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By: Malcolm Jack

My Hong Kong

Pages: 200 Ratings: 4.9
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How was Hong Kong perceived and described by writers from the 1950s during the last colonial period? Was it a British city or was it Chinese?

The writers show how different life was for ex-pats ensconced on the Peak and leading a glitzy lifestyle compared to refugees who came pouring into the colony from mainland China and lived in dire poverty in squatter camps.

Find out if that East and West ever mingled in My Hong Kong.


Malcolm Jack was brought up and schooled in Hong Kong before returning to university in the UK. As a child, he learned Cantonese at the same time as English. He has had a career both as a public servant and a writer. His writing includes books, articles, reviews on history, literature, philosophy, and politics, as well as travel works on Portugal, and most recently, on South Africa. He is a frequent visitor to Hong Kong.

Customer Reviews
4.9
35 reviews
35 reviews
  • T Adamson-Green

    The Chinese-American journalist Jianying Zha once said that China is 'way too big a cow for anyone to tackle in full'. A similar thing might be said of Hong Kong - the small but densely populated city perched on the eastern side of the Pearl River Delta, whose transition from British colony to special administrative region has long inspired a fascination with the question of its complex political, social and cultural identity.

    Malcolm Jack's elegant solution is to tackle it through the diverse perspectives of those who have written about it. Through a thoughtful collection of the writings of British, Chinese, Eurasian, Korean, American and Russian authors, Jack charts the shifting identity of the city and its inhabitants from the 1950s to the 1997 handover. Each individual portrait combines to form a vivid tableau of life in Hong Kong from the rarefied cocktail parties of the colonial elite on the Peak, to the chaotic alleyways of the Kowloon shanty towns.

    For many of Jack's writers, the cultural intermediary, vital in helping to bridge the (often superficial) divides between Western and Chinese, crops up again and again. Opening with a rich account of his own childhood in Hong Kong and weaving his experiences throughout, Jack expertly performs this role for his reader, bringing humour, historical commentary and deep insight into the work of his assembled authors.

    The result is a stunning evocation of a Hong Kong now receding from view. Highly entertaining and informative, 'My Hong Kong' is a must read for all those wanting to immerse themselves in the recent history of the Fragrant Harbour.

  • Guy Thompson

    The clever weaving together of childhood memories and the thoughts of local writers from the same period leaves the reader with a sense of what Hong Kong was like in the middle of the last century. Lots of food for thought, especially in the light of events since, and a real insight into what has been lost.

  • Machaggis

    Malcolm Jack’s reflections on a well chosen collection of twentieth century writing on the currently highly challenged ex-colony give an authentic sense of its richness. Jack grew up in the city in the 1950s and his knowledge and affection for ‘My Hong Kong’ very soon makes it ‘our’ Hong Kong.
    Extremely readable and recommended.

  • Iain Leighton

    Malcolm Jack’s book is beautifully written. Marvellous, evocative descriptions of places in HK that I know so well. Like Malcolm, I was also born and brought up in HK. You may leave HK, but HK will never leave you. A welcome addition to recent books about HK in the glorious Colonial days. Highly recommend this superb book. Iain Leighton.

  • Amazon Customer

    Malcolm Jack’s new book is an intimate and very personal memoir. It is an affectionate record of someone who grew up in a British colonial family in Hong Kong in the 1950s and written with a curiosity to understand the human meaning of all he has experienced there, in childhood and in later life; but it is also a rich and deeply informed collection of commentaries, anecdotes, and literary biographies devoted to a sequence of travellers, colonists, cosmopolitans, novelists and other writers who found versions of Jack’s own fascination with the mesmerizing cultural mix of life in Hong Kong in the crucial years of change from the ‘50s to the handover in 1997. Precisely because of Jack’s personal touch the work challenges and demolishes many common misconceptions and popular myths about the Chinese character and has appeared at a time in geopolitics when this really matters. The idea of the Chinese within the Westerner and the Westerner with the Chinese is a central theme of this volume and anyone attempting to understand the complex political, linguistic, commercial and historical consequences of Britain’s precarious, shifting relations with this singular part of China today, with its hierarchical and historical divisions, its riches and destitution, will find many rewards. The human particularity of Jack’s approach to time and place, and the understandings available through the literary imagination, means there is much welcome food for thought about Hong Kong’s future.

    Jack has executed his task with pleasing lucidity. The book is composed in a most engaging, available style and with a sharp sense of the comedy of human life and its opportunities for common ground between cultural strangers--the individuals sent out to administer the colony, and those administered by them. Jack’s format allows his personal voice to come through; but this is never at the expense of his subjects' perspectives: the sometimes astonishing, talented and resourceful people he foregrounds. This is a homage to Hong Kong, but also to the many writers who, like Jack, have made the life of the colony so much a part of their own.
    Philip Smallwood

  • Amazon Customer

    Malcolm Jack’s new book is an intimate and very personal memoir. It is an affectionate record of someone who grew up in a British colonial family in Hong Kong in the 1950s and written with a curiosity to understand the human meaning of all he has experienced there, in childhood and in later life; but it is also a rich and deeply informed collection of commentaries, anecdotes, and literary biographies devoted to a sequence of travellers, colonists, cosmopolitans, novelists and other writers who found versions of Jack’s own fascination with the mesmerizing cultural mix of life in Hong Kong in the crucial years of change from the ‘50s to the handover in 1997. Precisely because of Jack’s personal touch the work challenges and demolishes many common misconceptions and popular myths about the Chinese character and has appeared at a time in geopolitics when this really matters. The idea of the Chinese within the Westerner and the Westerner with the Chinese is a central theme of this volume and anyone attempting to understand the complex political, linguistic, commercial and historical consequences of Britain’s precarious, shifting relations with this singular part of China today, with its hierarchical and historical divisions, its riches and destitution, will find many rewards. The human particularity of Jack’s approach to time and place, and the understandings available through the literary imagination, means there is much welcome food for thought about Hong Kong’s future.

    Jack has executed his task with pleasing lucidity. The book is composed in a most engaging, available style and with a sharp sense of the comedy of human life and its opportunities for common ground between cultural strangers--the individuals sent out to administer the colony, and those administered by them. Jack’s format allows his personal voice to come through; but this is never at the expense of his subjects' perspectives: the sometimes astonishing, talented and resourceful people he foregrounds. This is a homage to Hong Kong, but also to the many writers who, like Jack, have made the life of the colony so much a part of their own.
    Philip Smallwood

  • RogerB

    I have never been to Hong Kong neither have experienced that generation, but Malcom Jack paints an evocative picture of his life in Hong Kong. The characters are absolutely wonderful, some are quirky and amusing to follow and to learn how they made such a strong impact on Malcolm Jack's life.

  • J H SWINSON

    A fascinating view of life in Hong Kong from multiple perspectives. Would highly recommend.

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