Nury Vittachi

Dimsum: Volume 9

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 November, 2004, 12:00am

Dimsum: Volume 9

edited by Nury Vittachi

Chameleon $100

Almost 30 years after John le Carre wrote 'When you leave Hong Kong, it ceases to exist', he has proved himself wrong. The Honourable Schoolboy, the novel containing le Carre's aphorism, is at least partly responsible for creating a place for Hong Kong to exist in international literature. Writers now leave Hong Kong convinced that borrowing le Carre's exotic setting will intensify their manuscripts and let them walk the same tightrope as his literary thrillers, securing the same cash and kudos at the end of the balancing act. Most of those books thump into the ground beside le Carre's rope - sedatives for long journeys on one side; stiff tales of interracial love set against the backdrop of the handover or June 4 on the other.

The nine issues of the literary journal Dimsum have shown that le Carre isn't the only writer worthy of proving Hong Kong's existence.

In this latest collection of Asian literature, the narrator of Gweilo, by Alexis Wiggins, is anxious about her failure to understand Chinese culture. It leaves her feeling that she - not Hong Kong - is grasping for existence.

An extract from Shouting at the Mountain, the memoir of Andrew and Elsie Tu, reflects on how Hongkongers pulled Andrew from poverty and nudged him towards his destiny.

Jake van der Kamp shows how he and Hong Kong exist outside his South China Morning Post business columns - in a satire.

Remo Notarianni preserves Hong Kong in the adventurous sentences of The Flight of Dazsmousch, a story about a well-travelled slot machine and a photographer who tries to catch the chi energy of Hong Kong in time.

Peter Gordon - of Paddyfield, the Asian Review of Books and the Hong Kong International Literary Festival - suggests in his essay that Hong Kong more often ceases to exist for residents, because it's so easy to live here.

After a Roman holiday exhausts his family through poor transport, communications networks and financial services, Gordon sees the ancient Italian city as 'a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there'. Hong Kong gives his family cheaper food, better schools, affordable household help and beaches 15 minutes from downtown. 'Hong Kong is - it seems to me - precisely the opposite: 'a great place to live (if one can afford it, one has to add), but I wouldn't want to visit there'.'

Gordon compares Hong Kong to New York. Neither city can claim to be centres of politics or even the core values of their nations. But both are the places 'where things - culture, business, finance, fashion things - happen'.

'[New York] succeeds because it is America - and yet for Americans, it's very different from everywhere else ... Hong Kong just needs to become more comfortable in its own skin.'