A masterpiece that effortlessly takes its place among the classics of travel writing
Victor Segalen (1878-1919) was a French doctor, archaeologist, explorer and author who traveled extensively in Polynesia and China. Journey to the Land of the Real ( Equipée in French) is the summation of the author’s life as traveler and poet, and a summation that is all the more surprising since he could know nothing of his imminent and mysterious death: Journey appeared posthumously.
In part, it recounts an actual expedition through China to the borders of Tibet in the last years of the First World War; there are real adventures in a country now lost to time, but more mysterious events too. Segalen describes this work as lying “between what one dreams of and what one does, between what one desires and what one obtains; between the summit conquered by a metaphor and the altitude reached on foot by exertion; between the winged dance of the idea and the tough march along the road.”
Here is a masterpiece that effortlessly takes its place among the classics of travel writing precisely because it is so much more than that; among its brief chapters are consummate prose poems that reveal a lucid, eloquent and very likable author at the height of his powers.