Laotian Pages in PHILAO
The good people at PHILAO: Bulletin de l’Association Internationale des Collectionneurs de Timbres‐poste du Laos have been strong supporters of my work on Alfred Raquez since I started, and now they have kindly published a long promotion (in English) in the latest issue of my new scholarly translation with Paul Bruthiaux of Raquez’s Pages Laotiennes.
Here is the transcription:
My colleague Paul Bruthiaux and I are proud to announce to PHILAO readers the second in our series of scholarly translations of the writing of Alfred Raquez. Published by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, our translation of Pages Laotiennes follows our 2017 translation of Au Pays des Pagodes, which the South China Morning Post called “an impressive academic update and required reading for anyone with a connection to China.” We follow the same high standards with our translation of Raquez’s travels through Laos.
As Raquez’s best known work, Pages Laotiennes presents unique difficulties for research and translation. The existing translation, misleadingly titled Around Laos in 1900: A Photographer’s Adventures, is prone to error, and we felt a new appreciation was needed. Our Laotian Pages features a 50,000-word introduction and hundreds of annotations that build on the scholarship presented in In the Land of Pagodas, offering fresh insight into the life and times of the author.
Raquez’s peers considered him a first-rate author. In addition to the book-length works, he penned many hundreds of articles for the Hanoi-based L’Avenir du Tonkin and La Revue Indochinoise (for which he was editorial director from 1904), and many dozens of articles in France for La Dépêche Coloniale and its sister publication, La Dépêche Coloniale Illustrée, among others. He was also admired as an explorer and granted an interview to the prestigious Le Globe Trotter Journal Illustreé in 1906.
Despite the rarity and volume of this work—consisting of thousands of pages—a key part of our research has been to track down all Raquez’s publications, interviews, and obituaries. We discovered that like Pages Laotiennes, his journalism often takes the form of personal travel diaries, and it was this work that his peers most admired. They also offer clues to his relationships and activities in Indochina that have long puzzled fans.
Raquez offers a unique voice in the annals of French Indochina, a blend of fin-de-siècle flâneur and political hack, a man who charmed his way into the upper echelons of the colonial political machine yet retained his idiosyncratic writing style, bringing the sensibility of Montmartre to descriptions of the Far East. The writer Jean Ajalbert, whom met Raquez at the 1902 Hanoi Exposition, recalled Raquez as a “humorous writer, a jovial epicurean and lover of travel and artistic erudition,” traits that we strive to preserve in our translations.
Our new translation introduces this voice to an Anglophone audience while preserving and contextualizing it for a Francophone one. Readers already familiar with Alfred Raquez will discover fascinating new information about him and the French Orient during the late Belle Époque.
Laotian Pages features all 310 original illustrations and presents 13 maps of Raquez’s trail from Yokohama, overland through Laos, and down the Mekong to Phnom Penh.
It is available now from NIAS Press: http://www.niaspress.dk/books/laotian-pages.