Historical Fiction




Hsu Yu. (1962). "Strange Guest". In Woman in the Mist and Two Other Stories. Hong Kong: Rainbow Press. pp.19-62.

David Chou, a professor of music, and his wife Kitty moved to Hong Kong from Shanghai in 1949. They were helped at the time by the family of Davidís charismatic and dashing friend, Paul Wong. In 1961, they hear from Paul that he is coming to visit them. He turns up without his wife Ann or their children, and takes up residence with the Chous apparently indefinitely. He is completely transformed and a shadow of his former character, shunning the various social events the Chous try to arrange for him, and showing no interest in music which had formerly been his passion. He explains to Kitty that in Shanghai he succumbed to a drink problem and therefore will not drink but he is otherwise uncommunicative about the change that has taken place. He spends more and more time locked in his room at the Chous, even taking his meals in there, and apparently avoiding their company. Both David and Kitty (who years earlier had been strongly attracted to Paul) are baffled and his strange behaviour creates increasing tension in the household.

Before Christmas, David slips HK$1000 with a card beneath Paulís door and also without telling Kitty, and is not seen for the whole of the next day.. But in the evening, he returns smelling of booze, laden with presents and apparently Ďrestoredí to his lively former self. He doles out the presents and demands they all fill their glasses and drink up, and then asks David to play the violin for him. But as David begins, Paulís glass slips from his hand and he dies of an alcohol induced heart attack.

The story could possibly be read as a sort of political allegory about Chinaís relationship with Hong Kong Ė its silent presence in the fabric of Hong Kong, disconcerting the apparent straightforwardness of Hong Kongís existence. Since the story was published originally in 1961, it precedes the cultural revolution but potentially implies a critique of both Hong Kong and China as mutually disruptive. (KB)

All entries and data copyright © The Hong Kong English Literature Database