Victor Segalen

Victor Segalen (1878 - 1919) is a French writer, marine physician, ethnographer and archaeologist. After studying medicine at the Bordeaux Armed Forces Health Service School, the medical officer was posted to French Polynesia. There he wrote les Immémoriaux, published in 1907, a journal and essays on Gauguin and Rimbaud which were not published until 1978. In 1908, he left for China where he treated the victims of the plague epidemic in Manchuria. In 1910, he decided to settle in China with his wife and son. The first edition of Stèles was published in Beijing in 1912. In 1914, he undertook an archaeological mission devoted to the funerary monuments of the Han dynasty. This study on Chinese sculptures was not published until 1972 (Chine. La grande statuaire). In China, he met one of the rare Europeans who were there at the time, and who marked him a lot, the Belgian sinologist Charles Michel who inspired him with the character of René Leys. He died at the age of 41 on May 21, 1919 in the forest of Huelgoat.

In less than twenty years, in the midst of his multiple activities, Victor Segalen wrote a wide variety of texts: from ethnographic novels (Les Immémoriaux) to collections of poems in verses (Stèles, Odes, Thibet) and in prose (Peintures), short stories (Imaginaires) to travel accounts (Briques et tuiles, Feuilles de route, Équipée), novels (Le Maître-du-jouir, Le Fils du Ciel, René Leys) to essays (De l’Exotisme comme une esthétique du Divers, Le Double Rimbaud), from plays (Siddhârta, Orphée-Roi, Le Combat pour le sol) to archaeological work (Chine. La grande statuaire).