Adrian Ho reviews the latest anthology from the Hong Kong Writers Circle.

Paul Clinton Corrigan (ed.), After the Storm (Hong Kong Writers Circle, 2021), 282pp.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you” – Maya Angelou.

Some stories make us cry; some make us laugh. Some stories make us want to read more; some enrich our knowledge of the mechanics of the world. And, there are stories that ask us to consider the impact of such mechanics on individuals.

After the Storm is a compilation of such stories with one common question: What happens after the chaos has ravaged us? Is it, as Becky Baker contends in her contribution to the collection, that “Lives [are] changed forever” (“Making Friends with the Rain”)? In asking such questions, we are invited to consider our ability to come to terms genuinely with the phenomenon of aftermath – not only those that result from the natural world, but also those created by the complexity of human relationships. How we live in the present helps to shape our future, but not always, it seems. To questions about our future, we endeavour to try to find an answer, the universal answer – “I want a serious answer. Are you worried?” – Larry Feign asks in “Omens”, but ultimately we know it’s an impossible desire to complete.

In reviewing this compilation, I have found many individual voices calling out into the void and upwards to the stars; so many different emotions trailing through each individual tale. However, one thread remains common to all – human nature, and our human response to the wake of the storm. As a theme, the various storms in the stories exist only because of the writers’ tenacities to create them. The ebb and flow of human responses throughout these trying times are etched into our consciousness.

We (individually and as a collective whole) find ourselves caught in the crossroads of ethics and division. Especially nowadays, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the tempestuous political chaos across the world, we find ourselves stuck with the same questions, no matter on which side of the political divide we sit. Central to this, we find that with each passing moment, uncertainties build. We find ourselves wondering: what is our home going to be like after the storm? Surely, it will be different. But is that difference to be “The dawning of a glorious new day,” as R.J. Verity asks (“New Day”)? Or will the difference be nothing more than a façade? With destruction and destitution imminent, such haunting images pervade our visions of the future while we still live within the widening gyre of the storm.

Hong Kong, a city in a world that has been blown around by internal and external turmoil, stands on its own precipice.  As stated by Jason Y. Ng in his contribution “Five Stages of Grief in Nishiaizu”, “my heart beats and bleeds for this place.” Will the Lion on the Rock, with its proud eyes gazing up into the heavens, its silent growls carried by the howling winds, still be our watchful guardian in times of stress and distress? Whether it will or not, these stories reveal experiences and emotions, of grief and loss, joy and humanity in all its variegated forms. For all readers, nonetheless, “This is for you” as Dominic Sergent puts it (“The Cure for Everything”).

Adrian Ho lives and works in Hong Kong. He is currently pursuing his PhD in English Literary Studies.

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