Lao She is widely recognized as one of China’s great modern writers yet the years he spent in London as a young aspiring writer have received little attention.
Lao She’s encounter with British high modernism and literature from Dickens to Joseph Conrad and James Joyce resulted in the novel Er Ma (Mr Ma and Son, 1928).
Here we see a panorama of London life in the 1920s, from literary soireés in Bloomsbury in the West End, to Chinatown cafés down in the much sensationalized Limehouse district in the East End. Most of all, Er Ma gives readers a picture of what it was like to be Chinese at a time when mainstream culture in the West was dominated by notions of a Yellow Peril.
Anne Witchard lectures in English Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Westminster, London. She is the author of Thomas Burke’s Dark Chinoiserie: Limehouse Nights and the Queer Spell of Chinatown (Ashgate 2009), co-editor of London Gothic: Place, Space and the Gothic Imagination (Continuum 2010), author of Lao She in London (HKUP 2012) and editor of Modernism and Chinoiserie (forthcoming EUP (2014)