with this lighted sign on top of my car,” said Hopkins.
Camping, meanwhile, has announced that Judgement Day is now scheduled for Oct. 21.
– Eleanor Brown, May 27, 2011