A Classic Account of Travel in Upper, Middle and Lower Laos
Alfred Raquez (edited and translated by William L. Gibson and Paul Bruthiaux)
- Published: 2018
- Pages: 600 pp., 2 vols
- 310 illustrations & 13 maps
- Series: Exploring Asia
- Series number: 2
- First scholarly translation of Alfred Raquez’s classic travel account of fin de siècle Indochina.
- Explores the rugged terrain of far-flung Laos with an insightful, humorous yet mysterious master of travel writing.
- Extensive notes and an introduction give historical context and modern realities for the places covered.
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-siècle 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 and had access to some of the powerful players in French Indochina. He wrote prolifically about China and Indochina, took some of the earliest photographs of Laos and made the earliest field sound recordings in that land. He died under mysterious circumstances in Marseille in 1907. Confidence man, daring 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 of European colonial expansion into the Far East.
About the translators: California-native William L. Gibson (with a PhD in literature from the University of Leeds) is a writer, researcher and occasional sound artist based in Southeast Asia. Details of his trilogy of hard-boiled crime fiction set in 1890s Singapore and Malaya are found at www.williamlgibson.com. A prolific academic author and editor, Paul Bruthiaux holds a PhD in linguistics from the University of Southern California and now lives in Thailand. His memoir, French Bred: Growing up provincial in a bygone France, was published in 2012.Go to author page