The Bannon Canon: Books Favored by the Trump Adviser

Nina Burleigh
The Bannon Canon: Books Favored by the Trump Adviser

People who know Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's chief strategist, often talk about his love of books, his penchant for quoting from them and a desk piled with obscure tomes, open to pages where he’s searched for quotes or inspiration. But his reading list isn’t standard-issue history or literature. Heavy on war-fighting, apocalypse and identifying the scourge of what might be called “the other,” it includes books that are definitely not in the Western canon, books by obscure European intellectuals whose ideas once gave succor to fascists and whose works most academies now shun.

And so, here is some of the Bannon Canon:

Charles Maurras

He was a French philosopher, Catholic nationalist and famous anti-Semite who from 1908 to 1944 edited L’Action Francaise, a pro-monarchy and anti-Semitic magazine devoted to a movement born out of the Dreyfus affair, in which an innocent Jewish soldier was convicted of passing secrets to the Germans in 1894. Maurras called the French Republic “the Jew State, the Masonic State, the immigrant State.” He spent eight months in prison in 1936 for attempted assassination of Jewish politician Leon Blum. French media reports that Bannon had “expressed admiration” for Maurras in conversations with nationalists trying to break up the European Union.

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Julius Evola

An esoteric, Nazi-affiliated Italian who died in 1974, Evola was a leading proponent of “Traditionalism,” in which the Renaissance, the French Revolution and the Protestant Reformation—along with progress and equality generally—are deemed poisonous concepts. His most influential work, The Revolt Against the Modern World, was published in 1934. His thinking now inspires the Hungarian nationalist party and Greece’s neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. Benito Mussolini was a fan, and Bannon praised his ideas in a speech at the Vatican in 2014.

Jean Raspail 

His The Camp of the Saints (1973) is a xenophobic explosion of a racist novel about hordes of unassimilable brown people entering Europe. “Scraggy branches, brown and black.... All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms.” Poor, brown children are spoiled fruit “starting to rot, all wormy inside, or turned so you can’t see the mold.” Bannon referred repeatedly to the obscure book during radio appearances in the last few years, according to The Huffington Post. “It’s been almost a Camp of the Saints–type invasion into central and then western and northern Europe,” he said in October 2015. “The whole thing in Europe is all about immigration,” he said in January 2016. “It’s a global issue today—this kind of global Camp of the Saints.” Later that month, he said: “It’s not a migration, It’s really an invasion. I call it The Camp of the Saints.

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Sun Tzu

His The Art of War, a classic of military strategy, is high on military fanboy Bannon’s list. One of Bannon’s former Hollywood friends, describing his affinity for all things warlike to The Daily Beast after Trump put Bannon on the National Security Council, said, “Steve is a strong militarist. He’s in love with war—it’s almost poetry to him. He’s studied [war] down through the ages, from Greece, through Rome...every battle, every war.... Never back down, never apologize, never show weakness.... He lives in a world where it’s always high noon at the O.K. Corral.”

Bhagavad Gita

This 2,000-year-old tome, written in Sanskrit, contains 700 verses about dharma and holy war. Bannon is said to “have an obsession” with dharma, the Eastern principle of cosmic order, for which there is no word in Western languages.

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Bannon’s “obsession” with military victories and epic battles is so strong that the password on his office computer in Santa Monica, California, was Sparta.

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William Strauss and Neil Howe

These historians’ The Fourth Turning (1997) sees history in predictably timed cycles of cataclysmic change. The notion is known as the Strauss-Howe generational theory, which divides cycles into 22-year spans and suggests that after four cycles, revolutions occur. Bannon has calculated that we’ve reached the end of an 80-year cycle and are headed to a possible third world war, in the form of America against Islam, the West versus the East, white versus brown. 

Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

It’s more gore than poetry and roses, packed with rape and revenge, and Bannon supposedly wanted to make a film of it—set not in 16th-century England but on the moon. That never got made, though he was a producer on a 1999 film called Titus.

Donald Trump, Time to Get Tough and Make America Great Again 

Bannon gave the book a rave Breitbart review in July 2015, a month after Trump announced his candidacy. The book “stands out as his most penetrating, serious, and detailed enunciation of his political philosophy and policy views,” Bannon wrote.

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