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, a self-proclaimed “explorer without a mission”, 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, far beyond the reach of Peking’s court and its ruling Empress Dowager. The result is a richly recorded adventure through fin-de-siècle China told from the perspective of a wandering French boulevardier and in a startlingly fresh voice. The first English translation from the French of a long out-of-print and sorely neglected work, In the Land of Pagodas offers scholars and students new and unexpected historical insights into the ferment of 1890s China. In its narration it also reveals much about the derring-do and startling hypocrisy of the colonial enterprise. At the same time, this is a tale that will fascinate all readers, taking them on a picaresque journey that is as much Moulin Rouge as it is Heart of Darkness.
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