The short story I have chosen is "Insignificant moments in the history of Hong Kong" taken from Xu Xi's History's Fiction: stories from the city of Hong Kong. The story consists of two diaries written on 30th June and 1st July 1997 which describe how the main character, Lam Yam Kuen, spent these two important days in Hong Kong's history. Through the description of Lam's visit to Uncle Check's restaurant and the dinner party at his workplace, the author shows the diverse feelings of Hong Kong people towards the handover of Hong Kong to her motherland, China.
Xu Xi is a Chinese-Indonesian native of Hong Kong and she is one of Hong Kong's foremost contemporary English language novelists. She is described like a camera zooming down from the peaks and penthouses to close-ups of the crowded flats and side streets of Hong Kong. Her book is populated by ordinary people like Lam Yan Kuen and their daily lives. Through the stories of these nonentities, Xu Xi recounts the history of Hong Kong in today's voice. Her stories showcase the tension between the East-West relationships and the ambivalent feelings of Hong Kong people during post-colonialism and handover.
Response to the story
In this part, I will analyze some features (e.g. narrative perspective of the writer, setting, main character, plot line, atmosphere, leit motif and image,) of the story and how these features make the story personally relevant, intellectually uplifting and life-enhancing for me.
1. Narrative perspective of the writer
The story is written by using omniscient point of view, or more precisely, character-bound omniscience. Xu Xi not only looks into the mind of the protagonist (i.e. Lam Yam Kuen), but also the unseen qualities of places and objects (e.g. Chacko's party's description). By using this approach, I, as a reader, can form a bond with the main characters and thus form a sense of intimacy. It also allows us to make more objective judgments in regards to the events of the story.
Setting refers to the background of the story and encompasses time and place. This short story takes place during the handover of Hong Kong to China. Hong Kong was under two different governments (British colonial government and HKSAR) when the two diaries were written. Through the description of different activities done by the characters, e.g. Uncle Cheuk plays mahjeuk as usual while others people celebrate the handover with a party; Xu Xi shows the contrasting attitudes of different Hong Kong people towards handover.
There are two contrasting places in this story, one is the restaurant of Uncle Cheuk and the other is the private club where Lam works at. Uncle Cheuk's restaurant represents traditional Chinese restaurant while Lam's workplace is a modern restaurant serving westernized Chinese food. By comparing these two places, we can see that the relationship between boss and colleagues in a traditional Chinese restaurant is much closer and...