Tuesday, 27 October 2015

David T. K. Wong by Lee Li Ying

Author and philanthropist David T. K. Wong is an elder statesman of Asian letters. Here, Lee Li Ying, one of his editors at Epigram Books, the Singapore-based publisher of Adrift, the first part of his multi-volume family memoir, reveals him to be a man who knows his passion, purpose and priorities.

Since the 1980s, Hong Kong writer David T. K. Wong has been delighting readers with compelling fiction on a wide range of themes. Lorna Sage, literary critic and professor of English Literature at the University of East Anglia, praised “David Wong’s short stories celebrate the versatility of the form - and the diversity of his characters’ destinies. He knows all about contemporary patterns of violence and oppression but still contrives to find room to manoeuvre, room for ironic detachment and stubborn, private daydreams.” Meanwhile, David Watmough, one of Canada’s leading novelists and playwrights, credits David with providing “literary oxygen in a world of stifling cultural parochialism”.

David’s literary output - four collections of short stories and two novels - has been well-received. His short stories  have earned him a number of awards, and have appeared in various magazines in the United States, Great Britain, Hong Kong and other Asian countries. A Hong Kong publisher will be reissuing one of his short story collections at the beginning of next year.

Many of his stories have been broadcast by BBC Radio 4 in Britain, RTHK in Hong Kong and other radio stations in Ireland, Holland, Belgium and elsewhere. A number of his short stories have appeared in anthologies.

Now 86, David has turned his hand to writing a multi-volume family memoir, a work driven by powerful narrative, and imbibed with a strong sense of his Chinese ancestry; he is exploring complicated familial relationships, firmly placed within the Asian context. The first volume, Adrift: My Childhood in Colonial Singapore, was released in June this year, and the second one, Hong Kong Fiascos: A Struggle for Survival, is slated for release in November.

A big-hearted writer, David has no qualms about donating his wealth to champion Asian writing and culture, and he is celebrated as someone who will always give young writers who wish to write about the Far East a helping hand. He established the David T. K. Wong Fellowship in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in the UK in 1997. The Fellowship is a generous annual award of GBP 26,000 to enable a fiction writer who wants to write in English about Asia to spend a year at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Since its launch, 18 Fellows have been appointed. The 2015/16 Fellowship has been awarded to Violet Kupersmith, an American whose Vietnamese mother fled her home country by boat following the fall of Saigon in April 1975. Violet's first book, The Frangipani Hotel, was published last year. It is a collection of contemporary ghost stories based loosely on supernatural tales told to her by her maternal grandmother. She is currently working on her first novel.

In the same spirit of generosity that led him to establish the Fellowship, David makes his published fiction available for free download at his website, click here

Today, David resides in Malaysia and is working on his third volume of family memoir, dealing with his experiences as a civil servant in the Hong Kong government.