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Proverse Prize Library Talk (The International Proverse Prize for Unpublished Writing)


Various speakers


Dr Gillian Bickley, Co-Founder of the International Proverse Prize for unpublished writing


5 March 2015 (Thursday)


6:30 - 8:00 pm


Special Collections, 1/F, Main Library, The University of Hong Kong







About the Speakers and their books

Chocolate's Brown Study in the Bag

RUPERT CHAN, MH is a former university administrator, an award-winning playwright and lyricist, and a well-known versatile translator, writer, radio host, and opera commentator. Many are in his debt for his English sur-titles and sub-titles for Cantonese operas and films. He has been an adviser on opera and drama to the Hong Kong Government's Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

Recently awarded the Hong Kong Government’s Medal of Honour (MH), he is Chairman of Chung Ying Theatre Company Board of Directors, assessor of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) and the Hong Kong Federation of Drama Societies, Council member of the Composers' and Authors' Society of Hong Kong (CASH), Advisor to the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Registry, Advisor to Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), Advisory Committee member of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts (HKAPA) School of Drama, and part-time teacher at HKU School of Chinese. He is also external examiner and visiting teacher of HKU SPACE.

Chocolate's Brown Study in the Bag is Rupert Chan's second book in English. It won a place as a finalist in the inaugural (2009) Proverse Prize.

The Narrator of Chocolate's Brown Study in the Bag is a thirty-three month old chocolate-coloured toy poodle, born in Australia and flown to Hong Kong for sale in a pet-shop. He has become a well-loved addition to a middle-class Hong Kong Chinese family who take him everywhere, sometimes (when the place is forbidden to dogs) hidden in a bag. Paradoxically, when zipped up in the pitch black darkness inside the bag and naturally entering into a brown study, he enters the colourful world of dreams, reviewing in them his past and present life.

As Chocolate tells his tale, we learn his human family's looks, habits, history, hobbies, education, professions, relationships, aspirations and thoughts. We meet his doggie friends and learn about the special world that dog-owners in Hong Kong inhabit. Unexpectedly, we also partake of the small dog's wisdom and learn the secret of happiness.



Odds and Sods

LAWRENCE GRAY was born and educated in the UK and took BA honours in Economics and Politics from Leeds University. He has lived in Hong Kong since 1991. He is a professional screenwriter and director and has written episodes of UK and Singapore TV dramas and written, produced and directed a number of films in English and Cantonese. He directed the feature film “Lust $ Found” that he describes as an eccentric English gangster movie set in Hong Kong. In 2015 he finds himself in pre-production of a Hong Kong/Canadian feature film set in the Alaskan bush. He is also scripting eighteen hours of prime time Singapore drama. 

Gray’s collection of short stories, Odds and Sods, was published in 2014 as a Proverse Prize Publication. It features stories that meld French farce, Chinese Opera, Religious mysticism, Hollywood and Hong Kong movies in a kaleidoscopic tour de force. 

His novel “Cop Show Heaven” is scheduled for publication in 2015. It was inspired by his experiences writing episodes of a big budget British TV show set in Hong Kong in 1989 and the increasing nervousness of Hong Kong’s population about the 1997 handover to China’s sovereignty.

Gray was a founder of the London Screenwriters’ Workshop, which became Europe’s largest screenwriters’ organisation before evolving into the many UK screenwriting organisations and courses which are now part of the UK cultural environment. In Hong Kong he founded the Hong Kong Writers’ Circle and chaired the group for twenty years, publishing many collections of stories from a wide variety of Hong Kong writers.

Gray has taught screenwriting in various cities around the world, and was one of the first to professionalize the industry.  In 1996, he won the first Public Awareness of Science drama award (PAWS) and the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum’s (FAF’s) award for best Hong Kong film project of the year in 2006.



Article 109

PETER GREGOIRE is the bestselling author of Article 109, a legal financial-crime thriller set in Hong Kong and joint-winner of the international Proverse Prize 2011. His recent second novel, The Devil You Know, set against the future background of the 2017 Hong Kong election for the Chief Executive,is already a Hong Kong bestseller.

Gregoire was born in the UK and moved to Hong Kong in 2003. He works as a legal counsel in the Hong Kong financial services industry and is an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Hong Kong. He has worked for the regulatory authorities in Hong Kong and as a private practice commercial litigation lawyer in the City of London. During his career, Gregoire has been responsible for implementing anti-money-laundering and anti-fraud compliance systems, dealing with ICAC investigations and litigating complex financial frauds through both the English and Hong Kong courts.

In Article 109, Peter draws on his inside knowledge of working in the financial services industry and his experience of the subtle political and economic relationship between Hong Kong and China. A young solicitor, investigating the suicide of his former colleague, unravels a conspiracy to cause chaos on the financial markets by instigating the downfall of one of Asia's richest tycoons. The book lifts the lid on Hong Kong's fragile status as an international financial centre and the role it plays in China's unrelenting march towards becoming the most powerful global economic superpower.



Shadows in Deferment

BIRGIT BUNZEL LINDER was born and raised in Oberhausen, an industrial city in the Ruhr Valley. She left Germany in the 1980s, and has since lived in Taiwan, China, America, and now lives in Hong Kong. She teaches Chinese and Comparative Literary Studies at the City University of Hong Kong. Her life has been marked by frequent moves and many travels, and by inscriptions from different places, cultures, and people, which also reveal themselves in her first collection of poetry, Shadows in Deferment. Birgit Linder has previously published poems in Mad Poets Review, Clockwise Cat, Kavya Bharati, Cerebration, International Literary Quarterly, and Asian Cha. Besides writing, she likes painting, reading, and photography. She won the International Proverse Prize 2012.

Shadows in Deferment won the International Proverse Prize 2012. A representative collection of free verse from a life of rich cultural encounters, it cannot be read at one sitting but must be savoured over time, and more than once, if justice is to be done to the ideas and the means by which they are expressed. Attempts at self-identification are matched by the permanent impressions made by new cultures and social contexts. Linguistic and spiritual displacement are articulated, while the poet also offers a sense of and search for a common humanity. Striking images created by the poet provide an extra dimension.



Man's Last Song

JAMES TAM was born in Hong Kong, and studied and worked in Canada in the 70s and early 80s. In 2008, he left a successful career in environmental engineering to write. It is his practice to tell the same story in both English and Chinese. These are not translations from one language to the other, but different versions, responding to the qualities and conventions of the language used. His short stories have been selected for publication in anthologies, the Asia Literary Review, and one of Hong Kong’s foremost Chinese literary magazines Hong Kong Writers (香港作家). Man's Last Song, Tam's first full-length novel, was a finalist for the International Proverse Prize 2011, and won a supplementary award. As a scientific realist, Tam sees abundant evidence that 21st-century Homo Sapiens is a delusional and self-endangered species. However, due to a persuasive genetic predisposition, he remains irrationally optimistic. He shares his time among Hong Kong, mainland China, Canada, and Finland, and maintains a regular writing routine mainly through his blog:

In Tam’s environmental novel, Man's Last Song, the human race faces imminent extinction. The year is 2090. The global population has shrunk to less than half a million; median age about sixty. After forty years of near-universal sterility, humanity is vanishing while the rest of the planet makes a healthy comeback. A few survivors in Hong Kong face the challenge of adjusting to life as post-modern savages, rediscovering instincts that have long been suppressed by civilisation. To these post-modern cavemen and cavewomen dwelling in the concrete remains of an empty metropolis, life has become a lonely journey of self-discovery in which they reassess also mankind. Their relationships with nature, each other, and themselves have fundamentally changed. The dilemma, pain and pleasure of love, friendship, compassion, ageing, and loneliness have been heightened by pragmatic dictates. The unknowable − God, Dao, death, even reality − has assumed new and shifting dimensions in man's dying world. How did Homo sapiens reach this dire situation? Looking back with hindsight borrowed from the future, readers may join characters in this book in finding today's world absurd, even suicidal. Others may hang on tenaciously to one thing that has not changed: hope.



Mishpacha - Family

REBECCA TOMASIS was born in the United Arab Emirates, spent her later childhood years in Turkey and has called Hong Kong home since she was eleven. Although she has been writing all her life, Mishpacha Family, winner of the inaugural (2009) Proverse Prize, is her first completed novel. Tomasis attributes her love of writing to two sources, her passion for reading and her interest in people and how people think and feel and interact with each other. During her history studies at University it was always the stories of the people involved in each particular time period or historical event, that gripped her most. Her travels across the world have served to fuel her interest in people and their families and she has a particular interest in the Middle East and its fascinating culture, history and people.

Mishpacha – Family is the story of four women living within the modern state of Israel. Each arrives from a different background – the anti-semitisim of Communist Russia; the exclusive suburbs of Tel Aviv; the poverty of Yemen; the comforts of Middle-class America – to live within the confines of one home and one family.
These are the separate stories of these four – the daughter of a Russian immigrant; the daughter of a successful European-Israeli businessman; the daughter of Yemenite Jews; and the daughter of assimilated American liberal Jews. It is also their joint story under one roof with one man, brought together in the name of Judaism and in the name of Family.