La paura della speranza e l’amore per la disperazione. Non si tratta d’un
medesimo sentimento, si ritrovano nella stessa persona. Non ne-
cessariamente. Ma parliamone, perché la “Cina” scatena l’una e l’altra.
—Franco Fortini, “Ancora in Cina”
Ah ça, dit Truptin, mais voulez parler de Mao de la révolution cultu-
relle, tageming? . . . Invention, madame mademoiselle, invention de
journaliste, tout ça, moi en Chine, jamais rien vu tout ça. Chine, in-
vention française, parisienne même, tous des ignorants, ignorant la
langue, l’écriture et ça parle, ça parle puisque ça ne sait pas lire. . . .
Permettez-­ moi de vous dire, madame, permettez mois de vous dire, la
Chine n’existe pas.
—Natacha Michel, La Chine européenne
As the title of this book suggests, I start from the end. And
I don’t mean it as a rhetorical ploy or a narrative gimmick;
this project originated—in personal, political, and intellec-
tual terms—by taking stock of an ending, by registering an
absence, by marking a disappearance. Personally, this hap-
pened many years ago, when I was a young undergraduate
student at the University of Venice. Browsing through the
then-­ not-­ particularly expansive collection of Asian studies
journals, I encountered a publication that—just by virtue
of its name—stood out among the China Quarterly, Modern
i n t r o d u c t i o n
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