David Tang writes women into book fair forum

A chance to question Jung Chang, whose books are banned on the mainland, and Erica Jong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 4:52am

Women authors will be featured at this year's Hong Kong Book Fair forum for the first time.

Historian Jung Chang and novelist Erica Jong, as well as biographer William Shawcross, will be the star guests at the July 19 Open Public Forum, sponsored for the third year by businessman and socialite David Tang.

Tang launched the forum in 2010 with acclaimed writers including Stephen Fry and Frederick Forsyth, but this is the first time he has included women.

Tang said he was happy to do a little for Hong Kong by bringing in top international authors to meet local audiences for free. "I think [this] is in accordance with our democratic … civil society and no occasion is better than the book fair, which attracts over one million visitors," he said.

Tang is also sponsoring an additional forum featuring the three authors at the University of Hong Kong the following day.

"Chang and Jong share a lot of common background," he said. "They are both revolutionary in their own ways and became famous after their first opus. Chang's Wild Swans and Jong's Fear of Flying have been translated into more than 30 languages and sold copies in the tens of millions."

Tang said the feminist movement was now a "major trend" in writing, with many women picking up things that men once did. "Jong, for example, was the first to write about sex seen from the woman's angle. Chang engaged in detective work in her biography of Mao Zedong . Both are pioneers," he said.

Shawcross, who wrote the official biography of the Queen Mother, offered a man's angle on "an extraordinary woman of the last century", he said. The three authors would make for an interesting trio on stage, he said.

Tang will chair the two-hour session, titled "How and what and why do writers write?"

"The bulk of the session will be a Q&A as I believe interaction between authors and audiences - especially writers-to-be - will be inspiring," he said.

Tang is especially interested in Chang's dialogue with mainland audiences as her books are officially banned in China.

"Freedom is what makes Hong Kong different from the rest of China, even if we are less rich or competitive than some of its major cities. I am interested to see what [happens] if mainland visitors download the banned books and take them back."

Tang acknowledged the trend towards e-books, but said the printed word still has its place. "Knowledge has to be in the brain, not on the screen … Reading a book enhances one's expression and articulation, thus boosting self-confidence," he said.