Founded more than a century before Communist China was, Hong Kong has a long history. Going through the First Opium War, British colonial period and the Handover, our city has emerged as a complex hybrid of different cultures. Our home has thus bred a lot of brilliant authors. Seething with political unrest, many have been suffering from a sense of alienation, especially novelists like Ni Kuang, who escaped to Hong Kong from China during the eve of the anti-intellectual Cultural Revolution. Struggling to locate a place called home, many local writers and directors colour their works with a modernist tone.
by Liu Yichang
No one in town does not know about Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000), but not many have read the book that inspired Wong. Local literary giant Liu Yichang is said to be the first who could write in a stream-of-consciousness-style in Chinese literary world. Therefore, he had a reputation of ‘the father of Hong Kong modernism’ before he passed away last year. With two parallel narratives, Intersection explores the inner consciousness of a woman and a man, which implicitly illustrates the post-riot trauma of Hong Kong people resulting from the 1967 pro-communist violent riots. Although the complete version of the novel is not available in English, a shortened translated version is available online thanks to Nancy Li.
Days of Being Wild (1990)
by Wong Kar-wai
“I’ve heard that there’s a kind of bird without legs that can only fly and fly, and sleep in the wind when it is tired. The bird only lands once in its life. That’s when it dies.” This line by Leslie Cheung has probably been the most epic one in the history of Asian cinema. Narrating Yuddy’s (Leslie Cheung) complicated and casual relationships with different women, Wong portrays his protagonist as a ‘bird without legs’ that keeps breaking girls’ hearts. However, as the story develops, it is revealed that he acts so heartlessly because he has been unable to find his biological mother. Suffering from a sense of ‘rootlessness’ and being unable to free himself from such thought, Yuddy is, after all, just a dead, caged bird.
The Adventures of Wisely (1963–2004)
by Ni Kuang
Famous for his popular sci-fi series The Adventures of Wisely, Ni Kuang talked about literary writing on RTHK’s Hong Kong Connection. In the interview, when asked about what is strong about Hong Kong, he stated the importance of freedom of speech in terms of preserving literary cultures. The interview is currently available only in Cantonese, so stay tuned for English subtitles. For now, you may begin with Chasing the Dragon (1983). It narrates the story of an astrologer attempting to prevent an apocalypse from happening. In the preface, Ni stated that a shining city in the East would be destroyed, and there would be no saving it – “To destroy a city, there’s no need to demolish buildings, just take away its strong points.” Ni doubtlessly prophesied the fate of Hong Kong following the Handover in the novel.
Categories: Weekly Features