Pioneering Women

Susan Blumberg-Kason reviews Creating Across Cultures

Sometime during my early years of learning Mandarin, I heard the name Michelle Vosper. If memory serves me right, my Mandarin tutor back in 1990 mentioned a friend or acquaintance in Hong Kong, where I was headed at the end of that summer for a study abroad year. I never met Ms. Vosper that year or the other four I lived in Hong Kong, but it seemed serendipitous when I was introduced to her book late last year in Chicago by the English translators of Hong Kong playwright Candace Chong’s Wild Boar.

Vosper’s edited volume, Creating Across Cultures: Women in the Arts from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, features 16 women artists from Greater China, including Chong, one of Hong Kong’s most sought-after playwrights.


The Epistemology of Surveillance

Andrea Lingenfelter reviews Dragonfly Eyes, a film by Xu Bing

A grainy black and white long shot, filmed from a high angle. A solitary figure is walking away from the camera, along the edge of what appears to be a lake or small reservoir. It’s night-time, and the person walks unsteadily, weaving from left to right, as if drunk, or maybe just tired. Then, without warning, the person falls into the water. It’s hard to tell if the person can swim or not; they seem to struggle. We see their head and arms, but after a few seconds, their head and arms disappear beneath the surface. Gradually the ripples subside.

According to the timestamp, this took place some years ago. But that makes it no less immediate, no less disturbing. We have become witnesses after the fact to a death — one that seems to have gone unwitnessed in real time. Powerless to help, we feel implicated all the same.


Living Without Fear

Joy Deng reviews Qiu Miaojin’s coming-of-age novel Notes of a Crocodile

Largely unknown in the US, Qiu Miaojin is one of the most famous lesbian writers in Taiwan. Told from the perspective of a young woman crossing what she calls “the comma that punctuated being twenty-two,” the story begins a few years earlier. It is October 1987, three months after almost four decades of martial law have just ended in Taiwan. Nicknamed ‘Lazi,’ the autofictional narrator enters college, where she falls in love with a classmate named Shui Ling: “She and some friends…walked past me, and I managed to glance at her… it was as if my whole life had flashed before my eyes.”


Candid Hong Kong

Michael Tsang reviews PEN Hong Kong's anthology Hong Kong 20/20

That Hong Kong finally has its own centre of PEN International—the writer’s organisation devoted to promoting human rights and freedom of expression—is a promising reflection of the ever-maturing literary scene in the city. And that PEN Hong Kong has managed to put together this star-studded debut anthology, with contributions from a large number of the big names from Hong Kong’s literati, is a testimony to the collective power of the pen. Titled Hong Kong 20/20, this collection of essays, poetry, fiction and even cartoons aims to provide a magnified picture of post-Umbrella Movement Hong Kong, and it does not disappoint.