Published serially between 1928 and 1931, Shanghai tells the story of a group of Japanese expatriates living in the International Settlement at the time of the May 30th Incident of 1925. The personal lives and desires of the main characters play out against a historical backdrop of labor unrest, factional intrigue, colonialist ambitions, and racial politics.
The author, Yokomitsu Riichi (1898-1947), was an essayist, writer, and critical theorist who became one of the most powerful and influential literary figures in Japan during the 1920s and 1930s. He looked to contemporary avant-garde movements in Europe -- Dadaism, futurism, surrealism, expressionism -- for inspiration in his effort to explode the conventions of literary language and to break free of what he saw as the prisonhouse of modern culture.
Yokomitsu incorporated striking visuality into a realistic mode that presents a disturbing picture of a city in turmoil. The result is a brilliant evocation of Shanghai as a gritty ideological battleground and as an exotic landscape where dreams of sexual and economic domination are nurtured.