Linguistic-cultural schizophrenia: Reading xu xi writing Hong Kong

Christopher Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on English language literature in Hong Kong particularly the contemporary author Xu Xi. First exploring the problematic status of literature in the former colony outlining its perceived marginality vis-a-vis Sinophone and Anglophone traditions since the 1950s the essay highlights how Xu Xi's discursive articulation of Hong Kong presents in her words a "city-village" that is vibrant, evanescent, and filled with the minutiae of life lived. Her choice to employ English is particularly interesting, especially in light of the colonial and commercial baggage the language still has in the city, and its contradictory centeredness and peripherality. But for Xu Xi, writing in English was "natural" for she grew up without a "mother tongue." A wahkiu wanderer, English was the only means to express her state of "linguistic-cultural schizophrenia." Her stories are most assuredly for the city's residents, but simultaneously they resound with a transnational audience accustomed to reading works of fiction in English. In a sense, Xu Xi's works exemplify the glocalness of the language. They articulate, in the words of the poet Luis H. Francia, a placeless placeness, a "contradictory condition-at home everywhere and nowhere." If Hong Kong literature is to have its own trans/inter/national future, perhaps the unique contributions of the city's Anglophone writers is the key to carving out a niche of their own.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-73
Number of pages34
JournalTamkang Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Alternative worlds
  • Anglophone writing
  • Hong Kong literature
  • Linguistic-cultural schizophrenia
  • Mainstream cultural discourse
  • XuXi


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