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Laotian Pages: A Classic Account of Travel in Upper, Middle and Lower Laos: 2018
Published by NIAS Press
Alfred Raquez's Laotian Pages vividly describes his exploration of the diverse kingdoms of Laos at the turn of the last century with the same Parisian verve and ironic turn of mind that he brought to his first travel book, In the Land of Pagodas.
Laos, 1900 - a frontier land caught in a power struggle between Eastern kingdoms and Western colonial powers, a fertile place teetering between an ancient pastoral existence and the modern machine age. Alfred Raquez's Laotian Pages vividly describes his exploration of the diverse kingdoms of Laos at the turn of the last century with the same Parisian verve and ironic turn of mind that he brought to his first travel book, In the Land of Pagodas. Raquez's keen eye and sensitivity to the exotic in both nature and human culture, combined with a mastery of the genre and his hallmark conversational style, transport the reader to the largely unexplored frontier of fin-de-siecle Indochina. Long known only to specialists on the history and ethnography of the region, this new work presents a scholarly translation into English together with Raquez's original photographs that will finally allow a wide audience to experience the joys and hardships of travel in a land that is both timeless and forever changing. In addition, a wide-ranging introduction and extensive footnotes provide historical context and `then-and-now' perspectives on the cultures and landscape that have undergone massive change in the past century. In the Land of Pagodas, a scholarly translation by William L. Gibson and Paul Bruthiaux of Alfred Raquez's book of travels through China in 1899, was published in 2017 by NIAS Press.
`Alfred Raquez' was the pseudonym of Joseph Gervais, a bankrupt French lawyer who fled to the Far East in the late 1890s. He wrote prolifically about 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.
Reviewer: Nicolas Levi
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