Asian Voices in English

Asian Voices in English

Mimi Chan
Roy Harris
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jc064
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    Asian Voices in English
    Book Description:

    A selection of papers presented at the Symposium on English Literature by Asian authors entitled Asian Voices in English held at The University of Hong Kong, 27-30 April 1990. Two kinds of writing experience are focused upon: one is the experience of post-colonial writers, who are re-appropriating the English language for their own cultural purposes. The other is the experience of immigrant writers, who bring an Asian view to bear on the culture of the English-speaking countries in which they live.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-030-2
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-2)
    Mimi Chan and Roy Harris

    In December 1988, as part of the British Council’s celebration of forty years’ work in Hong Kong, Dr Han Suyin gave a public lecture entitled ‘Asian Writers in English’. It was on that occasion that the idea of a meeting of Asian writers currently publishing in English was first mooted. The British Council felt that the organization of such a meeting was a worthwhile project. So did the Head of the English Department at the University of Hong Kong when he was approached by the Director of the British Council with a proposal for joint sponsorship of a symposium to...

  5. THE STUDY OF ‘NEW LITERATURES IN ENGLISH’ AT UNIVERSITY LEVEL: CURRENT PROBLEMS AND TRENDS
    (pp. 3-16)
    Wolfgang Zach

    Our world has indeed become a global village. Mass air transport makes it possible to reach almost any capital on our globe within one day (often faster than the airport of the city we are departing from) and mass communication allows us to watch ‘live’ on TV what is happening on the other side of the world (so that we may know more about what is happening in other continents than in our immediate neighbourhood). A third phenomenon has also greatly contributed to breaking down the traditional national informational barriers: the phenomenal spread of English around the globe, particularly since...

  6. PLENARY LECTURE
    (pp. 17-22)
    Han Suyin

    Words imprison and divide; unite and release. Words are dangerous and fulfilling, molding concepts and systems of thought which destroy and reshape our mental universe. The writer, through words, mediates between ideas and reality. Hence comes the awe, the dread, the adoration and hatred which nimbus-like surrounds his vulnerable humanity.

    When both ideas and reality are foreign to his audience, the writer has an added burden — that of making accepted and universal what is strange and esoteric, that of making accepted and familiar what is repulsive and rejected. By converting into starkness, realism, what his audience regarded as unthreatening...

  7. PLENARY LECTURE
    (pp. 23-32)
    Richard E. Kim

    I am an American and have been one for more than a quarter of a century — but, as you all know, appearance can be deceiving ...

    I live, and I have lived for more than twenty years, in a very liberal, small academic town in what must be the most liberal state in America — Massachusetts.

    Now — my barber in that very liberal academic town in that most liberal state in the Union still greets me at each of my tonsorial visits to his shop by saying,

    ‘Well, you’re still here, eh?’

    ‘Well, yes, I am still here...

  8. THE WRITER WRITING IN ENGLISH IN MULTIETHNIC SINGAPORE: A CULTURAL PERIL, A CULTURAL PROMISE
    (pp. 33-42)

    The writer writing in English in multiethnic Singapore in the present time faces a problem that is far more complex than the widely understood one of the native voice afraid to lose its true tones in a foreign tongue. The complexity lies in the unique role of the English language in Singapore, a role not seen in other post-colonial countries. Here, through a combination of historical and geo-political quirks, a foreign language for which no role was envisaged in a mixed Asian immigrant setting, was soon discovered to be so useful that it was systematically promoted and strengthened into a...

  9. THE FILIPINO WRITER IN ENGLISH AS STORYTELLER AND TRANSLATOR
    (pp. 43-50)

    I am honored to be part of this distinguished gathering of Asian writers in English. The invitation from the British Council was irresistible. I was going to see Hongkong again, the first spot of foreign soil where I landed when I went abroad in my youth, innocent and ignorant as well. This was in September, 1941, three months before the outbreak of the Pacific war and I was on my way to the United States on a freighter, the S.S. Ruth Alexander, which made its first stop in Hongkong. I was a Philippine government scholar to specialize in English in...

  10. THE EXPERIENCE OF WRITING IN AN EXPATRIATE SITUATION
    (pp. 51-54)
    Meira Chand

    The very title of this workshop, ‘The experience of writing in an expatriate situation’, would seem to imply from the beginning that those of us who work in this situation are dealing with something others writers are not. If we look up the word expatriate in the dictionary, we read ‘exiled’ and also ‘banished’. The prefix ex-alone means ‘outside of’. The writer is by nature and the circumstances of his work a natural outsider. Wherever he may live he has in some small way already exiled himself in his role of observer. So, what difference you might ask does a...

  11. SCALING DARAGANG MAGAYON: THE BILINGUAL POET TRANSLATING HERSELF
    (pp. 55-64)
    Merlinda C. Bobis

    She is the terrible beauty of Bicol Region, south of Luzon. In her peace, she buries the awed viewer dumb. In her fire, more burning than the sun, she entombs everything at her feet. Years ago, she buried a whole town, saving only the belfry. In her recent eruptions, she has been slowly burying another town. It is only the sensibility she cannot bury.

    Poetry, she unearths.

    She made me write in two voices. Originally, I translated her native image into a foreign tongue. She came out as a long poem in English. No, it was not a choice between...

  12. ‘LISTEN, MOM, I’M A BANANA’: MOTHER AND DAUGHTER IN MAXINE HONG KINGSTON’S THE WOMAN WARRIOR AND AMY TAN’S THE JOY LUCK CLUB
    (pp. 65-78)
    Mimi Chan

    Chinese American writers have their own set of preoccupations and interests. And the authors of Asian American literature offer a perspective that is neither entirely Eastern nor Western: their focus is not just on ‘Chinese-ness’ but Chinese-ness in an American context. Dennis Bloodworth has this to say about ‘Westernized Chinese’:

    There is no point in explaining westernized Chinese to the West; someone should write a book that explains them, rather, to the Chinese.¹

    If ‘Westernized Chinese’ are a separate species who have to be explained to their compatriots, then even more separate from their original mould would be immigrant Chinese,...

  13. PUBLISHING ASIAN WRITERS IN ENGLISH
    (pp. 79-86)
    Leon Comber

    I first became aware in the early 1960s of the ‘African Writers Series’ published by Heinemann Education Books Ltd., London, although the Series had been started well before that. I was then the Southeast Asian Representative of Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. based in Singapore. I thought it would be a splendid idea to build up a similar list for Southeast Asia as I was sure it would give a tremendous boost to creative writing in English in this part of the world, which was still regarded then as something of a cultural desert.

    Our textbook publishing programme was doing well,...

  14. ENGLISH VERSUS ISLAM: THE ASIAN VOICE OF SALMAN RUSHDIE
    (pp. 87-100)
    Roy Harris

    The title of this paper, English versus Islam: the Asian Voice of Salman Rushdie, achieved the dubious distinction, unique in its writer’s experience, of becoming a topic of controversy before the paper itself had even been finished, let alone delivered. That this should have happened is symptomatic of the tenor of debate which still continues over Rushdie’s most recent book. The debate in question has been marred by intemperance, by intolerance, and by distortion. It is to be hoped that in what follows the most sensitive critic will be able to find none of these faults, but no attempt either...

  15. THE ECHOING OF QUIET VOICES
    (pp. 101-108)
    Aamer Hussein

    Some years ago, it became fashionable to speak at cultural seminars and symposiums of the writer in various states of exile. While most exiled writers lamented the loss of language, landscape and live debate with an audience, speaking of the pain that led them to write and address/redress this loss, others held that this very loss was a prerequisite to writing: that it was necessary to distance one’s self from one’s environment in order to understand and describe it better. Exile as a necessary prerequisite to writing? It seemed to me a harsh exhortation. Surely, I thought, some of the...

  16. CALIBAN IN THE ANDES: FIGURES OF ENCHANTMENT AS POST-COLONIAL TEXT
    (pp. 109-118)
    Chelva Kanaganayakam

    Ghose’s ongoing preoccupation with the thematics of exile and native-alien experience, the ambiguities that underline the relation between text and reality, and with the problematic status of language as a vehicle for consciousness becomes increasingly evident in his most recent work Figures of Enchantment. A moment that comes to mind is the first meeting between Popayan, the magician and at times the novelist-surrogate in the novel, and Federico, the ill-fated exile, condemned to pursue an always compulsive and inevitably futile quest for a satisfying vision of permanence. As Federico stands outside Popayan’s shop and wonders if the latter’s magic would...

  17. DAVID HENRY HWANG AND THE REVENGE OF MADAME BUTTERFLY
    (pp. 119-130)
    Douglas Kerr

    One of the best-known of all Asian voices sings in Italian. I dare say that Madame Butterfly is the most recognisable image in all of Western opera, and one that comes freighted with meaning even for those who have never seen or heard the opera, and have the vaguest idea of the story. One such was the American playwright David Henry Hwang, who, one afternoon in 1986 while driving down Santa Monica Boulevard, was visited by ‘the idea of doing a deconstructivist Madame Butterfly’, even though at the time he did not even know the plot of the opera.¹ This...

  18. A CASE OF (MIS)TAKEN IDENTITY: POLITICS AND AESTHETICS IN SOME RECENT SINGAPOREAN NOVELS
    (pp. 131-146)
    Ruth Morse

    The argument of this paper proceeds on the principle of Chinese boxes — with, I hope, some sense of appropriateness to the occasion. The main contentions are simple enough: that, in exploring the problem of national identity in Singapore, three novelists who may have thought they were adventuring into the sensitive area of political discussion in a polis where that has not been an easy subject have in effect played precisely into the hands, or the expectations, or even the fondest hopes, of governmental policy. They have, in proposing that the constant discussion of certain competing values are the questions...

  19. THE POEMS OF SU TUNG-P’O: CATCHES AND LOSSES IN THE NET OF TRANSLATION
    (pp. 147-160)
    Gordon T. Osing

    The following represents a work of scholarship or criticism not so much as an experiment, an attempt anyway, at rendering the poems of Su Tung-p’o as poems in English. The project was initiated in the winter of 1986-87 while I was teaching as an exchange professor at Huazhong Normal University in Wuhan, Hubei Province, in the People’s Republic of China. My post-graduate student Min Xiaohong came to me with her own enthusiasm for the great Sung Dynasty poet and suggested we try our hand at putting the poems into English. I had a desire to learn what I could about...

  20. SPEECH, CULTURE AND HISTORY IN THE NOVELS OF KAZUO ISHIGURO
    (pp. 161-168)
    Norman Page

    In the third and most recent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, The Remains of the Day, published last year, the narrator is an elderly butler who has spent a lifetime employed in an English country house and who looks back from the vantage-point of 1956 to a period that begins just after the end of the First World War. It seems a highly unlikely subject for a young novelist who was born in Nagasaki in 1954, but in this paper I shall try to show that it has a certain inevitability and — despite superficial differences — is consistent with the...

  21. THE CHINESE MARGIN IN PHILIPPINE LITERATURE IN ENGLISH
    (pp. 169-176)
    Lily Rose Tope

    For the Chinese, being a minority group in the Philippines has never been easy. They have often been the object of merciless derision not only because of their alien ways but also because of the Filipinos’ distrust of their ability to survive in the direst of circumstances and their incredible talent at accumulating wealth. History too had a hand in driving the wedge between the two peoples. The Spaniards, fearful of the increasing influence of the Chinese in the colonial economy, set forth a divide-and-rule campaign which resulted in the belief among the natives that the Chinese were out to...

  22. THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF ENGLISH-LANGUAGE DRAMA IN MALAYSIA
    (pp. 177-186)
    Nur Nina Zuhra

    Modern drama in Malaysia has been written in all four of the country’s major language streams: Bahasa Malaysia or Malay (the national language), Chinese, Tamil, and English. Most of the research done on modern Malaysian theatre has so far focussed on plays in Malay which do, in fact, constitute the dominant theatre trend in the country.¹ Modern Malay theatre has a historical development dating back to the 1930s and, since the 1950s, has actively kept pace with the nationalist movement and subsequent issues of nation-building.

    To my knowledge, no comprehensive studies have yet been made on the development of theatre...

  23. SPONTANEOUS IMPRESSIONS OF ASIAN VOICES
    (pp. 187-190)
    Syd Harrex

    Preceding the ‘Closing Address’ by Professor Wang Gungwu (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong), my contribution to the final session of the Symposium was optimistically — but in the event misleadingly — entitled ‘Academic Summary’. Belatedly I realised that two indispensable qualifications for undertaking such an assignment were omniscience and the capacity to write a public address in a few minutes. Accordingly, I began with an unscripted apologia for my thorough lack of omniscience, pointing out that it was impossible for me to present any summary which could with justice and accuracy recapture the cultural diversity and intellectual riches...