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TitleFiction and the City. A visual and spatial reading of three Shanghai novels
AuthorChristian Henriot
DateJuly 2008
Text

Reading a novel is like taking on a journey. Yet, usually the reader tends to focus on the story, the plot, and the characters more than on the places and their description or on the timeline of the novel. Literary scholars, of course, provide deeper readings of novels where time and location come into play. Nevertheless, a literary analysis will rarely take space or time as the central focus of analysis. Location in fact may be more important than space (where the action takes place, in Paris or Berlin, or in a house or a slum) rather than the internal logic of space in the novel.

This paper intends to examine how time and space are played out in three Shanghai novels. It draws its inspiration from the work by Franco Moretti, The Atlas of the European Novel, an imaginative analysis and reading of major fiction works from the angle of the geography created in and through novels.1 My own ambition in this essay is much more limited as I shall examine only three novels that share the same characteristic: they all take place in Shanghai. This is about the only point they have in common, even if they speak to each other through time and events.

I started using Shanghai novels for history in previous research, especially on prostitution.2 Yet, it is through teaching that I came to delve more seriously into fiction, initially as a way to lead students through varying representations of the city, then as a way to explore more systematically the dynamics between ‘fiction’ and ‘reality’ created about Shanghai.3 Franco Moretti’s work helped me push further this line of exploration that I shall present today.

The three novels I use are Mao Dun’s Midnight, André Malraux’ Man’s fate, and Yokomitsu Riichi’s Shanghai: A novel. Throughout the present paper I shall refer to the English editions for quotations and references. Nevertheless, my study is based on the use of both the original and the translated texts. The three novels take place in different years, but they entertain a relative link. In historical terms, Yokomitsu’s novel deals with the earliest period, the 1925 May 30th movement being the core event in the story. Malraux’s text follows quite closely with another major event, the takeover of the city by revolutionary forces in March 1927 and the subsequent anti-communist purge of 12 April 1927. Finally, Mao Dun’s story is set in 1930, but the fifth anniversary of the May 30 movement figures prominently in the novel. To varying degrees, therefore, the three novels speak about Shanghai in times of turmoil (war, revolution, economics), either in its very midst (Shanghai, Man) or on the outside (Midnight).

Novels create geographies, not just because they are fiction. They reshape time and space to meet the demands of the story. They also reflect the perspective of the author on the city, or its knowledge thereof. The amount of spatial data, locations, and other markers will thus depend on how much it makes sense to both the author and the story to provide the reader with a sense of the physical layout of the city. Our set of novels offers widely diverging landscapes with ‘near-to-reality’ descriptions in Midnight, whereas in Shanghai almost all place names have been erased deliberately by the author. The ‘core’ space where the story unfolds is also strongly influenced by the author and, one has to admit, his own ‘national’ relation to the city.4 In this paper, I shall argue the three authors created geographies that reflected both their personal access to and relation with the city, as well as the ‘mood’ that they strove to convey in the story and their writing style.


Temporal mapping

Dating Midnight does not raise much of a challenge, but through most of the novel there is room for uncertainty. Mao Dun provides some indirect clues through Wu Sunfu’s automobile. It is said to be a “1930 model”. Yet, the model does not say when the car was actually purchased. The attentive reader will wait until the very end of the novel for the first and only mention of the year 1930 without ambiguity.5 With the year made clear, one can proceed to establish the timeline of Midnight. The novel starts with the arrival of Wu Sunfu’s father on May 21, 1930. The dating can be established on the basis of the date given for the events in chapter 9, the day before the anniversary of the May 30th movement, namely May 29, 1930. A retroactive calculation of the first date of the novel can be done easily as chapters 2-7 follow each other with a precise indication as to the number of days from one to the other. Chapter 8 is a bit tricky since there is no formal temporal indication as to its relation with the preceding chapters. Yet the characters in this chapter are said to have been seen at the Bankers’ Club by Wu Sunfu who happened to have had lunch there in chapter 7.6 Logically, it should mean the previous day as it also refers to the recent rise in government-issued bonds also discussed in chapter 7. Another indicator is the boat party in chapter 17. It took place one day before Wu Sunfu realized, the following day, that he was five days away from the memorial for his father, two months after his death as Wu himself reflects upon how he was two months earlier.7 This would place the boat party on July 15, 1930 and Chap. 17 spread over 15-16 July 1930.

An intriguing temporal marker in the novel is the Dragon Boat festival that appears in several places in the novel. This festival is normally held on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. Mao Dun gives contradictory indications on its actual dating by the Gregorian calendar. In the opening of Chap. 9, he refers to the ‘day before the anniversary of the May 30th Movement’ (logically 29 May 1930) as being ‘only two days away’ from the Dragon Boat festival (logically 31 May 1930)8. Yet, in Chap. 10, he refers to incidents that took place on June 4, ‘two days after the Dragon Boat’ festival (logically this would place the festival on June 2, 1930)9. In brief, the festival is given for May 31 and June 2. My own verifications show that the festival in 1930 was actually on June 1. It seems Mao Dun had a slight trouble with date conversions. Despite this temporal hiccup, one can ascertain the general timeline of the novel, from 21 May 1930 to a few days or weeks after mid-July 1930 when Wu Sunfu, fully defeated by his competitor on the stock exchange, decides to go on holidays to get some rest and recover from the mild heart attack he has suffered (Chap. 19).

Midnight’s timeline

 

Chapter

Elapsed time (days)

Date

Event

1

21 May 1930

21 May 1930

Old Mr. Wu's arrival and death

2

1

 

 

3

1

 

 

4

1

22 May 1930

Attack in Shuangqiao

5

3

24 May 1930

News on Shuangqiao

6

Uncertain

 

 

7

7

28 May 1930

 

8

7

 

 

9

30 May 1930

30 May 1930

Demonstration

10

Uncertain – reference to news dated June 4, but no firm link

 

 

11

1 (after Chap. 10)

 

 

12

Uncertain

 

 

13

Uncertain

 

 

14

1 (after Chap 13)

 

 

15

2

 

Strike

16

3

 

 

17

15 July 1930

15 July 1930

Boat party

18

Uncertain

 

 

19

a few days-weeks later

 

Plan for a holiday

 

 

Time in Man’s fate is far more sharply defined. The novel is set around two distinct episodes that each focuses on one event – first the takeover of the city by revolutionary forces, then the anticommunist purge by Chiang Kaishek. Within each episode, time plays as in a mystery novel. Malraux clearly wanted to convey a sense of suspense, impending events, and tensions. The story unfolds with the exact time of the day or night of the upcoming action. The first half of the novel is concentrated on a single full 24-hour day, namely March 22, 1927. It covers both the eve of the uprising with its last-minute preparations, and the assault on police stations in the native city. Malraux also allows us a short glimpse of on-going fighting in Zhabei around the White-Russian held armoured train the following day. The revolutionaries are victorious but their success is to be short lived. Malraux almost immediately – five days later – takes the reader to Hankou, the seat of the revolutionary headquarters, where the main character, Kyo, desperately and unsuccessfully pleads for an armed uprising against Chiang Kaishek.

After this short interlude, the reader finds himself again in Shanghai on the eve of the attack on trade-unionists and CCP members by the thugs of the Green Gang, the Nationalist army and the police of the foreign settlements. Actually, in Malraux’ novel, only the foreign police in association with the Nationalist military seems to be involved in the suppression of revolutionary forces. This episode ends on April 13 when the father of the main character reflects upon his son, jailed and by then dead with his companions. The father shows up again in Kobe some time later, where he has sought refuge with a Japanese friend, while the main French character, the powerful and cynical businessman Ferral enjoys his own triumphant return to Paris.


Man’s fate’s Timeline

 

Date

Elapsed Time

Event

22 March 1927

12:30 AM

Initial murder (IS)

23 March 1927

2:00 AM

 

 

4:00 AM

 

 

4:40 AM

Seizure of weapons (FC)

 

11:00 AM

 

 

11:00 AM

 

 

1:00 PM

Beginning of uprising (Nanshi)

 

1:00 PM

 

 

5:00 PM

 

 

5:00 PM

 

 

11:00 PM

 

23 March 1927

4:00 PM

Near Armored train (Zhabei)

27 March 1927

 

Hankou meeting

11 April 1927

 

 

 

1:00 PM

 

 

3:00 PM

 

 

3:15 PM

 

 

6:00 PM

Meeting of counterrevolutionary protagonists

 

10:30 PM

Assassination attempt

 

11:30

 

 

 

Arrest of main protagonist (Zhabei)

 

12:00 PM

 

12 April 1927

1:00 AM

Assault on revolutionary posts (Nanshi)

 

5:00 AM

 

 

10:00 AM

Prison

 

a few hours later

 

 

4:00 PM

 

 

6:00 PM

Suicide of protagonists

13 April 1927

 

Old Gisors at home 

July

 

Ferral in Paris

Uncertain

 

Old Gisors in Kobe

 

There is no indication of time in Yokomitsu’s novel. Time has to be reconstructed from the actual events referred to, even if they are not mentioned specifically. At the beginning of the novel, the first few days come in a sequence. Thereafter, time seems to be suspended. Yet we know that the novel describes the May 30 demonstration, as well the two subsequent shootings between police and demonstrators. We also have the beginning of the strike movement at the Japanese cotton mill and shooting of a worker as a time marker. Based on these elements, it is possible to reconstitute a partial timeline. It does leave many loopholes that reflect less temporal inaccuracy by the author than his deliberate disregard about time and space. Yokomitsu’s figures are somehow floating in a real city made unreal by the erasure of time and space. It contributes to the atmosphere of uncertainty, detachment, and despair that overwhelms Yokomitsu’s Shanghai. Actually, time is hardly perceptible for the general reader who would be unaware of the historical events covered by the novel. No date can be ascertained for the first half of the novel. The story is broken down into short chapters that reflect its initial publication in successive instalments in a journal.10 Time becomes more ‘real’ with the beginning of worker’s agitation in the Japanese cotton mills. From this point onward, one can identify a few reliable temporal markers. The novel ends with on-going anti-Japanese violence and foreign troops disembarking from gunboats and destroyers to defend the city, sometime between June 4 and June 12.11


Shanghai’s Timeline

 

Chapter

Elapsed time

Chapter

Elapsed time

Date

Event

1

1

23

4-7 May 1925

 

Workers agitation

2

1

24

Uncertain

 

 

3

1

25

12

 

 

4

1

26

Uncertain

 

 

5

1

27

Uncertain

 

 

6

2

28

Uncertain

 

 

7

2

29

Uncertain

 

 

8

2

30

15 May 1925

15 May 1925

Strike

9

2

31

Uncertain

 

 

10

2

32

Uncertain

 

 

11

2

33

Uncertain

 

 

12

4

34

30 May 1925

30 May 1925

Demonstration

13

4

35

1 June 1925

1 June 1925

Second Shooting

14

4

36

 

 

 

15

Uncertain

37

 

 

 

16

Uncertain

38

2 June 1925

2 June 1925

Third Shooting

17

Uncertain

39

Uncertain

 

 

18

Uncertain

40

Uncertain

 

 

19

Uncertain

41

Uncertain

 

 

20

Uncertain

42

Uncertain

 

 

21

Uncertain

43

Uncertain

 

 

22

Uncertain

44

Uncertain

 

 

 

 

45

Uncertain

 

 

 

Spatial mapping

My analysis of space in all three novels is based on the same methodology. Each novel was divided into ‘events’ based on the occurrence of a ‘new action’ (it could simply be a one-to-one meeting between two individuals) in association with a change of location.12 Using this approach, Midnight can be divided into 53 ‘moments’ unevenly spread among the 19 chapters that form the whole narrative. Some chapters cover only one event, while others offer different situations, up to three, in different places. In addition to locations, I have traced the various movements of the different characters in the city, altogether 18 itineraries through Shanghai. It is the sum of these locations and movements that define the geography of each novel. On this basis, it is also possible to delineate more individual or group spatial arrangements. Finally, I also tried to examine how far space extended from Shanghai through the reference to or discussion of other locations by the characters in the novels.


Mao Dun’s Shanghai

The space of Midnight is incredibly focused and concentrated. Consciously or not, Mao Dun overlooked major areas of the city. The Chinese-administered districts, Nanshi or Zhabei do not figure at all in the novel. The French Concession receives a vague mention – a non-descript five-storied building on Avenue Joffre (hypothetically as in this picture) – only thanks to Liu Yuying’s intempetuous visit to Zhao Baodao. This will remain the only incursion outside of the core area of the novel, the International Settlement, if we except the day trip made by Zhang Susu and Wu Huifang to the Rio Rita Pleasure Garden located somewhere west of the French Concession.

The street names mentioned in the novel reinforces the impression that Midnight’s Shanghai is centred in one single. Table 1 lists these names – also mapped here – by sector. Only the last two streets were located in the French Concession. All the other streets belonged to the International Settlement. The number of actual streets named in the novel, however, does not make them a central element of space in the novel, contrary to Man’s fate or Shanghai. No action takes place in the street, except for Nanking Road for the demonstration on the occasion of the anniversary of the May 30 Movement.13


Table 1. Street names in Midnight

 

Mentioned streets

Chapter

Occurrences

Nanking Road - 南京路

1 - 9 - 11

14

Thibet - 西藏路

1 - 9

4

North Szechuen Road - 北四川路

9

3

Hankow Road - 三馬路

10 - 11

2

North Suzhou Road - 北蘇州路

1

2

Bubbling Well Road - 靜安寺路

1

1

Bund - 外灘馬路

9

1

Edward VII Avenue - 爱多亚路

11

1

Honan Road - 河南路

1

1

North Honan Road - 北河南路

1

1

Peking Road - 北京路

1

1

Changbang lu 长浜路

9

1

Tiema lu - 铁马路 [Pengze lu]

1

1

Garden Bridge - 外白渡桥

1

1

Joffre (avenue) - 霞飞路

11

1

Père Robert (Route du) - 金神父路

2

1

When combined with the actual locations referred to in the novel – restaurants, hotels, buildings, etc. – it becomes even more obvious that the place of action in Midnight is built around the imagined figures of the Shanghai elite and, more precisely, of the Chinese business elite, with its field of interest, activity, and leisure squarely established in the International Settlement The other areas of the city are simply irrelevant, except for the industrial extension of the International Settlement that exists only through Wu Sunfu’s factory,

The movements of the characters within the city do not alter the impression of a drama set in foreign Shanghai. The itineraries represented on this map show how limited these movements are. Of course, there is a certain bias created by the number of trips made by the main character, Wu Sunfu, between his residence and his factory or other business-related locations. The intensity of the movements in the streets is indicated by a range of colors from clear to dark. Wu Sunfu’s trips are highlighted in white. Most streets are walked or driven over only once or twice in the novel (walk from Jessfield Park, demonstration, miscellaneous characters). The geography of movements in Midnight is in fact wholly created by Wu Sunfu who almost literally shuttles between his home and his factory.

Quite interestingly, however, the novel involves only Chinese – not a single foreigner or foreign institution is ever mentioned14  – and their rich and intricate personal networks. The characters in the novel all meet within the foreign-dominated area. Yet not everybody meets in the same place. By and large, the characters are very much concentrated in the central district and its close residential extension west of the Racecourse where Wu Sunfu’s residence is located. Two other extreme poles appear, however, with two very different and significant meanings. To the West, the young characters of the novel happen to meet in Jessfield Park, to relax, flirt, and tease each other. This is leisure time for people who can afford to have leisure. We see them again by the end of the novel at the Rio Rita pleasure garden.15 Most of them are students, poet, and young women with plenty of time in their hands. Throughout the novel, they do not seem to devote much time to their studies, but a lot to talking. They actually do not exist as students. This is no more than a ‘tag’ that defines their status and role in the novel. Their life as students is irrelevant. Jessfield appears as a most appropriate place – some may be studying at St John’s University next to the park – to get together and enjoy its quiet atmosphere.16 They are also good walkers as they chose to go walk home, a fairly long distance at any rate.

The other extreme is far remote in the eastern district of the International Settlement, in the Yangshupu industrial area. This is where Wu Sunfu’s factory is located – a nice location near the wharves, not in Chinese-administered Nanshi – as well as the shabby living quarters of the workers. Mao Dun takes us a few times to the dirty and dark slums where female workers crowd in with their families – actually few seem to have relatives or husbands around, except for one dying mother – and patron a low-brow teahouse that serves as their strike headquarters. This is the world of the poor, of the wretched, even if Mao Dun is very sketchy about the workers and their living conditions. Their quarters are described in general terms, mostly as ‘slums’. Yet this area stands in sharp contrast with the genteel atmosphere of Jessfield Park. Here, one finds an atmosphere of hard labor, frustration, anxieties about wage cuts or dismissals, fear of repression, actual invasion by hoodlums, brutality and threats. There is no physical relationship between the two poles as these two worlds live fully apart. This also holds true of the ‘world of the factory’ that, by and large, exists far away from where most of the main characters interact. Wu Sunfu, the factory owner, is almost the only physical link with the factory through his many trips and short appearances among his managers. Some also make the reverse trip to Wu’s house, but this is rare and limited to the top echelon of the management.

The Wu residence is at the center of the whole novel. This is where most of the action takes place, at least through meetings of all kinds, talks, disputes, plots. Its location is not given with an address, but guidelines in the novel are precise enough to take us almost to the gate. With a detailed map of the area and a pinch of imagination, I have ascribed the Wu residence to a likely spot where all its features (see below) can be accommodated. The residence appears to be a very large mansion with a good track of land around it. The garden, illuminated at night, is large enough to provide for a pond and a pavilion in a remote corner. It also includes an artificial hill. The mansion itself is not easy to sketch out. We know from various references that it includes at least the following rooms:

Ground floor: Small drawing room - Large drawing room - Dining room - Library - Billiards room - Veranda

First Floor: Huifang’s Bedroom - Li Peiyao’s Bedroom - Wu Sunfu’s bedroom - Inner room - Roof garden


Yet it is likely that the first floor has more rooms than listed here. Obviously Wu Axuan, Lin Peishan, Zhang Susu all seem to live there. Given the large number of servants – around 15 – some must live in servants’ quarters in the house, such as the faithful butler, Gao Sheng, or the maid, Wang Ma, with whom Wu Sunfu extinguishes his wrath and frustration with a sudden sexual assault (406).17 The mansion does not constitute a closed space, even within its walls. One can see a lot of movement from one room to the other, with the small and large drawing rooms as well as the library as the main indoor spaces. Usually, private talks are held either in the library or in the small drawing room as they provide a more secluded and intimate space. Bedrooms play hardly any role at all. Mao Dun did not venture into more intimate relations or the privacy of his characters. A bedroom is just a place where one wakes up (Wu Sunfu) or withdraws to pity oneself (Wu Huifang). The two instances of ‘intimacy’ among the main characters take place either in the quasi public large drawing room (the romantic farewell of colonel Lei to Lin Peiyao)18 or in the library (Wu Sunfu’s sexual assault on Wang Ma).19 Flirting among the youths takes place outside (Jessfield Park, restaurants, pleasure garden).20

The Wu residence plays the role of a magnet in the novel. Family, friends, allies, factory employees and even adversaries (though only on the occasion of Old Mr. Wu’s funeral) all congregate in turns in the house. It is quite natural for family members to appear in a place where they live, and with them their close friends (especially young Wu family members). It often appears as a place of leisure, small talk around the pond or to play cards on its roof garden. The Wu residence, however, also plays the role of the main scheming and planning ground. Wu Sunfu meets most often with his brother-in-law cum ally, Du Zhuzhai, in the house, where they sharpen their investment plans. The establishment of the Yi Zhong Trust Company (益中信托公司) is negotiated and decided among the group of Wu allies in the residence. Even if Wu owns a factory and has an office at the Trust Company where he is said to be present daily from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.21, we never see him there. To handle factory business, Wu tends to summon his management executives to his house as well – it happens twice in the novel – although he also makes several trips, usually in haste, to the factory itself. Yet it is related to the emergency situation created by the threat, then the actual implementation of a strike by the workers.22 In other words, one could read the novel almost as in camera with the Wu residence as the main confined place as several characters only appear there.

Some urban landmarks figure more prominently than others in the novel. Hotels seem to be a natural place to meet or live. Liu Yuying gets off the tram in front of the famous Cathay Hotel. She had looked for Zhao Baodao on the previous evening at the Great China Hotel, but could not find him.23 We learn that Fan Bowen lives in the Dalai Hotel.24 Wu Sunfu has a secret meeting with Li Yuying in what seems to be a modest hotel, in a noisy ground-floor room. He advises Liu to find a room in another hotel, in the upper floors, as a place for their daily meetings.25 Zhao Baodao is said to keep a secret place in a hotel to bring his new mistresses.26 The three would-be demonstrators stop in front of the New World Hotel (新世界饭店)27 to make up their mind about what to do to join the so far elusive demonstrators.28 Additionally, large restaurants like the Dasanyuan Restaurant or the New World Restaurant, or of course the Banker’s Club come up as place for lunch or a snack after the thrilling experience of the demonstration. The place of hotels and restaurants in Midnight obviously reflects the social status of the characters who can afford living or meeting in major hotels recorded in city guides.29 There are indeed very few other urban markers in the novel. The harbor is inexistent. The Bund is not mentioned once, except indirectly when Liu Yuying and Fan Bowen walk down from the Cathay Hotel to the Customs house.30

There is also a space beyond Shanghai in Midnight. As Mao Dun wrote in his own preface, he initially thought of writing a novel that would cover both the city and the countryside. Eventually, he decided it was beyond his ability and chose instead to focus on Shanghai.31 Yet the author gives us a glimpse of the countryside in one chapter (ch. 4) whose action takes place entirely in the native place of Wu Sunfu, Shuangqiao. This chapter is split evenly between one half devoted to the ‘despotic landlord, Zeng Canghai, and his inept and pompous son. The second half is Mao Dun’s morceau de bravoure on CCP revolutionaries taking over the town and punishing the bad and ugly landlord. The location of Shuangqiao was initially a deep mystery as it appears many places in China had ‘two bridges’ or a ‘double bridge’ (shuangqiao). Thus there is no lack of ‘Shuangqiao’ throughout China. The only indication given by Mao Dun is the distance from Shanghai, about 100 kilometers (200 li).

Given the historical context and the narrative itself, it is unlikely Old Mr. Wu would have come from very far away and over difficult roads. His son would not have taken the risk of a long trip, even if Old Mr. Wu eventually died upon arriving in Shanghai, struck by the "electrical" brilliance of the city.32 Moreover, it appears news traveled fast. The communist attack on Shuangqiao was reported in Shanghai newspapers the following day. This tends to eliminate the Shuangqiao (b) we identified in Zhejiang within the 200 li radius. Moreover, even if water transport was available, Old Mr. Wu would have arrived by sea and entered Shanghai on the Huangpu River. Since he disembarked on Soochow Creek, it is much more likely that he hailed from a ‘Shuangqiao’ in Jiangsu. There were indeed were five places with that name in Jiangsu province. We can eliminate those that were located beyond the distance indicated in the novel (200 li) – one located near Lianyungang (430 km) and two places (d & c) located west of Dongting Lake. It is also unlikely old Mr. Wu could have come from Shuangqiao in Taicang County (a), only 48 km away from Shanghai. If we concentrate on the localities along the natural itinerary that led straight to Shanghai, the number of potential localities comes down to one.

How can we determine this is the most likely place? This Shuangqiao is located in Kunshan County (now municipality) in the Suzhou prefecture, to the east of the lake, at a distance of about 70 kilometers. This is the heartland of a very developed region, but this Shuangqiaoi situated well inland, away from the higher-level centers, nested in a dense network of small canals and small lakes. This would be the native place of the Wu family, which, by the way, would make Wu Sunfu a ‘Jiangsuren’ – a Jiangsu native – that fits well with the background of many Shanghai industrialists and with Wu’s running of a silk factory.33

From the figures and their discussions in the novel, one can also contruct an interesting ‘national geography’ of China. The main characters are involved in speculation related to the military situation between the Nationalist government and troops and the guerilla of the Communist Party. The fluctuation of the front has a direct impact on trade at the stock exchange. While the bulk of the places named in the novel are related to military issues, there are also various mentions of locations for business or even leisure. I have reconstructed this ‘national geography’ that shows how concentrated ‘China’ is in this vision, The northernmost location is Tianjin, mentioned once, while Hong Kong appears as the southernmost place, from which Wu Sunfu expects news about possible investors. Between these extremes, the core area is central China, with a few cities and major railway lines (also a stake in the on-going military conflict). This focus on central China reflects a certain historical reality as the GMD would soon be lauching its first encirclement campaign in that area.


Malraux’s Shanghai

Malraux’ Shanghai is a radical departure from the urban portrait found in Midnight. It differs in two major ways: the urban space and the population of the city. Obviously, Malraux knew very little about Shanghai. It has actually been argued that he had never set foot in Shanghai before he wrote his novel.34 If the literary geography in Man’s fate is taken as an indicator, it tends to confirm that view. Yet, as we shall see in the next section about Yokomitsu’s novel, the mere presence in the city itself does not necessarily lead to or is not necessarily rendered into the literary narrative. The writer may choose to emphasize other aspects (plot, characters, etc.) with the location – the urban space – as a general and accessory backdrop, even if the story itself places Shanghai at its core.

In Man’s fate, Shanghai is mostly French. While it is quite difficult to spot the actual location of many places mentioned in the novel, the core area is the French Concession and the bordering neighborhoods of the Chinese city. It is quite interesting to see in the geography of the novel a reflection of the “in-between” that also characterizes the main figures in the story.35 The only concrete point of reference in spatial terms is the Boulevard des Deux Républiques, the only street Malraux knows and mentions by name throughout the novel. The boulevard actually replaced the city wall when the latter was destroyed in 1912-1914 to remove what had come to be perceived as an obstacle to traffic and trade.36 The new avenue formed an oblong circle all around the original Shanghai city and carried two names. For the demarcation line that ran between the French Concession and the Chinese city, the local representations of the respective – and for China newly founded – republic, chose to name the northern half Boulevard des Deux Républiques in French and Fa-Hua minguo lu in Chinese. The Southern half, fully in Chinese-administered territory was named Zhonghua lu (China Boulevard). The choice of the Boulevard des Deux Républiques as the main thoroughfare in the novel seems to express the need for Malraux to have a ‘contact zone’ between the foreign/French-dominated area and the Chinese city where revolution is brewing. The main revolutionary characters like Kyo, Katov or Chen often appear walking along the boulevard on their way to an underground revolutionary station in the side alleys nearby. It is also the necessary point of passage for Chiang Kai-shek’s car that Chen and his co-revolutionaries want to bomb.37

In fact, most of the revolutionary stations and even the others locations related to the main characters are located in a limited circle on either side of the boulevard. The first street on a north-south axis into the Chinese city comes up a few times, mostly as a place lined with small shops, in particular pet shops, but also, nearby across the ‘Boulevard’ the photo studio where the revolutionaries are waiting for Chen after his assassination mission.38 Old Gisors’ house can be expected to be located in the French Concession. As a Frenchman, even with revolutionary sympathies, there is very little probability he would be living in the Chinese city. Moreover, we learn that his house is located at about 400 meters from the wharves (or Quai de France). For this to be possible, as shown on the map, the house must be somewhere north of the boulevard in that dense housing area pressed between the boulevard and rue du Consulat. Actually, given the nature of the constructions behind the Quai, the 400-meter distance seems a bit too short. The ‘Quai’ itself comes a few times in the novel. Although it is not named, there is little doubt it refers to the Quai de France, the less renowned French section of the Bund.39 The other spatial indicators for the French Concession are limited. Ferral’s office, undoubtedly in the Concession, remains undefined. Ferral meets the chief of the French police in the central police headquarters located on rue Stanislas Chevalier. Old Gisors meets Ferral at the French Club on rue Cardinal Mercier, while baron de Clappiques meets his police informant at Grosvernor House (called Hotel in the novel).40 The French Club is also the place where Ferral seeks company after his missed and humiliating rendez-vous with his unforgiving mistress.41

The International Settlement is not totally absent from Man’s fate. Actually, the novel starts in a hotel located in the IS, even if we do not know where. Yet, Chen’s itinerary after murdering his target, Tang Yen Ta, in his room, indicates clearly that his taxi drives into the French Concession from the neighboring settlement.42 Another location figures prominently as a rendez-vous place, namely the Black Cat, a café-night-club filled with prostitutes. How Malraux came up with that name is a mystery, but the Black Cat did exist. It was located along Bubbling Well Road, not far from the Racecourse, in an area patronized by foreigners. Even if the area was not known as a red-light district, it is not inconceivable that various individual establishments housed bar hostesses. Finally, another rendez-vous place appears where Ferral meets his mistress, an enterprising and not-to-be-bullied woman named Valérie. Their sexual encounters take place at the Astor Hotel, in the Hongkou area, at the intersection of the Soochow Creek and Huangpu River. The hotel seems to be the permanent residence of the lady.

Malraux’s Shanghai is a grim city, a city of suffering, wretchedness, and of a doomed revolution. And a revolution betrayed, following the dominant view best expressed in The tragedy of the Chinese revolution.43 One will find nothing of the glamour of late 1920s Shanghai, which reflects the general tone and atmosphere of the novel. Even the one place associated to ‘entertainment’ – the Black Cat – fails to convey a sense of leisure or relaxation. Its main patron in the novel, baron de Clappiques, eventually goes a few rungs down, going to a cheap bar and brothel house to get off the pressure building up as his own money is dwindling.44 Malraux conveys here the idea of a ‘decadent’ French aristocrat. Prostitution is a theme that runs through all three novels, even if in a more subtle tone in Midnight. Ferral, in Man’s fate, also chooses to vent his anger, frustration and humiliation in the hands of his former mistress by ‘picking up a courtesan on Nanking Road’ – an unlikely place to find a courtesan – actually a higher-level prostitute he subjects to a base sexual encounter.45

The next important space in Man’s fate is the Chinese city, a space defined through harsh words. Of course, it stands in contrast to the foreign settlements and even offers a kind of haven. Its remoteness from the brightly lighted and noisy concessions provides the much needed tranquility for Chen to begin unwinding after the murder. “From here the rumbling waves carrying all the noises of the greatest city of Chinese sounded infinitely remote”. Even humanity seems to vanish: “it was far in the distance that men lived; here nothing remained but night”.46 After the takeover of the city by the revolutionaries and the ominous pending coup by Chiang Kai-shek, the city is heavily guarded, but “the courts and the side-streets were not closely watched”.47 It constitutes a sort of safe haven for the underground activists of the Communist Party. Yet the main message is more about the poverty and suffering of the millions ready to join the revolution. For the chairman of the French Chamber of Commerce, Ferral, the Chinese city appears of course as a source of threat and danger: “Ahead the Chinese city, very black, unsafe”.48 On the opposite, the foreign administered areas are presented as the real threat: “The concessions, the rich quarters, with their rain-washed gratings at the end of the streets, existed now only as menace, barriers, long prison walls without windows.”49

Compared to the foreign areas, the Chinese city contains “atrocious quarters”.50 All around, the reader finds himself in “a world without end; would daylight even return to these crumbling tiles, upon all those narrow streets at the end of which a lantern lighted a windowless wall”. As soon as they set foot in the Chinese city, the revolutionaries walk into ‘side-alleys’, streets covered with ‘mud’ where “the scratching of millions of small daily lives disappeared”.51 The old Chinese city seems to be eaten up by obscurity and decrepitude: “around them crumbling walls emerged from empty darkness, revealed with all their blemishes by that unflinching light from which a sordid eternity seemed to emanate”. This vision contrasts sharply with Yokomitsu’s view of the ‘native city’. Nevertheless, all hope is not lost: “Hidden by those walls, half a million men: those of the spinning-mills, those who had worked 16 hours a day since childhood, the people of ulcers, of scoliosis, of famine”.52 The Chinese-administered areas – Zhabei and Pudong – are also the source of a powerful wave waiting to be tapped. They are areas of poverty and exploitation, which caused that revolutionary potential: “beyond him was coming the great slashed wings of Chapei and Pootung, covered with factories and wretchedness, to make the enormous ganglia of the center burst”.53

There is of course a problem here as Malraux got the local industrial geography wrong. It would have been difficult to find ‘spinning-mills’ in the Chinese city, a place for housing, small shops and workshops.54 It is equally wrong to see Zhabei or even more Pudong ‘covered with factories’. Zhabei had a few along Soochow Creek, but its industrial economy was made up of small craftsmen’s workshops. As for Pudong, it was mostly an entrepot area behind which life was essentially rural.

The Chinese city is where revolutionary action takes place, even if the reader learns that it is also taking place in the other Chinese-administered area, Zhabei. Malraux does not provide any indication about the locations of the action, described in general terms before the beginning of the uprising (garage with trucks turned into buses55). We can only locate the police stations that become the target of the revolutionaries, including the ‘central station’, but we do not know which one is the theater of the initial assault by revolutionaries.56 Malraux’s novel takes place in very specific types of space. Basically, there are two prominent spatial markers in the story, streets and closed spaces. Streets are where the action takes place, though mostly through encounters between the protagonists, on their way to or from a place. Chen and Kyo, the two main revolutionary figures, are shown in the street for a very large chunk of their time (see A concept map of Man's fate). This is where discussions go on or where the characters reminisce about their past and the time when Malraux inserts a flashback to introduce a revealing facet or event on that character. Even Ferral moves around a lot, as if to take the pulse of the city. Streets are literally a sort of “in-between” space in the story. They also link the actual places and allow the author (or his characters) to think about the nature of these places, such as the aspect of the Chinese city versus the foreign settlements. Even the ground is the object of descriptions about light, humidity, rain, and mud57.

The other spatial feature is provided by the secret, usually badly lit, indoor meeting places such as the photo studio, or a clock shop, or other undefined locales. Even old Gisors’ house falls into that category. Of course, this matches the overall atmosphere of secrecy and hidden moves that surround the activities of the revolutionaries, at the same time as it reinforces the sense of oppression the novel wants to convey. Quite interestingly, revolutionaries are not shy about patronizing night clubs, as in Yokomitsu’s novel. The Black Cat offers an intermediate space where transactions between demi-monde figures, covert revolutionaries and the flamboyant (though helpless) figure embodied by baron de Clappiques. In Yokomitsu’s novel, the main female revolutionary figure works both as a factory worker and a taxi-dancer in the Saracen dance hall (an unlikely configuration).

An undefined hotel somewhere in the International Settlement also figures prominently in Man’s fate with the opening chapter on the murder of an unknown sleeping man in his room. Later, two dubious figures, Baron de Clappiques and an undercover policeman, meet at Grosvernor Hotel (actually Grosvernor House) to discuss the robbery of weapons by the revolutionaries. Yet the most important establishment in the novel is the Astor Hotel, a luxury place, where Ferral’s mistress maintains a room. Obviously, the geography of Man’s fate is quite circumscribed both in terlms of space and urban markers. It is a rather ‘poor’ geography that plays a limited role in the story, Shanghai being used rather as an ‘evocation’ or metaphor for a mysterious environment.


Yokomitsu’s Shanghai

Yokomitsu’s Shanghai is the only novel in my sample that received the attention of scholars from the perspective of ‘city novel’ as a genre. Two scholars, Maeda Ai and Li Zheng, have studied the novel from the perspective of the “space of the novel” (shōsetsu kūkan) and the “space of the city” (toshi kūkan). Both examine how Yokomitsu imagined – and actually constructed – his own urban space of Shanghai. Maeda’s text, published in 1982, relies on city guides to compare Shanghai to the ‘real Shanghai’, to identify places, and proceeds to reveal the ‘image’ of Shanghai in Yokomitsu’s mind.58 Li Zheng’s book offers the most extensive study of Yokomitsu’s work and those of other Chinese and Japanese writers who belonged to the same vein of ‘new perception’ literature (Shinkankakuha).59 He examines the novel through the sharp lenses of historical sources which allows him next to highlight and discuss the major features of the city as ‘imagined’ by Yokomitsu.60

The spatial reading of Shanghai offers a serious challenge due to the choice of the author to locate the story explicitly in that city, but at the same time to “anonymize” place names or even erase them – e.g. a “garden”, a “bridge”, etc.61 It is an intriguing approach as it induces the reader to feel like he is in Shanghai, yet preventing him from an association with actual places (and possible clichés) or simply emphasizing the sense of being lost in Shanghai – a sense also conveyed by the actual experience of the protagonists in the novel – and detachment from a “real place”. There is a certain similarity here with Malraux’s novel in the attempt to create an atmosphere of uncertainty. The space of the novel, therefore, has to be reconstructed through the narrative itself – where the action took place in historical terms – as it unfolds actual historical events that took place in concrete locations. In other cases, places can be “retrieved” from the story line, even if the real place is not named. As a consequence, Yokomitsu’s Shanghai is split into two different spheres, that of political action or leisure, mostly in the International Settlement, and that of the daily life of the Japanese protagonists, centered in the “Japanese sector” (日本街) of the city – Hongkou – although technically also part of the International Settlement.62

The International Settlement appears first through one of its most emblematic locations, the Public Garden along the Bund. The novel actually starts there, giving the reader a quick and rare glance at the buildings of the Bund through the towering Customs House and its huge clock. Yet the ‘eye’ or ‘camera’ does not catch much more, as the author covers the famous riverfront with mist and fog.63 Nothing glamorous here, just a sad place with desperate Russian prostitutes (a very unlikely place to solicit) or, later in the novel, though probably further away from the Public Garden, “an oily knot of laboring coolies”.64 In fact, Kôya is the one character who determines the reader’s path to the Public garden where he has his friend, Sanki, the main protagonist, waiting for him at the onset of the novel. The Public Garden comes up again when the same wife-seeking Kôya unsuccessfully tries again to convince taxi-dancer Miyako to marry him. Almost naturally, they happen to be seated on a bench again back-to-back with Russian prostitutes.65 Romance – there is little of it in the novel – seems to take place only in parks as Kôya, in a previous failed attempt, had taken Miyako to the French Park in the French Concession (the only time when this district appears in the novel). The park is unnamed, but guarded by Vietnamese policemen, a clear indication of where the protagonists are.66

Leisure also induces other limited forays into the IS, although like most places, one of the regular meeting places of the protagonists, the Parterre Café, is impossible to locate.67 The single building actually noted by Yokomitsu (aside from the Customs House) is the Palace Hotel, at the corner of the Bund and Nanking Road, where Miyako literally dumps her Japanese would-be lover to meet with her foreign customers.68 One can also safely assume that the district business through which Kôya walks on his way to the shipping company that handles his lumber, or the bank in which Sanki works until his dismissal, refers to the “CDB” of Shanghai, the golden square where all the major financial, trading and insurance companies concentrated. Yet, Yokomitsu gives not hints of actual firms. Even the Japanese bank that employs Sanki, the Changlü Bank (常绿银行), is a pure invention.69 When real firms are identified – AEG, General Electric, Meister, Lucius & Bruening Dyestuffs Company, Mercantile Marine, Palmers shipbuilding (see Map 9)70 – they are mentioned only as identifiers of Miyako’s patrons in the dancing hall. Quite surprisingly, here, Yokomitsu chose to be incredibly realistic and to use actual company names.71 He also picked Jardine Matheson & Co. to place an underground CCP activist.72

In fact, if it were not for the actual events of May 30, 1925 – the main historical story line of the novel – the International Settlement south of the Soochow Creek, would not figure very much. But since these events overdetermine the life and whereabouts of the man protagonist, Sanki, we see him in the very locations where the confrontations took place, first in the Naiga Wata Cotton Mill (renamed Dongyang mianxi fangji huishe 東洋棉絲紡織會社), then on Nanking Road near the Louza police station (where the shooting of the demonstrators by the SMP took place), again two days later when the police shot again demonstrators, or at the intersection of Tibet and Nanking Roads (where American cavalrymen were shot at by Chinese snipers). This is where Sanki meets for the second and then last time the complex figure of Fang Qiulan, the unlikely main Chinese protagonist, a worker-taxi dancer-CCP activist. She is of course involved in all the demonstrations.

Finally, Yokomitsu offers the reader a tour in the “native city”, the point of origin of Shanghai, previously surrounded by a protective wall, a place thick with culture and history. Whereas his descriptions of the Chinese neighborhoods in Zhabei or Hongkou convey a grim image of filth and rot, Yokomitsu takes the reader onto a quick tour of the famous peaceful and elegant teahouse standing in the middle of a pond near the former City God Temple.73 Actually, Fang Qiulan, the worker cum taxi dancer cum revolutionary, has an apartment with a view on the teahouse, “inlaid with mirrors that glittered on the surface of the pond”. There is a thin fog, but the streets around appear both lively with “Chinese in their spring clothes… carrying flowers” or pouring out of the teahouse “under a gilded sign”. One gets a sense of color and light. At the same time, there is serenity, despite the movement of people or the presence of birds: “the street wound around, following a stream as calm as listening to the sounds of the whistling birds”.74 Again, it serves the purpose of the writer, but makes little sense historically. Given the cost of transportation and the work schedule of workers, it would simply be impossible for Fang Qiulan to live in the Chinese city and work in the Nagai Wata Cotton mill, not to mention the cost of a place with a view onto the famous teahouse. Fang Qiulan is therefore both socially and spatially a most unlikely character.

One of the core events in the novel is of course the strike at the Naiga Wata Cotton Mill and the fray that resulted into the lethal injury of one of the Chinese workers. What we read of course is a fictionalized account of the fighting that recreates quite aptly the rush of action. What is most fascinating is that the author felt the need to associate the factory with an external environment – that of the Huangpu River – that makes no sense at all. The novel makes us see it through the eyes of Sanki on his first visit watching out the river from the “plaza” outside the factory building while he smokes a cigarette or during his tour of inspection with “a hallway facing the river”. Sanki sees not just warships, but also the glistening “glass of a power plant” – the power plant of the IS.75 There would be no way to see that power plant from almost anywhere on the Bund or along the river in the Yangshupu district. The only possibility would be from across the river from Pudong. These views are totally unrealistic unless, again, rthe author actually pointed to the Shanghai Waterworks.76 If there was any river nearby the actual cotton mill where the strike started, it can only be Soochow Creek, where no such things as warships could be seen. But above all, it would simply be impossible to see anything toward the river.

The real Naiga Wata Mill No. 8 where workers go on strike is located away from the river and surrounded by other constructions. Naiga Wata Mill No. 7 or No. 9 had a view on Soochow Creek, but this is not where the fighting took place, and Soochow Creek is short of the sort of activity going on its parent river, the Huangpu. The author was probably aware of the discrepancy, but he made a conscious choice to take us elsewhere in a fictionalized space that fit better his own narrative where rivers and canals figure prominently. Li Zheng argues that Yokomitsu’s cotton mill could only be another mill located on Pudong, also a Japanese factory even if it was called Sino-Japanese Cotton Mill (See NIKKA on Map 9).77 His interpretation is based on the location of Miyako and Kôya in the Public Garden from where they happen to hear and see the troubles in the factory across the Huangpu River.This is not totally impossible, but the two watchers would need to have sharp eyes and amazing ears. It would also make it impossible to see either the power plant or water works.78 The following picture provides a sense of the view one had from the Public Garden looking east.

The tone of the story calls for low-brow places of leisure where the protagonist can unwind after a busy day. The novel starts with a Japanese-run Turkish bath. It is never named and we do not know where it is located. In fact, it is also a complex place. The manager is a Japanese woman, Oryû who runs the place with an iron hand. Osugi, a young masseuse, becomes the first victim as she is fired simply out of jealousy by Oryû who has an eye for Sanki. Yet, Oryû is also a married woman, whose husband is presented as an influential businessman, a major player in the Chamber of Commerce.79 While is it not unlikely for such a bi-national couple to exist – influential Chinese merchants actually worked as comprador of Japanese firms, such as Yu Xiaqing – the probability was quite low unless the merchant had spent some years in Japan. Moreover, there is little chance that a high-level merchant would allow his wife to carry on a business that was a mere cover-up for prostitution and indulge herself in sexual relations with her customers.80 It also makes the location of the Turkish bath quite problematic. We learn that Kôya meets with the merchant by simply ‘coming up’ from the Turkish bath. We may surmise that the husband has its own room in the bath establishment, but we would expect him to have a private residence separate from the Turkish bath. Finally, it appears from other references in the novel that the establishment is located in the ‘Japanese sector’ as Osugi just walks from there after her firing and ends up near Sanki’s quarters.81 We are left, therefore, with an unlikely configuration where the social part of the equation contradicts the spatial one. They are irreconcilable. Yet for all that matters to us here, the Turkish bath is located in Hongkou.

The second relevant place is the Saracen dance hall, again Japanese-run (not unlikely, but rare) and with no indication as to its location. This is a place patronized by Westerners and many such places were in fact located north of the Soochow Creek.82 It was a short trip from the central district to Hongkou. There is therefore some reality in this choice which also fits with the emphasis on most of the story taking place in that district.

At the same time as Hongkou occupies a central place, it is never mentioned by name, again as a result of Yokomitsu’s choice. We are given to understand that almost all protagonists live there, from Sanki to Takashige, the unlucky factory manager, to Miyako, Oryû and Osugi. Takashige’s house is in an area protected by British troops, clearly in the Hongkou area. Sanki has a place on a street that leads to the Huangpu River, with a window that opens on a canal. This could be Fearon street, the only thoroughfare that meets this definition. Osugi ends up in a shabby Japanese-style apartment somewhere along a canal. The case of Kôya is undetermined. We never hear about his place since he is in Shanghai on a business mission. He crashes a couple of times either in Sanki’s place or in Miyako’s. He should more logically have a room in one of the Japanese hotels in the Hongkou district, but there is no hint of this. The only protagonist for whom there is a doubt is Yamaguchi, the flamboyant pansasianist architect turned bone merchant who maintains a Russian lover along with a string of other ladies.

The closest we come to locating his place is in chapter 41 when Kôya tries to reach Yamaguchi’s house and runs into trouble with a rioting mob of Chinese who try to kill him. Yokomitsu actually gives us an itinerary that hardly makes sense. Kôya departs from an unknown location on a rickshaw when a mental map pops up in his mind that Yamaguchi’s house is the closest place he can reach to find food.83 Without proper instructions, the rickshaw takes him “into a dangerous area outside the International Settlement” (could it be Zhabei?) where a moment later, they stumble into a Japanese truck under attack by a rioting mob. Kôya makes the mistake of stopping and trying to run away, immediately attracting the attention of the angry crowd. He quickly reaches a riverbank where he realizes he is stuck. Yet, Yamaguchi’s house happens to be nearby. Kôya steps back into the street where the riot had taken place, gets spotted again by the mob and runs for his life. He first sees the barracks of an American garrison and a line of American soldiers who, to his dismay, proves unwilling to protect him. He continues to run, going across a bridge guarded by British soldiers who point their guns at the mob and turn them away.

Kôya is safe, but we are left dumbfounded by the geography of the escape. We have moved between an area “outside the International Settlement” into an area apparently garrisoned by U.S. troops. Actually a corps of 445 marines landed in Shanghai at the time and were assigned two defense sectors, the Western district, south of Soochow Creek, and the Eastern District (Yangshupu, east of Hongkou) in the IS.84 From that spot, Kôya runs for cover over a British-guarded bridge. The only bridges guarded by the military would be those across Soochow Creek. Apart from the Garden Bridge, there were two to three other bridges that crossed from Hongkou to the IS south of Soochow Creek. This, however, would place Yamaguchi’s house squarely in the central district of the IS. This does not make sense if we consider that Kôya took a rickshaw obviously north of the river into Zhabei (“into a dangerous area outside the International Settlement”) and mentally figured out Yamaguchi’s house was nearby, even by foot. Alternatively, Kôya could have run from the Yangshupu area (not a Chinese area outside the IS, but perhaps still perceived so) into British-guarded Hongkou. These British soldiers may have been guarding the small bridges over the creek that ran north-south and delimited the Hongkou area to the east, but this would make little sense. Guards were rather posted along the defense perimeter that, in fact, included the whole of the Japanese residential area beyond the limits of the IS. Finally, one also wonders how Kôya would have ended up in Yangshupu. The ‘escape’ therefore took precedence over geographical rationality, even within the logic of the novel, as in a movie were action requires the creation of unlikely but suspense-loaded scenes.

Yokomitsu’s Shanghai is also a city of dirty slums and smelly canals. It shares with Malraux a dark vision of the city where whole parts seem to be rotting. As soon as any character strays away from a main street, he/she becomes engulfed in some narrow alley filled with suspicious characters, prostitutes, babies about to be sold, and decaying bodies.85 Moreover, slums seem to dominate the neighborhood where most of the characters go or live. “The crumbling entrance to the slum faced out onto the river” is our introduction to Sanki’s living quarter.86 The Turkish bath is located in a district of crumbling brick buildings”.87 Men are able to brush off the solicitations for pornographic images or sex in the side alleys, usually by coming back into light. There is a clear parallel in Yokomitsu’s novel between light and darkness on the one hand and street and alleys on the other hand. The dip of this somber vision of the city is reached with the nightmarish entrapment of Osugi in a dead-end alley where she came to be lost and came out of it as a prostitute.88 Osugi’s residence in Hongkou is also a sort of mystery. After leaving Sanki’s place she finds an apartment for herself where we see her gazing out of the window and reflecting upon her fate in chapter 32. There seems to be little doubt that this is Hongkou as she lives along one of the canals that ran through the area as in these pictures (Fig. 1, Fig. 2, Fig. 3). Yet in a previous chapter, we have also learned that she “hangs out” in a place on Szechuen Road, complete with a Japanese-style address.89 If so, Osugi would be living or working in the International Settlement. We can easily rule out the idea of a brothel house on Szechuen Road in 1925 (too central, also a period of official ban of prostitution), especially as Osugi seems to have become a street walker, though she also plies her trade near the Public Garden. A more logical location would rather be North Szechuen Road as it ran through the Japanese residential area.

The streets, as in Man’s fate, constitute a major backdrop for the characters in Yokomitsu’s Shanghai. The main protagonists spend a lot of their time roaming the streets (see A concept map of Shanghai). Except for Miyako, who appears only in public parks, Sanki, Kôya, Osugi, and even Fang Qiulan spends a good share of the novel in the street, mostly with action associated with it (demonstration, brisk business activity, threatening alleys, stroll, etc.). Sanki is definitely the character whose life is spent for a good third in the street. If not outside, the various protagonists spend their time either in somebody’s home or in place of leisure and consumption (bath, teahouse, dance hall, etc.). The novel is actually structured around these two categories of open (street, parks) and closed spaces (homes, leisure facilities).

In the same vein, there is an opposition between “river” and “canals”. The river, generally the Huangpu River, brings images of tranquility. The first chapter opens on such a view boats lined up and rocking gently along with the tide, calm winds blowing through. Later on, we see again the Huangpu River, “its calm water… deliberate and cloudy”.90 Sanki also observes the river carrying the warships sent over by the foreign powers, signifying the expression of their will and power, but also as the channel that would bring back the woman he hopes – or rather fantasizes – to marry.91 Canals or even what appears to be the Soochow Creek, on the opposite, convey images of filth and darkness. Canals run along back streets.92 Somewhere along the riverbank where “boats filled the river” – this would reflect exactly the situation in Soochow Creek – “excrement … dumped out somewhere was floating turgidly on the surface of the river”, “pitch-black bubbles gurgled up on the surface”.93 Close to Osugi’s place, the canal carries water “where dented cans, insects, jet black foam, fruit peels and many other objects swirled about”.94 As Osugi continues gazing at the canal, along with other local residents also lost in their thought, we see more rotting debris drifting in the foam-covered water.95 It is in such sewage-like water that Sanki ends up in the final chapter of the story, tossed into the dirty water of Soochow Creek from a bridge by unidentified Chinese men playing a bad joke or taking a vengeance on an isolated Japanese man.96


Conclusion

This cross-novel analysis has revealed very different ‘Shanghai’. In Midnight, for instance, there is no division of space. Shanghai is one city within which the protagonists cater to their business, even if in fact the story is centered entirely in the International Settlement. Malraux makes a clear and conscious distinction between the Chinese city and the foreign concessions as two opposite poles between wealth and poverty, leisure and labor, and above all between reaction and revolution. Yokomitsu’s Shanghai appears much less sharply divided between foreign and Chinese or even Japanese. The dividing line is more about the peculiar nature of the district north of Soochow Creek where both Chinese and Japanese live in equally squalid conditions, which he counterpoints to the cultured atmosphere in the historic core of Shanghai. The foreign settlements do not display specific features, except through vague notations on rows of high buildings or of course the Public Garden on the Bund. Yet, there is no clear association between these elements since actual locations have been erased from the novel.

The movement of individuals is also very different in the three novels. In Midnight, we see constant movement from and to various actual places. Repeatedly, Wu Sunfu rides in his beautiful 1930-model Citroen from his place to the factory, the Bankers’ Club, the stock exchange, etc. Other characters also take strolls on the street or hop in a rickshaw from one point to the other. In Man’s fate, the urban space tends to shrink. Movement is limited, almost circumscribed to one major thoroughfare and side streets branching out from it. There are occasional trips to or from the Black Cat night club on Bubbling Well Road, but revolution calls for the secrecy and darkness of the small alleys in the Chinese city provide to the operations under way among the revolutionaries. Only Ferral, the French counterpart to Wu Sunfu, rides his Voisin car, through the city. Yokomitsu just does not offer such movement, even if his protagonists move around a lot. Most often, we do not know where they start from, and we do not know their destination, at least their actual or even fictional location. While there is much more movement in Shanghai than in Man’s fate, the urban space of Shanghai is blurred, made of successive snapshots in undefined places. Shanghai is lost.

The characters in each novel offer a very different social configuration. Mao Dun conceived his novel around a powerful figure, Wu Sunfu, surrounded by his family and his business partners. The two groups form the backbone of the human stuff in the novel, with one formidable adversary, Zhao Baodao, as the only real counterpoint. The Wu residence represents a sort of fortress from where Wu is elaborating plans to both make profits by speculation and defend Chinese interests. There is a strong sense of genuine Chineseness in the novel, while on the opposite Mao Dun is deliberately oblivious to the existence of ‘foreign Shanghai’ in the city. Yokomitsu and Malraux chose to build their story around characters taken from their respective national communities.

In Shanghai, all the protagonists are Japanese, except the Chinese female revolutionary, Fang Qiulan, and the Indian Pansasianist, Amuli. The Japanese are mostly on the losing side of history, some of them plain misfits struggling to survive better in Shanghai than they would in the home country. There is a certain coherence and authenticity in the composition of Yokomitsu’s characters and in their relations. Finally, Man’s fate certainly presents the widest range of personalities and in fact an unusual and dubious lot. Chinese are hardly present, except through the nihilist-inclined Chen. All the other characters come from an unbelievable array of countries: France, Germany, Russia, Belgium, and Japan. The main revolutionary – the organizer of the uprising in the Chinese city – is even a half-breed Franco-Japanese, a very unlikely figure. Yet, even the chief of Chiang Kai-shek’s police bears the non-Chinese name of König (German?), again a weird choice by the author. Malraux’s protagonists reflect the international character of the revolutionary milieu, but by proceeding in this way makes Chinese revolution very ‘un-Chinese’ and the city quite ‘un-Shanghai’.

All three novels build their own representation of the urban space in Shanghai, drawing sharp lines and delimiting neat perimeters for their characters. They display a literary geography of Shanghai that in most cases is molded around the protagonists and their concerns. The urban space itself is an accessory that the authors use to create the ‘mood’ of the story. All novels cut off large chunks of the city and focus on areas that match the origin and experience – a limited one in Malraux’s (a few days/weeks) and Yokomitsu’s (one month) case – of their author. Man’s fate and Shanghai present a very ‘unreal’ Shanghai whereas Mao Dun conveys a more credible image, though one that also bent toward the ‘modern’ and ‘glamorous’ Shanghai is reputed to embody. Yet all three also successfully make the reader believes he/she is in Shanghai by aptly playing on established representations of the city among the targeted French, Chinese or Japanese readership. Except for Mao Dun, who follows a detailed trail of streets and places, the authors simply used broad brush strokes to paint a convincing, almost ‘realistic’, image of Shanghai. The historian can point out the contradictions, impossibilities, and inventions in the novels. It will remain each novelist’s Shanghai.

1 Moretti, Franco, The Atlas of the European Novel, London, Verso, 1998.

2 Louis Chevalier’s Laboring classes and dangerous classes, that makes a substantial use of literary texts has been another very inspiring source in my own work. Chevalier, Louis, Laboring classes and dangerous classes in Paris during the first half of the nineteenth century, New York, H. Fertig, 1973.

3 I owe a special thank to Bryna Goodman for taking me on board a shared class on “Exotic Shanghai” during my stay at Oregon University in fall 2002. The three Shanghai novels were on the syllabus.

4 Mao Dun lived in Shanghai for several years and was very familiar with the city before he wrote the novel. While there is no indication of his being influenced by literary currents in Japan, he sought refuge in that country in 1928 for almost two years. Maeda Ai argues that one of his other novels, Rainbow (Hong), reflects the mood to be found in the “New sensibility” school of writers. Maeda, Ai 前田爱, “Shanghai 1925” in Maeda, Ai, Toshi kūkan no naka no bungaku 都市空間のなかの文学 (Literature within urban space), Tōkyō, Chikuma Shobō筑摩書房, 1989, pp. 268-271. As for Yokomitsu, he made a short trip to China in 1927. He stayed a full month in Shanghai. His trip was part of a general interest in China by Japanese writers, many of whom traveled to various cities and wrote texts about their experience. Li Zheng, Hyōshō toshite no Shanhai: Nihon to Chūgoku no shinkankakuha bungaku undō ni kansuru hekaku bungakuteki kenkyū 表象としての上海 : 日本と中国の新感覚派文學運動に関する比較文學的研究 Tōkyō, Tōyo Shorin, 2001, p. 11. Malraux’s case is less clear as it is unclear whether he ever set foot in Shanghai before writing Man’s fate. Malraux had been roaming in Asia for years, though mostly in former Indochina. Another of his major novels deals with revolutionary events in China, The Royal Way, centered on the Canton Commune in December 1927. Malraux had a romantic attraction for revolutionaries and their tragedy.

5 Midnight, p. 522

6 Midnight, p. 186

7 Midnight, p. 482

8 Midnight, p. 221

9 Midnight, p. 251

10 Shanghai was serialized over a long period between February 1928 and June 1932 in the literary journal Kaizō (改造). The first book edition appeared only in March 1935 with substantial revision. For a reproduction f the original text and a systematic study of its successive editions, see Inoue, Satoshi 井上聡, Yokomitsu Riichi to Chūgoku : "Shanhai" no kōsei to 5.30 Jiken 橫光利一と中国 : 「上海」の構成と五・三〇事件, Tōkyō, Kanrin Shobō 翰林書房, 2006.

11 Foreign troops, mostly American marines, landed on 4 June and remained in the city until 12 June, 1925. Cole, Bernard, Gunboats and Marines : the United States Navy in China, 1925-1928, Newark, University of Delaware Press ; London : Associated University Presses, 1983, p. 115

12 These events also served to design the ‘concept map’ of Man’s fate and Shanghai (see below).

13 Actually, in 1930 the demonstration for the 5th anniversary of the movement took place in Nanshi, in the area under Chinese administration. Ren, Jianshu任建树, Xiandai shanghai dashiji 現代上海大事記, Shanghai, Shanghai cishu chubanshe上海辞书出版社, 1996, p. 433

14 In Midnight, foreigners only loom large and threatening as ‘foreign imperialists’ ready to devour Chinese industries.

15 I was unable to identify anything with that name in Shanghai in 1930. The garden was named after a famous 1929 Hollywood movie and lead song therein. The film is based on the very successful 1927 stage musical by the same name. The movie seems to have been very popular in Shanghai.

16 On higher education and students in Shanghai, see Yeh Wen-hsin, The Alienated Academy. Culture and Politics in Republican China, Cambridge, Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1990.

17 Midnight, p. 406

18 Midnight, pp. 78-80

19 Midnight, p. 460

20 Very little sex is involved in Mao Dun’s novel. It is portrayed most negatively through the figure of Xu Manli, an upscale demi-monde who is yet received in very formal occasions such as the funeral of Old Mr. Wu. But precisely, Mao Dun shows her brazzenly dancing on the billard table, showing her white legs, and eventually falling into the arms of one of her male admirers. There is clearly a hint of the ‘depravation’ of these men who are supposed to be taking part to a most solemn event, with the body of Old Mr. Wu lying just next door. The same scene is repeated, though on a regular table, during the boat trip that takes a whole party of men up and down the Huangpu River. Again, the excitement is linked to the crash of the boat into a sampan whose owner is left to swim or sink, but anyway to fight for himself. The partying group does not even blink about the fate of the poor fellow. Sex, therefore, is associated with death, the disrespect of the dead body or the causing of death itself. But sex is also associated to money and the buying and selling of women. Zhao Baodao is the main culprit here as he is said to entertain various mistresses apart from his main one. He proudly boasts his good fortune even to visitors, by displaying and touching his mistress’ body in front of the embarassed professor of economics, Li Yuting Zhao’s fortune and above all his assumed knowledge of the stock market also leads Feng Yunqing to literally send his daughter on a sexual and seduction mission. She ends up in Zhao’s bed, while she fails – actually she does not care – to get the expected inside information for her father. Feng himself entertains a concubine who seems to enjoy herself out of her formal relationship with Feng Yunqing. Obviously, Mao Dun is bent on showing the ravages of money, crave for gain, and power on the fate of women. Midnight, pp. 61-62, 205-211, 248, 471.

21 Midnight, p. 308

22 Although there were strikes in Shanghai in April-May 1930, they were minor events in factories. The main strike took place among bus drivers in the International Settlement. It lasted several weeks. A major strike movement also affected silk filatures (7 factories) on July 11, but in Zhabei. Eventually, it extended to 40 factories and 20,000 workers. It ended on 16 July with no gain by the workers. Xiandai shanghai dashi ji, p. 427, 430, and 437.

23 Midnight, p. 283

24 Midnight, p. 139

25 Midnight, p. 307-310

26 Midnight, p. 197

27 On Tibet Road, north of Nanking Road

28 Midnight, p. 222

29 The identification of places was made with the help of the Commercial Directory of Shanghai 上海商業名錄, Shanghai, The Commercial Press, 1928 & 1931; Shanghai zhinan 上海指南 (Guide to Shanghai : A Chinese directory of the port), Shanghai, Shangwu yinshuguan, 1925; Lin Zhen (ed.) 林 震, Shanghai zhinan 上海指南, 1930, Shanghai, Shangwu yinshuguan; Shen Bojing 沈伯涇, Chen Huaipu 陳懷圃, Shanghai shi zhinan上海指南, Shanghai, Zhonghua shuju, 1933.

30 Midnight, p. 281-284

31 Preface, Midnight, p. iii

32 The novel starts with the three words, in English in the original text, “Light, Heat, Power” that correspond very much to the actual neon sign on the large building on the top left corner of the picture. This view was probably taken from the Garden Bridge, over which the welcoming party for old Mr. Wu drove past twice on their way to and from the shipping company. Midnight, p. 1

33 Bergère, Marie-Claire, The Golden age of the Chinese bourgeoisie, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 155.

34 Malraux wrote two novels based on two close episodes of the Chinese revolution: Man’s fate, on the breakdown of the CCP-GMD alliance in March-April 1927, and The Conquerors, on the long strike movement of Hong Kong dockers in 1925. Malraux roamed in Southeastasia, especially Indochina, several times between 1923 and the late 1920s. He made his first trip to China in 1931 He was certainly familiar with Canton, but his presence in Shanghai before 1927 is not ascertained.

35 See supra

36 Elvin, Mark, Elvin, Mark “The Gentry Democracy in Shanghai, 1905-1914", doctoral thesis, Oxford University, 1967, pp. 36

37 Man’s fate, pp. 183-183. The location of the actual bombing in the second attempt is not given precisely, except for mentionning a “desolate avenue”. The term “avenue” is used in the novel to refer to the Boulevard des Deux Républiques”. See pp. 243-246

38 Man’s fate, p. 37

39 Our indicators are Ferral’s car trips. This is the only logical location for the itinerary given in the novel, apparently from the Jiangnan Arsenal into the French Concession (and the Boulevard des Deux républiques). Man’s fate, p. 53 and p. 79

40 Man’s fate, p. 167

41 Man’s fate, p. 233

42 Man’s fate, p. 10-11

43 Isaacs, Harold Robert, The tragedy of the Chinese revolution, Stanford, Stanford University Press,v 1961.

44 Man’s fate, p. 257-260

45 Man’s fate, p. 241-242

46 Man’s fate, p. 10

47 Man’s fate, p. 188

48 Man’s fate, p. 229

49 Man’s fate, p. XXX

50 Man’s fate, p. 18

51 Man’s fate, p. 18

52 Man’s fate, p. 18

53 Man’s fate, p. 20

54 In the same approximate historical reminiscence, Malraux mentions the eight nations defending Shanghai, a confusion with the eight-nation expeditionary force that suppressed the Boxers in North China in 1901. Man’s fate, p. 23

55 Man’s fate, p. 19

56 Man’s fate, p. 92-102

57 Man’s fate, p. 36

58 Maeda, Ai, “Shanghai 1925”; Li Zheng 李 征, “Kyokō toshite no shōsetsu kūkan to sokai toshi shanhai - Yokomitsu Riichi [Shanhai] ni okeru toshi hyōshō” 虚構としての小説空間と租界都市上海 -横光利一『上海』における都市表象 (Yokomitsu Riichi and the Fictional Space of Settlement Shanghai), Bungaku kenkyu ronshū (Tsukuba studies in literature) 文学研究論集Vol.15, 1998, pp. 282-260

59 The expression shinkankakuha has been translated variously as ‘neo-sensualism’, ‘neo-impressionism’, and ‘neo-perceptionism’.I opted for the more current translation. The most detailed account available in English is Dennis Keene's description of the group Yokomitsu Riichi: Modernist, New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

61 Maeda, “Shanghai 1925”, p. 258

62 In this paper, I take a slightly different approach from the two studies made on the novel by Maeda Ai and Li Zheng respectively, although we share the same concern for ‘locating’ events in the novel. My analysis, however, tries to read the geography of Shanghai generated by the novel and to match it with a more historically-based outlook to see what kind of city emerges from the literary narrative.

63 Shanghai, pp. 3-4

64 Shanghai, p. 105. By 1925, the Public Garden was not yet open to the Chinese, especially coolies. It was one of the side-effects of the May 30 Movement to promote the entry of Chinese both in public spaces such as parks (though only gradually) and the heretofore closed political arena of municipal administration. On the political issue of public parks, see Bickers, Robert A.; Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N., “Shanghai's ‘Dogs and Chinese Not Admitted’ Sign: Legend, History and Contemporary Symbol”, China Quarterly, 1995, No.142, pp. 444-466.

65 Shanghai, p. 165. From the picture, it appears the benches had only one side, but there may have been other back-to-back benches.

66 Shanghai, p. 50

67 Shanghai, p. 70

68 Shanghai, pp. 53-54

69 There were six Japanese banks in Shanghai in 1925, all of them located in the CDB. Shanghai zhinan上海指南, Shanghai, Shangwu yin shu guan, sect. 6, pp. 31-32; Ji, Zhaojin, A History of Modern Shanghai Banking. The Rise and Decline of China's Finance, New York, M.E. Sharpe, 2002, pp. 141-149.

70 Shanghai, p. 54, 123, and 127. Meister, Lucius & Bruening Dyestuffs Company merged with other companies in 1925 and gave birth to I.G. Farbe. Yokomitsu seems to have been unaware of the change when he wrote the novel based on the wide documentation, more than 400-500 books, he gathered on Shanghai for his project. On Yokomitsu’s preparatory work, see Li Zheng 李 征, “Kyokō toshite no shōsetsu kūkan to sokai toshi shanhai, p. 22

71 All companies actually had offices in Shanghai, except Palmers shipbuilding (Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company Limited) that never appears in any of the Shanghai Hong Lists.

72 Shanghai, p. 172. In the English version of the novel, the translator apparently failed to recognize the name from its katakana transliteration and renamed it ‘Jordan Madison Company’. In the same way, the local manager of Palmers Shipping is christened once ‘Luce’ and later ‘Ruth’, again due to katakana mistranslation. Shanghai, p. 54, 127, and 172.

73 Li Zheng contrasts Yokomitsu’s presentation of the native city in the novel with his treatment of Hongkou and the International Settlement. It is the only place that reflects genuine Chinese culture, and even grandeur and refinement. The tone of the whole chapter is indeed very positive. Li Zheng, “Kyokō toshite no shōsetsu kūkan to sokai toshi shanhai, pp. 16-20

74 Shanghai, pp. 97-98

75 Shanghai, p. 79 and p. 94

76 The repeated mentions of ‘gulasu’ (glass) about the power plant is quite mesmerizing. All photographic evidence shows that it was a massive brick building with hardly any glass features. It could hardly catch the eye, even with a bright sunshine. The same applies to the waterworks. In any case, most of Yokomitsu’s Shanghai seems to be enveloped by fog and mist any time there is a mention of the weather condition in the city. Shanghai, p. 29 and p. 105

78 Shanghai, p. 163 and 166

79 Li Zheng presents Oryû as the ‘concubine’ of the Chinese businessman, Qian Shishan, not his ‘wife’. This line of interpretation may work, but ‘mistress’ would be more appropriate. A Japanese woman such as Oryû would have no reason to become the ‘concubine’ of a Chinese merchant. Li Zheng, Hyōshō toshite no Shanhai, p. 74

80 In chapter 5, the author makes it plain that Oryû plans to have sex with Sanki, even if he turns her down and calls for Osugi instead, resulting in Osugi being fired. In chapter 28, Oryû has sexual intecourse with Kôya, then with her husband in front of Kôya. According to Li Zheng, the figure of Qian Shishan plays the role of the ‘ugly Chinese’ for the Japanese readership. Apart from his role in anti-Japanese activities, his own personal sexual conduct shows his own depravity. Merchants and businessmen definitely had a bad press with our three novelists. Li Zheng, Hyōshō toshite no Shanhai, pp. 73-79

81 Shanghai, p. 28

82 On dance halls in Shanghai, see Field, Andrew David, “A night in Shanghai: Nightlife and modernity in semicolonial China, 1919-1937”, PhD, Columbia University, 2001 and Henriot, Christian, Henriot, Christian, Prostitution in Shanghai. A Social History, Cambridge/New York, Cambridge University Press, 2001, chap. 4.

83 Yokomitsu portrays an unlikely story of Shanghai being almost cutt off from food supplies, with Japanese being denied food all along the way. While there was a boycott of Japanese by Chinese merchants, including refusing to serve food or deliver the usual daily services such as hot water and the like, there was never a situation where people, including Japanese, were being starved. The boycott made their life more difficult. There were tensions and brawls between the two communities, but nothing like an allout ‘blockade’. Shanghai, p. 177

84 Cole, Bernard, Gunboats and Marines, p. 115

85 Shanghai, p. 48, 49, 105

86 Shanghai, p. 105

87 Shanghai, p. 7

88 Prostitution is very present in Shanghai, mostly in association with the dark side alleys of Hongkou, lowbrow teahouses cum brothels. Russian women in the novel are either street hawkers or ‘sold to’ Japanese businessmen. Two Japanese female characters, Miyako and Osugi, are engaged in prostitution. Fang Qiulan, though a worker-CCP activist, also holds the strange role of taxi-dancer at the Saracen dance hall. Not all taxi dancers were prostitutes, even if this profession was associated with prostitution. See Henriot, Prostitution in Shanghai, chap. 4

89 The translator wrongly rendered this as “Shisenro” in the English version. There is also an ambiguity on the significance of Minagawa that seems to point to an establishment such as a brothelhouse. Shanghai, p. 112

90 Shanghai, p. 62

91 Shanghai, p. 79

92 Shanghai, p. 28

93 Shanghai, p. 28 and p. 105

94 Shanghai, p. 137

95 Shanghai, p. 138

96 Shanghai, pp. 206-207

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