TSLR Book Club Meeting #15: Sunday, May 19

The Shanghai Literary Review’s Book Club will next meet on Sunday, May 19th at 6:30 p.m. We will be discussing two pieces by Victor Segalen: “Essay on Exoticism” and “Stèles. This month's discussion will be led by Ryan, an educator and writer currently working on a sequel to Stéphane Mallarmé’s Le Livre.


Images courtesy Amazon

About the Books (via Amazon):

Essay on Exoticism

Written over the course of fourteen years between 1904 and 1918, at the height of the age of imperialism, Essay on Exoticism encompasses Segalen’s attempts to define “true Exoticism.” This concept, he hoped, would not only replace nineteenth-century notions of exoticism that he considered tawdry and romantic, but also redirect his contemporaries’ propensity to reduce the exotic to the “colonial.” His critique envisions a mechanism that appreciates cultural difference—which it posits as an aesthetic and ontological value—rather than assimilating it: “Exoticism’s power is nothing other than the ability to conceive otherwise,” he writes. 

Segalen’s pioneering work on otherness anticipates and informs much of the current postcolonial critique of colonial discourse. As such Essay on Exoticism is essential reading for both cultural theorists or those with an interest in the politics of difference and diversity.


With this highly original collection of prose poems in French and Chinese, Segalen invented a new genre—the "stèle-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 It includes unpublished manuscript material, newly identified sources, commentaries on the Chinese, and a facsimile of the original edition as printed in Beijing in 1914.

Date: Sunday, 6:30pm Location: Old China Hand Style, second floor OR first floor big table in back corner. Please connect with Juli via WeChat (ID Fialta) in order to be pulled into the Book Club chat group where we post more real-time updates, or if you need help finding the location/meeting table.

Directions: 374 Shaanxi Nan Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu, close to IAPM, metro stop Shaanxi Nan Lu

About the TSLR Book Club: TSLR hosts monthly group discussions about one fiction or nonfiction book related to Shanghai or China at large. Members of the book club choose and lead the books to be read. To learn more about The Shanghai Literary Review, please visit shanghailiterary.com.

Need further details about the book club or help getting a copy of the book/stories? Privately message Juli at fialta on WeChat.

Book Club FAQs:

Do I have to finish the book to attend a book club meeting? Whether you finished reading the book or not, we will still welcome you with open arms! We encourage everyone to read the book of the month, but some people come to meetings without fully completing it. We only require you to have an open mind when discussing the literary themes and Chinese history presented within the book.

Where can I buy these books? Because of the high cost of English books in China, we encourage everyone to buy an e-copy online. You can send a PM to fialta if you're having trouble finding a copy.

Do I need to RSVP?

Yes, for book club meetings please RSVP on our MeetUp page. This can help us better prepare for meetings and provide you the best literary experience possible.

Previously Read Books:

  • Destruction and Sorrow beneath the Heavens: Reportage by László Krasznahorkai.

  • Good Girl of Chinatown by Jenevieve Chang

  • Years of Red Dust by Qiu Xiaolong

  • Street of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz

  • Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones

  • China in Ten Words by Yu Hua

  • Little Reunions by Eileen Chang    

  • Border Town by Shen Congwen

  • Factory Girls by Leslie Chang  

  • The Family by Ba Jin  

  • Remembering Shanghai by Claire Chao & Isabel Sun Chao

  • From the Soil by Fei Xiaotong  

  • selected short stories by Mu Shiying & Yiyun Li   

  • The Invisibility Cloak by Ge Fei