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Hong Kong Literature Series — Preface

2020/8/4 — 14:45

編按:本文為漢學家閔福德(John Minford)為香港文學英譯作品(Hong Kong Literature Series)系列所撰寫的序言。全系列共六本,首批四本譯作已於 7月面世,包括:《The Drunkard: A Novel by Liu Yichang》(劉以鬯《酒徒》英譯)、《Dragons: Shorter Fiction of Leung Ping-kwan》(也斯/梁秉鈞短篇小說英譯)、《Lotus Leaves》(梁秉鈞詩歌英譯集)以及《The Teddy Bear Chronicles》(西西《縫熊志》英譯)。全文以英文書寫。由香港中文大學出版社提供相關文檔。

【文:閔福德(John Minford)】

From its first controversial founding as a British colony in 1842, Hong Kong has been a unique place of refuge for immigrants, protected from the turmoil of the Mainland, a haven in which this free-thinking, free-wheeling child of China’s great literary culture has been able to survive and flourish, unimpeded by political struggle and the heavy hand of ideological dogma. In the tender core beneath this modern city’s deceptively hard and glittering surface lies a world of fine literature, visual and performance art, music, theatre and film. It is one of the great civilised cities of the world. This new series of six books proudly presents that civilisation, giving evidence of the defiant and distinctive character of Hong Kong’s imaginative literature, which marks it off from the other parts of the Chinese-speaking world. Like the better-known cinematic work of Wong Kar-wai, the literature of Hong Kong combines a timelessly Chinese palette of colours and flavours with an exciting acceptance of cosmopolitan modernity. It is as authentically Chinese as the very best Cantonese cuisine, and yet at the same time, having issued from a place which is so permeable and volatile, it is also infused with an effortless sense of fusion. It is an alchemy of Hong Kong, but for the world.

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《The Drunkard: A Novel by Liu Yichang》

《The Drunkard: A Novel by Liu Yichang》

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Liu Yichang, an immigrant from Shanghai in 1948, was for several decades, until his death in 2019 at the age of 99, the father figure of the modern Hong Kong literary scene. As editor of the journal Hong Kong Literature, he was widely respected for having nurtured younger talents such as Leung Ping-kwan and Xi Xi. His 1962 stream-of-consciousness novel The Drunkard vividly portrays the Hong Kong of the early 1960s, chronicling the struggle for survival in the jungle of the city of a dissolute but thoughtful and literate Chinese man of letters. It captures the quintessential spirit of Hong Kong, its magnificent, often squalid, splendour, its contradictions, its chaotic and irrepressible energy.

Leung Ping-kwan, who moved into Hong Kong with his parents from Guangdong province as a small child in 1949, was a prolific and supremely gifted poet, critic, and writer of fiction. Lotus Leaves is the most complete anthology to date of translations from his poetic oeuvre, and shows the sheer range of his writing, from celebration of the everyday in Hong Kong life, to deeper meditations on the human condition, and playful pieces written for performance in the lively cultural scene in which he was so active a participant. His two tales in the companion volume Dragons, with their roots both in Latin-American Magical Realism and in the age-old Chinese tradition of tales of the supernatural, demonstrate his accomplishment as a storyteller.

《Dragons: Shorter Fiction of Leung Ping-kwan》

《Dragons: Shorter Fiction of Leung Ping-kwan》

《Lotus Leaves》

《Lotus Leaves》

Xi Xi also immigrated as a girl to Hong Kong from Shanghai, in 1950. Over the past five decades she has created a large and uniquely personal body of work, as a writer of both fiction and poetry. She is widely admired for her great stylistic elegance and for the poignant and haunting, almost melancholic, mood of much of her writing.

The Teddy Bear Chronicles is a quirky and original work, cleverly bringing together her passion for the making of teddy bears with a number of short essays about colourful figures from Chinese history. It is a charming album, both instructive and entertaining, leaving the reader with a feeling of pure delight.

《The Teddy Bear Chronicles》

《The Teddy Bear Chronicles》

The memoir Ordinary Days by the scholar and critic Leo Ou-fan Lee and his wife Esther brings to this series an intensely personal touch, consciously echoing that great sentimental memoir of the late 18th century, Shen Fu’s Six Chapters of a Floating Life. With disarming candour, Leo and Esther lay bare their hearts and share with us their story of love and suffering. Set partly against the backdrop of some of Hong Kong’s most turbulent years, partly in the far-flung diaspora of the Chinese intelligentsia, this is a remarkably revealing record of the inner life of a highly cultivated modern Chinese couple.

The Best China, an anthology of Hong Kong essays from the past 170 years, records the intellectual ferment that has always characterised the city, sometimes restless and questioning, sometimes meditative and lyrical, always civilised, and buoyed by an all-pervasive spirit of freedom.

To borrow from the title of one of Xi Xi’s works, we could perhaps call this series Six Chapters from a Floating City: a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the people of the special world that is Hong Kong.

John Minford

5 March 2020 Featherston, New Zealand

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