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Jentayu. 2022. Special Issue No. 5 : Hong Kong. Andert-et-Condon: Jentayu.

Shuang Xu
Translated by Elizabeth Guill.
p. 89-90

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1Jentayu is a biannual journal dedicated to Asian literature. Founded in 2014, the journal has published ten thematic and five special issues, of which No. 5, published on 15 September 2022, featured the literature of Hong Kong. With a mission it defines as “militant,” issue No. 5 is devoted to demonstrating the “richness and diversity of the voices and languages” of Hong Kong today (p. 13) and to addressing “the still flagrant lack of translations into French” (back cover).

2It contains nine short stories and prose texts together with 13 poems, by 15 authors from different generations. The translated texts introduce the reader to a literature that is dynamic, rich in themes, of surprising inventiveness, and sharing a contemporaneity linked to the city of Hong Kong.

3The first text, Montagne (Mountain, ) by Ng Hui-bin 吳煦斌, is a piece of nature writing that concerns the relationship between Man and Nature. In the context of the Hong Kong of the 1970s, when mountains were moved in favour of urban construction, the narrative questions the way in which nature is reclaimed in the light of ecological ideas. The same theme can also be found in Xi Xi’s 西西 poem on the climate change brought about by the industrialisation of desalination, Arrêt de nuages (Motionless Clouds, 停雲), and Louise Law’s 羅樂敏 poems on Peng Chau Island. 

4Hong Kong society after 1997 is at the heart of this issue. The sociopolitical dimension is a strongly felt presence. Regarding the month of June 2019, several texts tackle the repression of Hong Kong demonstrations against an amendment to the extradition law. Although certain texts denounce the events directly, including Pièces vides (Empty Rooms, 空室), Verités 2.0 (Truths 2.0), and Soleils noirs (Darkness under the Sun, 黑日), others take the form of ghost stories, including De sombres choses (Dark Things, 暗黑體物) and Le bibliotarium de l’Île-Distante (The bibliotarium of the distant isle, 離島上的一座圖書館療養院). The Umbrella Movement (2014) and the protests against the Express Rail Link (2009-2010) are also evoked in the context of Hong Kong’s autonomy from the Chinese government. Lastly, Tammy Ho Lai-ming 何麗明, observing the imposition of “Beijing” Time on that “immense country of 9.6 million square kilometres” (p. 137), raises the question of the danger of sacrifice in the name of national unity. At the same time, the life of the people of Hong Kong after the reversion to Chinese sovereignty is revealed in all its instability: the feeling of insecurity among the population and its choice of immigration, for example in Cette époque (That Era, 那個時代), La mariée traversant l’océan (Overseas Bride, 過埠新娘), and Zoologie postcoloniale (Postcolonial Zoology). The same can be said for the dark world behind the screen and criminal acts via the Internet in Traque sur fond bleu (Stalking against a blue background, 窺伺藍色的藍).

5Through these texts, the reader recognises a part of the city of Hong Kong familiar to all through its spatial markers (street and neighbourhood names) and cultural specificities (local cuisine, religious ritual, linguistic diversity, immigration), while also seeing a cosmopolitan city in a new light. Tammy Ho Lai-ming shines a spotlight on female workers from Southeast Asia, who despite their uncertain situation, display their optimism for life in Hong Kong in Silhouettes dansantes (Dancing Silhouettes). Dung Kai-cheung 董啟章, through a program of “rewriting history,” seeks to recreate the “cultural identity” of Hong Kong through fiction in Atlas: un florilège (Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City, 地圖集). Leung Ping-kwan 梁秉鈞, through the poetry of food, gives us a reflection of cultural identity through the tastes of dishes that link diaspora communities, historical memory, and geopolitics.

6From the literary point of view, the selected texts are notable for their search for stylistic inventiveness and stand out through their own contribution to the literature of Hong Kong. Amongst their various experiments, hybridisation might be said to be a common point: at the junction between fiction and cartography (Dung Kai-cheung), narration accompanied by music (Chan Ho-kei 陳浩基), and a story placed alongside a painting (La mariée traversant l’océan with the painting The Soap Bubbles and De sombres choses with The Legend of the Baker of Eeklo). We also notice a desire to bring attention to the literary heritage of Hong Kong, particularly in the work of Leung Lee-chi 梁莉姿 and Wong Yi 黃怡, who pay homage to the great master Liu Yichang 劉以鬯 (1918-2018). The former has created Pièces vides in the manner of Troubles 動亂 (1968), evoking the 1967 riots; the latter, in Cette époque, references the novel Tête-bêche (Intersection, 對倒, 1972) and its adaptation for the cinema, In the Mood for Love, directed by Wong Kar-wai 王家衛. Literary heritage can also be seen at the global level, with the mention or quoting of foreign writers, many of them French – Roland Barthes, Charles Baudelaire, Albert Camus, Marguerite Duras, Jean-Paul Sartre, J.M.G. Le Clézio, Françoise Sagan, Antoine Volodine, Patrick Modiano, etc.

7The issue succeeds in offering a panorama of contemporary literature thanks to two editors, Gwennaël Gaffric and Coraline Jortay, themselves literary translators and university researchers, not to mention the translators who display ingenuity in the face of diglossia. How do they translate dialect, internet words, and the local hybrid language? What choices do they make between the experience of the foreign (Berman 1992) and the adoption of the dominant global language (Pascale Casanova 2015)? In this respect, the most notable text is the poem Golden by Nicholas Wong 黃裕邦, where the detailed translator’s notes provide a real reflection on the poetics of translation.

8This richly illustrated special issue ends with notes on the authors and translators together with publication references for all of the texts in their original language (in Chinese or English). It offers a valuable addition to the first anthology of Hong Kong literature translated into French and published in 2006 (L’horloge et le dragonThe clock and the dragon). In this issue, new contemporary questions such as ecology, democracy, and political autonomy contribute to renewing the fields of reflection on the literature of “resistance” (p. 6), which has become an important component of the literature of the Chinese-speaking world, a fact confirmed by A New Literary History of Modern China (Wang 2017).

9Translated by Elizabeth Guill.

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BERMAN, Antoine. 1992. The Experience of the Foreign: Culture and Translation in Romantic Germany. Albany: SUNY Press.

CASANOVA, Pascale. 2015. La langue mondiale: traduction et domination (The world language: Translation and domination). Paris: Seuil.

CURIEN, Annie (translator). 2006. L’horloge et le dragon (The clock and the dragon). Paris: Éditions Caractères.

WANG, David Der-Wei (ed.). 2017. A New Literary History of Modern China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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Bibliographical reference

Shuang Xu, “Jentayu. 2022. Special Issue No. 5 : Hong Kong. Andert-et-Condon: Jentayu.”China Perspectives, 133 | -1, 89-90.

Electronic reference

Shuang Xu, “Jentayu. 2022. Special Issue No. 5 : Hong Kong. Andert-et-Condon: Jentayu.”China Perspectives [Online], 133 | 2023, Online since 01 June 2023, connection on 02 October 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Shuang Xu

Shuang Xu is Associate Professor at the East Asian Languages and Civilisation Faculty (UFR LCAO) of Paris Cité University, and member of the East Asian Civilisations Research Centre (CRCAO/UMR 8155). UFR LCAO, Paris Cité University (Université Paris Cité), 5 rue Thomas Mann, 75013 Paris, France (

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