[EXCLUSIVE] “A Triumphant Knight” (Monday 3 August 2020) by Chris Song, translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

A Triumphant Knight
by Chris Song, translated from the Chinese by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

{{{ Hong Kong—Monday 3 August 2020 }}}

The number of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong is 80, about two-thirds of yesterday’s. At the daily news conference, Dr Chuang Shuk Kwan, chief manager of patient safety and risk management, is always careful with the words she uses. Even though there are fewer confirmed cases than before, the number is still not encouraging. Dr Chuang once said something that I thought was quite wise: that you can’t really tell if the peak of the outbreak has arrived until you’re over the peak. This is like life, as we are often unaware of being already at the peak of our journey—we think we can climb to new heights. That’s why there are very few willing to step down at the height of their career. People tend to only call it quits when they realise they are going downhill, when their prime is passed. At this time, it’s already pointless to look at Victoria Harbour and emit a sigh of self-pity. The same applies to fighting the pandemic, investing in the stock market or real estate, writing, doing all sorts of business. Many cities have nicknames; one of Hong Kong’s is the ‘floating city’. Over the last century or longer, it has been sometimes afloat, sometimes sinking. On this soil, regardless of the heights one reaches, the height is illusory—imaginary puff. It might one day shrivel to the width of a toothpick. People who carry with them generations of memories of Hong Kong understand this situation well.

During the pandemic, one of the businesses that never stops is food delivery, and those working for the three main food delivery phone apps work particularly hard. As well as Chinese-speaking Hongkongers, there are those of South Asian descent and speak fluent Cantonese and very good English. They deliver food rain or shine and are a godsend for many, especially people confined to their homes or in forced quarantine in hotels. We actually work longer hours when it’s at home. Even if you can cook quite well, it’s nigh impossible to have the time to be at the stove three times a day. Ordering food helps fill the gap. When the pandemic finally passes, we must remember the contribution of delivery personnel. I fear, however, that they will end up being unrecognised, unthanked. I walked past Johnston Road on the way to the supermarket; the street was deserted, emptied of cars. A delivery guy proudly glided by on his bicycle. Normally, you do not see bicycles on the streets here; pedestrians on both sides of the street couldn’t help but notice him. It was as though they were witnessing a triumphant knight returning home in all finery…

I turned on the television when I got back to the flat, and found out the number of deaths related to COVID-19 was now 37. The century-old floating city has its ups and downs, while the stock market fluctuates. Regardless of how reluctant we are to accept the reality, I am afraid the death toll will only increase…. Gold-dividerx

今天香港80宗新冠肺炎確診病例,比昨天少了三分之一,每天疫情簡報的醫生很謹慎,即使有所回落,人數還是算多的。前段時間她說過一句話,好像是挺有道理的金句,大概是:「只有過了高峰,才可以知道是高峰。」有時覺得,人生就是這樣了,身處高峰時往往不自覺,總是覺得可以再創高峰,能下決心急流勇退的人其實很少。往往意識到在走下坡路,才知道高峰已過,再望著維港感嘆又有什麼用呢。抗疫、買賣股票、投資買樓、寫作、做生意等等,都是這回事。城市通常都有個別稱,香港的別稱是「浮城」。整座城市在過去一百多年歷史上浮浮沉沉的,在這片土地上無論如何再創高峰,都是虛高虛胖,可能瞬間便瘦成一支牙籤,承繼了跨代記憶的香港人很務實,也最明白這個道理⋯⋯

抗疫期間,從未停工的其中一種職業,就是送外賣,特別是三大外賣app的員工。他們大多數是操著一口流利的廣東話的南亞裔人士,他們英文也說得不錯,也有部分是華人。他們日曬雨淋地送外賣,解決了疫情期間很多人吃飯不方便的問題,特別是在家或在酒店強制隔離的人。居家工作其實比平時更忙碌,縱使有一身廚藝,也不太能夠每天都三顧煤氣爐,有時也要叫外賣解決溫飽問題。他朝抗疫成功,外賣員也應該記上一功,可惜最後很可能不會得到承認。去超市路上走過莊士敦道,那時馬路上竟然沒有汽車,一位外賣員昂首踩著單車悠悠經過,畢竟單車很少出現在馬路上,街道兩邊的人行道上不少人注目,彷彿看著一位驕傲的騎士衣錦還鄉⋯⋯

回到家打開電視,發現與新冠肺炎相關的死亡人數已經達到37人。百年浮城有上有落,股市樓市有升有跌,但是無論我們有多麼不願意,恐怕這個數字只升不跌⋯⋯

Japnaese Restaurant_Sham Shui Po_Oliver Farry.jpg

A Japanese restaurant in Sham Shui Po

How to cite: Song, Chris. “A Triumphant Knight.” Translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 3 Aug. 2020, chajournal.blog/2020/08/03/triumphant-knight/.

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chris copy (1)Chris Song (author) is a poet, translator and editor based in Hong Kong. He has published four collections of poetry and many volumes of poetry in translation. Chris received an “Extraordinary Mention” at Italy’s UNESCO-recognized Nosside World Poetry Prize 2013 and the Young Artist Award at the 2017 Hong Kong Arts Development Awards. In 2018 he obtained a PhD in Translation Studies from Lingnan University. More recently he won Haizi Poetry Award in 2019. Chris is currently Editor-in-Chief of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine and Executive Director of the International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong

tammy-lai-ming-hoTammy Lai-Ming Ho (translator) is the founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, an editor of the academic journals Victorian Network and Hong Kong Studies, and the first English-language Editor of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine. She is an Associate Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, where she teaches poetics, fiction, and modern drama. She is also the President of PEN Hong Kong, a Junior Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities, an advisor to the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, and an Associate Director of One City One Book Hong Kong. Tammy’s first collection of poetry is Hula Hooping (Chameleon 2015), for which she won the Young Artist Award in Literary Arts from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Her first short story collection Her Name Upon The Strand (Delere Press), her second poetry collection Too Too Too Too (Math Paper Press) and chapbook An Extraterrestrial in Hong Kong (Musical Stone) were published in 2018. Her first academic book is Neo-Victorian Cannibalism (Palgrave, 2019). Tammy edited or co-edited a number of literary volumes having a strong focus on Hong Kong, the most recent one being Twin Cities: An Anthology of Twin Cinema from Singapore and Hong Kong (Landmark Books, 2017). She guest-edited a Hong Kong Feature for World Literature Today (Spring 2019), the Hong Kong special issue of Svenska PEN’s PEN/Opp, and an e-chapbook of Hong Kong poetry published by Cordite Publishing. Tammy is also a translator and her literary translations can be found in World Literature TodayChinese Literature TodayPathlight: New Chinese Writing, among other places, and International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong volumes (2015, 2017 and 2019). Her own poems have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Latvian, and Vietnamese. She is currently co-editing several academic volumes in addition to 2020: A Bilingual Anthology of Hong Kong Poetry.

(Header photograph © Oliver Farry.)

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