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Travels in China
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In 1974 Roland Barthes travelled in China as part of a small delegation of distinguished French philosophers and literary figures. They arrived in China just as the last stage of the Cultural Revolution was getting underway - the campaign to criticize Lin Biao and Confucius. While they were welcomed by writers and academics, the travelers were required to follow a pre-established itinerary, visiting factories and construction sites, frequenting shows and restaurants that were the mainstay of Western visitors to China in the 70s. Barthes planned to return from the trip with a book on China: the book never materialized, but he kept the diary notes he wrote at the time. The notes on things seen, smelled and heard alternate with reflections and remarks - meditations, critiques or notes of sympathy, an aside from the surrounding world. Published now for the first time more than thirty years after the trip, these notebooks offer a unique portrait of China at a time of turbulence and change, seen through the eyes of the world s greatest semiotician.
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Table of Contents

Introduction Map of China Roland Barthes: Notes from a Visit to China Notebook 1 Notebook 2 Notebook 3 Notes for Notebooks 1-3 Notebook 4 Thematic index Index of proper names Facsimile of Notebook 1 (Roland Barthes Archives, IMEC)

About the Author

Roland Barthes (1915-1980) was a French essayist and social and literary critic.

Reviews

"The book's most charming aspect is his little sketches: ofhairstyles, or statues, or seating plans, and one tiny caricatureof a near-featureless but somehow reassuring Confucius, anapparition perhaps of one whom Barthes wished to meet butdidn't." TheGuardian "The three notebooks that make up 'Travels in China' recordimpressions of what Barthes sees, hears, eats, and thinks in thepresent tense, so that we feel as if we re perched on hisshoulder, watching the events unfold in real time." LosAngeles Review of Books "These writings present an encounter between one of modernFrance's most influential intellectuals and a China undergoingprofound change and adjustement." TimesHigher Education "An entertainingly frank personal travelogue." TheNewark Star-Ledger "Travels in China presents the drama of the leftist semiotician ina world in which there doesn't seem to be anything left tointerpret In general, this collection calls to mind thosemay Utopias verging on dystopias in which, all social problemshaving been solved, society lapses into a stultifying bordeom -except that this wasn't a fantasy of the future but rather anencounter with what existed in the here and now." New Statesman "A China that was in the throes of its cultural revolution wasperhaps the perfect location for the unsentimental, observant andwry writer, who loved nothing more than to burst the vain balloonsof human life. It is all here, from the greasy rice spoiling hisnew trousers on the way out, to the official and officious goodbyeat Beijing." Good Book Guide "Reveals a figure who saw failure before his contemporaries andfound Tel Quel 's Maoist phase to be far from a great leapforward." Times Literary Supplement "Barthes's notebooks show three things that differentiate himfrom many useful idiots, as Lenin once put it, of the time: he washonest about what he saw in China, he was bored most of the time,and he was gay." Literary Review "This is an image of pre-capitalist China, a snapshot of anation that has changed utterly in the past 35 years." Sydney Morning Herald "Barthes writes with his customary insight and style." Conde Nast Traveller "These notebooks, object of much controversy when published inFrance, record Barthes' ateempts to take an interest in Mao's Chinaand his disaffection from the eager political discussions of hisFrench companions. Though Barthes would doubtless have opposed thepublicatino of this combination of dutiful note-taking and intimatenotations, these fragments give an unfiltered picture of hisaffective reactions, touristic boredom, and sexualfrustration." Jonathan Culler, Cornell University "What's delicate and even discreetly political about theseengaging notes on a brief trip to China is the liveliness ofBarthes's resistance to the obvious and his continuing quest forthe oblique and curious. He was too subtle a thinker simply toendorse the unpredictable; but he knew when to worry aboutpredictability, even in a good cause." Michael Wood, Princeton University

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