French naval doctor Victor Segalen was born in Brest, Brittany. He traveled to Tahiti, where he held a medical post (1903–1904), and to China several times as a member of several archaeological expeditions. He is the author of a collection of prose poems, Stèles (1912); the novels Les Immémoriaux and René Leys (1922); and Equipée (1929), an account of an imaginary expedition.
His books often portray the effects of colonization and European culture on colonized populations. His theories of the exotic are pursued in Essay on Exoticism: An Aesthetics of Diversity (2002, trans. Yaël Rachel Schlick). Stèles—available in a 2007 English translation by Timothy Billings and Christopher Bush—is a collection of poems that imitate the inscriptions of stelae that he observed on his travels in China.
In 1919 Segalen was found dead in a forest in near Brest, with a copy of Shakespeare’s works open to Hamlet at his side.