Victor Segalen has come to be widely recognized in recent years as one of the luminaries of French modernism. Trained as a surgeon and Chinese interpreter, he wrote prolifically in a variety of genres. With this highly original collection of prose poems in French and Chinese, Segalen invented a new genre-the "stele-poem"-in imitation of the tall stone tablets with formal inscriptions that he saw in China. His wry persona declaims these inscriptions like an emperor struggling to command his personal empire, drawing from a vast range of Chinese texts to explore themes of friendship, love, desire, gender roles, violence, exoticism, otherness, and selfhood. The result is a linguistically and culturally hybrid modernist poetics that is often ironic and at times haunting. Segalen's bilingual masterwork is presented here fully translated, in the most extensively annotated critical edition ever produced. It includes unpublished manuscript material, newly identified sources, commentaries on the Chinese, and a facsimile of the original edition as printed in Beijing in 1914. Volume 2 of this work is available online at www.wesleyan.edu/wespress/segalen2 and www.steles.org.
About the Author
TIMOTHY BILLINGS is an associate professor of English at Middlebury College.
CHRISTOPHER BUSH teaches comparative literature and humanities at
HAUN SAUSSY is a professor of comparative literature at Yale University.