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Letters | August 2004

August 2004, no. 263

Letters | August 2004

August 2004, no. 263

Different attitudes

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to John Biggs’s letter (ABR, June/July 2004) regarding my review of his novel, The Girl in the Golden House (ABR, April 2004). Reading Biggs’s comments on my discussion of his use of English names and idioms, I was reminded just how different our attitudes towards contemporary fiction are. We are obviously writing from different generational perspectives, with quite different expectations of what writing, especially that about ex-British colonies, should be able – or at least attempting – to do. Of course I am aware that Chinese people in Hong Kong have old-fashioned English names and have received aspects of an English education, but it was the way that Biggs wrote about and, simply, continued this colonial tradition that I felt compelled to critique. People in Hong Kong have Cantonese names and traditions as well, but Biggs’s characters lacked complexity and believability in this regard. As I suggested in my review, this was most probably not only a result of Biggs’s own cultural background but, more importantly, of his lack of awareness of some of the wider debates that currently surround the practice of Westerners writing about Asia.

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