Fall 2020 > Special Feature

IAS Program on Chinese Creative Writing

The program was launched in 2013 in collaboration with HKUST’s School of Humanities and Social Science and Division of Humanities. The program aims to provide a platform for students and faculty to engage in face-to-face dialogues with world-renowned Chinese writers and masters under the direction of IAS Senior Visiting Fellow Prof. LIU Zaifu, a veteran literary critic and writer. Over the years, many internationally acclaimed scholars such as GAO Xingjian (高行健), Nobel Laureate in Literature 2000, and Prof. PAI Hsien-Yung (白先勇), award-winning Taiwanese scholar, have come to the IAS to explore the issues around and prospects for creative Chinese writing, thereby enriching the academic and intellectual communities at HKUST. Prof. YAN Lianke, IAS Sin Wai Kin Professor of Chinese Culture, and Prof. Bright SHENG, IAS Helmut & Anna Pao Sohmen Professor-at-Large, are also among past speakers.


Regrettably, in fall 2019, several of the program’s talks were cancelled due to the social circumstances in Hong Kong. Although LO Yi-Chin (駱以軍), contemporary Chinese writer, was unable to present his talk in person, he sent us an article entitled “別人的傷痛” (The Sorrow of Others), a reflection on compassion, desperation, endurance and encouragement through the story of A Small, Good Thing by Raymond CARVER, the American short story writer and poet. This special feature also includes a brief recap of the talk “我的文學和思想之路:從香港出發” delivered last October by another Chinese writer, CHAN Koon-Chung (陳冠中).



別人的傷痛

雷蒙德 • 卡佛有一個短篇,叫《一件很小,很美的事》,故事大概是這樣的:一個叫安妮的年輕母親,到一間小麵包店訂了一個太空船蛋糕,跟師傅說下週一,她兒子生日那天會過來拿,留了電話。


然後敘述跳到星期一下午,那男孩放學回家路上,被一輛車撞了,一開始似乎沒事,但等他自己走回家時,突然癱倒在沙發上。 生日派對取消了,男孩住進了醫院,輕微腦震盪加上休克。


他的父母像雷蒙德 • 卡佛筆下常見的美國小鎮的男女,都有一種對生活本身的刨木屑般乾燥的,輕微的憂鬱、憤怒或茫然。 兒子一度昏睡不醒,他們當然都很著急,但醫生,以及醫院裡來來去去病床的護士、實習醫生,都告訴他們,這男孩沒問題,他只是處在一種「深度的睡眠」中。 當然他們還是非常焦慮,並不全信醫生說的。 而這陪院看顧的幾天,他們分別回家,餵家裡的狗、沖澡、睡一下,但回去的那個,會在空蕩蕩的屋子裡,接到一個陌生男人的電話。


一開始是那丈夫接到,對方說:「你們忘了那個蛋糕嗎?」 丈夫不知有這個蛋糕,不友善地掛斷了。之後安妮回家 (那時憂鬱更擴大了,因孩子沒醒過來的天數增加了) ,這次接到的電話,有點像希區柯克的電影,那頭的男人陰沉如地獄來的聲音:「你是不是把史考帝 (那個昏迷男孩的名字) 忘了? 」 但掛斷電話。 以為是醫院打來,急撥去醫院,但她先生說什麼變化都沒有,孩子還在昏睡。 她哭著告訴他這通怪電話的事,而他先生安撫她那可能就是個酒鬼或神經病。 總之,等她再到醫院時,又過了一會,男孩突然醒來了,但接著在那短短一兩分鐘,兩眼緊閉,狂吼一聲,然後張開嘴,就那麼斷氣了。


之後醫生跟他們解釋,這男孩的現象叫「隱性腦阻塞」,出現的機率是百萬分之一。 這之後醫生安撫他們,並約定驗屍的手續。 小說到這裡,那個荒謬、人的脆弱,很有瑪律克斯的短篇《我只是來借個電話》、《你滴在雪地上的血痕》的味道。 這一對遭遇這不可思議之悲痛的夫妻,開車回到家後,又接到那通怪異電話。
 

「你的史考帝,我已經為你準備好了。 」男人說,「你忘記他了嗎?」
 

他們憤怒、驚恐、悲不能抑,這人又不斷打來,然後掛斷。 電話那邊的背景,似乎有一種機器的嗡嗡聲。這時安妮想起來了,是那個麵包師傅,她向他訂的那個生日蛋糕,他們開車到購物中心,那時已入夜,所有店鋪都打烊了,他們敲門,不斷敲門,那麵包師傅讓他們進去。這安妮簡直想殺了他。麵包師傅說,那個蛋糕已經放了幾天,過期了,可以以半價賣給她。他說別鬧事啊,我在這裡一天工作十六個小時,才能勉強過日子,他得回去幹活了。
 

這時安妮告訴他,「我兒子死了,星期一下午被車撞了。」他們罵那不斷打電話騷擾的麵包師傅:「你真無恥。」
 

這接下來的描寫,短短約一千字到小說結尾,真是我讀過最美的小說場面之一。
 

雷蒙德 • 卡佛寫著:


“麵包師傅把擀麵棍放回工作台。他解下圍裙,也把它拋到工作台上。他站了一分鐘,看著他們,眼神呆滯而痛楚。然後他從放著報紙、收據、計算機和電話簿的桌子底下,拉出一把椅子。 “請坐,” 他說。他又去前面帶了兩張鐵皮椅子回來。 “請坐下吧,兩位。”


他向他們道歉,“我只是一個做麵包的師傅。別無所求。好多年以前,那時候我是一個跟現在完全不同的人······我知道並不能用這些話做藉口來原諒我的所作所為。我太難過太抱歉了。我為你們的孩子感到難過,我為我自己夾在事件當中攪局的行為感到抱歉。”


“不知兩位是否能夠真心原諒我?”


小說寫道:麵包店裡很暖和,那一對原本悲憤無告的夫妻脫下大衣,麵包師傅倒了兩杯咖啡。 “我希望兩位願意嚐嚐我做的熱餐包。在這種時候,吃是一件很小,很美的事。” 然後他端上剛出爐的肉桂麵包,麵包上的糖衣還軟呼呼的。他把牛油和塗抹牛油的小刀放在桌上。小說寫道:“安妮突然間好餓,那餐包又熱又甜。她一連吃著三個。”


他們坐在那兒,聽那麵包師傅說他人生的孤單,他邁入中年時那疑惑徬徨的心情,他們頻頻點頭。他又拿了有糖蜜和五穀雜糧味道的香酥黑麵包,掰開給他們。結尾是這樣幾句:“他們不斷的聽他說,不斷努力的吃。他們把黑麵包吞了下肚。在日光燈底下,屋子裡亮得就像白晝。他們聊到了清晨,窗戶上已經透出灰白色的天光,他們還不想離開。”


對不起我抄引了這麼多小說的原文。但因為它的收尾,那將人世的恐怖哀傷托起的溫柔,知道這個溫柔是 “彼此都是被生命重創的脆弱人們”,在那氣味中,暗淡光影中,哀矜、疲憊讓嘴部咀嚼麵包,啜飲咖啡,那破了洞之後的 “很小,很美的事”,那個溫柔在讀完後,真是一陣熱氣從我鼻腔上鑽到眼眶。


我想說的是,我們從魯迅他們這些人之後,又走了一百年了,我們當然比他們接收了人類更寬廣的文明資產,更多的參照座標讓我們學習,但或許世界異化得更深刻,我們要與這一百多年來,不同歷史遭遇的人互相理解、同情,可能要具備的胸襟與教養,要走更艱難的路。而文學正是紀錄並思索,人類這些極難以個體經驗跨越的困境,對他者的共感。小說不只是故事的交換,更是人類這個詞,讓人熱淚盈眶,在大屠殺之後、在種族滅絕之後、在暴力和瘋狂之後,在無法逆轉的歷史冷酷異境之後,仍願意說情,願意相信古典或崇高的想望。魯迅當年說救救孩子,其實那些孩子長大後,有的確實延展了一百年前絕望前輩的文明夢,但有的卻做出更恐怖暴力的事。但這都是我們要被包裹在其中的,我們也許無法超出那規模與限制,想像出更宏大的解決方案,那不是我們缺乏想像力,而是經歷的時光還不夠長。但絕不要放棄思索,不要放棄溫暖與慈悲,不要放棄同情理解他人的苦難,然後願意從較長的時間軌跡去觀察人。如大江健三郎《換取的孩子》,如何將一整片白化症森林,被魔法困住,全是假的、維妙維肖的冰雕假嬰孩群中,將那個人類柔軟的嬰孩,真實的那個抱回來。這是我從二十世紀一些偉大小說裡,一直學習到的。


駱以軍


Lo Yi-Chin 駱以軍

Contemporary Chinese writer who was born and educated in Taiwan. Lo received his Master’s degree from the Graduate Institute of Drama at the Taipei National University of Arts. He has won numerous awards for his creative writing including the third Dream of the Red Chamber Award, Unitas Literature Circuit Camp Creative Writing Awards, the Fiction Award from the Taiwan College Youth Literary Awards, the Taipei Literary Annual Award and the 2009 Taiwan Literary Award. His published works include novels, short stories, poems, and proses, among them are Scarlet Letter Group (紅字團), Share a Fairy Tale with a Little Star (降生十二星座), The Third Dancer (第三個舞者), The Surname of the Moon (月球姓氏), Hotel Xixia (西夏旅館), My Little Boys (小兒子), Wife, Dream, Dog (妻夢狗), The Far (遠方), and Ming Dynasty (明朝).





The Story Behind the Stories of Chan Koon-Chung

During last October’s IAS Program on Chinese Creative Writing, contemporary Chinese writer CHAN Koon-Chung (陳冠中) shared his passion for publishing and writing with the audience in a talk titled “我的文學和思想之路:從香港出發” (My Literary Journey Starting from Hong Kong), telling us how the ebb and flow of life made him the writer he is today.


Chan, who describes himself as a second generation Hongkonger, was raised in Shanghai and educated in an English school. He recalled what he read outside the classroom were some of the Chinese publications available at that time, such as Children’s Paradise (兒童樂園), The Chinese Student Weekly (中國學生周報), The 70s Bi-weekly (70年代雙周刊), and Ming Pao Monthly (明報月刊). Apart from reading, Chan, who was dazzled by the influence of the West and the New Wave (the French art film movement that emerged in the 50s and 60s), spent most of his adolescent years watching European movies at Studio One, a film club established by Westerners residing in Hong Kong.


Having lived in the British colony for over four decades, Chan recalled a few things that are still fresh in his mind. First and foremost is definitely The Beatles’ visit to Hong Kong in 1964 as part of their world tour. “My elder sisters watched the film A Hard Days Night (一夜狂歡) 10 times! They were like crazy,” Chan said with emphasis, making the audience laugh. Another incident that shocked the teenage Chan was the large-scale bloody 1967 riots that shook Hong Kong.


“The older generation always says that Hong Kong is a promised land and we should not ‘rock the boat’,” said Chan. In retrospect, he commented that the 1967 riots were in fact the turning point for Hong Kong, when the colonial government started to introduce different kinds of reforms, followed by a wave of social movements such as the Chinese Language Movement (中文運動) and the Anti-Corruption Campaign (「反貪污、捉葛柏」運動). All of these events left their mark on Chan, and it is understandable why he later co-founded Green Power, a local charity that promotes environmental education, and served as a board member of Greenpeace International.


Then came 1974, a year when Hong Kong stock market crashed which made Chan and many Hong Kong people realize that money could evaporate in an instant. This year also marked a milestone for Chan, who had just graduated from the University of Hong Kong. Unlike his classmates who joined big companies to earn big bucks, Chan chose another path — pursuing a Master’s degree in Journalism at Boston University. After returning to Hong Kong from Boston, he worked as a reporter for nine months for the English newspaper, The Star (星報), but deep down he had a dream.


“I wanted to have a publication for my generation. I was greatly influenced by The Real Paper and The Phoenix, the underground newspapers in Boston,” said Chan, who recalled how Western ideas and the counterculture of the 60s and 70s had shaped him.


\\ “Every Great City Deserves a City Magazine” \\

 
― printed in the first issue of City Magazine


Without Chan, there would be no City Magazine (號外) ― an alternative cultural, trendsetting monthly magazine founded by him and Peter DUNN (鄧小宇), his secondary classmate at Wah Yan College, Kowloon. It was 1976 when Chan was only 24 years old, a young startupper who had nothing but a few like-minded friends.


“We were lucky to have people who volunteered their time and talents,” said Chan. Among them were Henry WU (胡君毅), Joseph YAU (丘世文), John SHUM (岑建勳), and Tina LIU (劉天蘭). After a few ups and downs, it eventually took six years for City Magazine to generate a profit.


Anyone who happened to pick up a copy of City Magazine from a newsstand in the 80s or 90s would agree that it was one of the most avant-garde magazines in Hong Kong: it stood out from the crowd not only for its unusual size, but also for something else. Focused on lifestyle, quality of life and culture, City Magazine also featured articles on controversial and even provocative topics. At that time, reading it was like making the bold statement that “I am different.” Indeed, as Chan said, City Magazine was not designed to appeal to the masses, but to a small group of intellectual elites ― the middle class.


“In the 80s, we received lots of advertising revenue because the advertising agencies identified us as a ‘yuppie’ magazine. At that time, the yuppie culture was at its peak in the United States,” said Chan, who witnessed the economic growth and thrived. The city was at its best in this period. These were “the fat years” of Hong Kong.


Until 1999, Chan was the chief editor and publisher of City Magazine, and over the years he became involved in other media thanks to the rise of the Cantopop culture and booming movie industry. “The best DNA in Hong Kong’s culture was its films,” exclaimed Chan, who later became a screenwriter and producer for more than thirteen films including Hong Kong 1941 (等待黎明) and Eat a Bowl of Tea (一碗茶).


In 1992, Chan left Hong Kong for Beijing to invest in the cultural industry and then moved to Taipei in 1994 to work at a television station. Chan’s encounter with Taiwanese culture can be traced back to his college years when he was a frequent visitor to the upstairs bookstore in Tsim Sha Tsui, where he purchased counterfeit books originally written by Prof. PAI Hsien-yung (白先勇) and LI Ao (李敖) and published in Taiwan. “My literature foundation was built from there,” said Chan. Ironically, after his book Marxism and Literary Criticism (馬克思主義與文學批評) was published in 1981, it was counterfeited by a Taiwanese publisher in 1985 and became a top seller. In 1998, a year after the handover of Hong Kong, Chan’s Chinese novella named Nothing Has Happened (什麼都沒有發生) was officially published in Taiwan.


Chan continued to tell the audience how he settled in Beijing and started focusing on writing novels at the turn of the twenty-first century.


“When I first arrived, I could not comprehend the Chinese culture as there were too many hidden agendas,” said Chan, “But the new connections with local writers and scholars make it all worthwhile.” After nine years, Chan’s futuristic censored novel The Fat Years (盛世:中國2013年) was published but was banned in China. The novel, which has been translated into 13 languages, conveys a subtle message about the superpower, wealth and norms of contemporary Chinese society, leaving an underlying question for readers to ponder: “Between a good hell and a fake paradise, which one will people choose?”


Together with The Fat Years, two of Chan’s novels, The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver (裸命) and the award-winning The Second Year of Jianfeng — An Alternative History of New China (建豐二年: 新中國烏有史), are regarded as the “New China Trilogy.” In 2020, after living in Beijing for over 20 years, Chan published a new book Zero Point Beijing (北京零公里) which is about a teenager who was killed in the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown, depicting the history and the contemporary China with a magical twist.


At the end of his two-hour talk, Chan was asked when the best time is to start writing novel. He said humorously, “I started at 57 years old, so everyone can start writing anytime!”


CHAN Koon-Chung (陳冠中)


A renowned writer, publisher, screenwriter and film producer who graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree in 1974 and continued to study journalism at Boston University in the US. He has recently been conferred an Honorary University Fellowship by Hong Kong Baptist University. Chan is the founder of City Magazine (號外)and one of the five founders of the Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild. He also co-founded Green Power, an environmental group in Hong Kong, and served as a board member of Greenpeace International. Minjian International is a non-profit organization established by Chan to connect Chinese intellectuals with their counterparts in other countries. Currently living in Beijing, Chan is the author of many Chinese books including Nothing Has Happened (什麼都沒有發生), The Fat Years (盛世:中國2013年), The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver (祼命), The Second Year of Jianfeng — An Alternative History of New China (建豐二年: 新中國烏有史), and My Hong Kong Generation (我這一代香港人). His recent book is Zero Point Beijing (北京零公里).