In the Land of Pagodas: A Classic Account of Travel in Hong Kong, Macao, Shanghai, Hubei, Hunan and Guizhou
by Alfred Raquez, edited and translated by William L. Gibson and Paul Bruthiaux
China, 1898: a time of war, intrigue and growing foreign power. Onto the scene comes a Parisian fugitive with a gifted pen and a journalist’s eye. Alfred Raquez drifts from Indochina to Hong Kong, Macao and Canton before falling in with a group of shady entrepreneurs in Shanghai with interests far up the Yuan River. In short order, Raquez sets off on a rollicking voyage into the heart of the lawless Miao-country, pen and camera in hand. The result is a richly recorded adventure told from the perspective of a wandering French boulevardier.
In the Land of Pagodas takes readers on a picaresque journey that is as much Moulin Rouge as it is Heart of Darkness, and in its narration reveals much about the derring-do and startling hypocrisy of the colonial enterprise. Raquez’s amazing story is continued in his second book, Laotian Pages, on his Laotian travels, again translated and edited by Bruthiaux and Gibson.
"In the Land of Pagodas is a fun read full of unexpected delights. Editors William L. Gibson and Paul Bruthiaux have done a tremendous job bringing the book back to life. It’s beautifully translated and the introduction and copious notes add greatly to the pleasure and value of reading the book." – John Grant Ross, Bookish.asia
'Alfred Raquez’ was the pseudonym of Joseph Gervais, a bankrupt French lawyer who fled to the Far East in the late 1890s and had access to some of the powerful players in French Indochina. He wrote prolifically about China and Indochina and took some of the earliest photographs and field sound recordings in Laos. He died under mysterious circumstances in Marseille in 1907. Confidence man, intrepid explorer, dashing bon vivant, proto-photojournalist and amateur ethnographer in equal parts, Raquez offers one of the more intriguing voices (not to mention mystery-filled yarns) of any commentator on the mix of ambitions and follies of European colonial expansion into the Far East.
California-native William L. Gibson is an author, researcher and sound artist based in Southeast Asia. Singapore Red, the final installment in his trilogy of hard-boiled crime fiction set in 1890s Malaya, was published in 2017.
Paul Bruthiaux taught linguistics in universities in California, Texas, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand. He is now a language consultant, editor, and translator and lives in Chiang Mai.
Publication year: 2017
530 pp / 229mm x 152mm
5 maps, 56 b&w illustrations
ISBN: 978-87-7694-202-1, Paperback
ISBN: 978-87-7694-201-4, Hardback