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“Hi, my name is Andrew Kwong. I’m reading from my recently finished work “Snake Business”. A memoir of surviving Mao’s Great Leap Forward.
It all began in the summer of 1955, when I was leaving home for the first time in my life. Like the previous few summers that I can remember, it was hot. The unrelenting sun bore down overhead, baking everything in its reach, sucking up the water from the vast Pearl River delta where we lived, and turning it into muggy dampness to compensate for the rising heat. I reached out and grabbed a handful of fine moisture in my palm and squeezed out little droplets; and marvelled at the magic that life could bring.
‘Ah, the life juice of our universe,’ my father would say with a sigh. ‘Fortunately we are blessed with plenty of it since time began.’ A spark of hope flickered in his eyes but I could also feel his concern as how the family could carry on in a revolution that continued to take its toll.
Typhoons brought in heavy rains from the South China Sea along with high tides. The rivers swelled with the melting snow far, far away inland where many rivers originated in our country. Floods raged through our town yet again, submerging the low-lying landscape for weeks, transforming it into a colossal sea of muddy yellow waters. Then the floods would retreat and life would go on as before. The smell of mud hung in the air for days at a time. Rustic and earthy, some people said, accepting the inevitable turn of seasons and at the same time trying to find reasons for their changed fortunes under the new government. We felt close to the bosom of nature and its rhythms of life, but helpless in facing the many revolutionary campaigns.
Seasons came and went, with songs of the big river nearby pulsating through our life like lifeblood pumping from the heart of a continent exhausted from decades of fighting and hardship, yet refusing to give in.”
ABOUT ANDREW Y M KWONG:
Andrew was born in China and has called Australia home since 1969, after surviving Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Great Famine and the Red Guards chaos. He lives and practises as a family physician on the central coast of NSW.
“I recently finished my major writing project of ten years, Snake Business, a memoir of surviving Mao’s Great Leap Forward. This would not have been possible until I spent a Professional Development Week at Varuna in 2010 where I found my voice to tell my story effectively with the help of Carol Major; and a subsequent Varuna Writing Retreat Fellowship in February this year with Peter Bishop who reassured me that a good story takes a long time to write. The magic of Varuna lingers.” Andrew Y M Kwong
• A short story, “Snake Business”, in an anthology, Fear Factor Terror Incognito by Picador India 2009 and Picador Australia 2010
• Seven short stories in Medical Observer, a weekly medical publication, and
• Two short stories and a Haiku in Peacock Mosaic, an Internet literary publication.
• “Snake Business” under a different title (“Another Kind of Struggle”) was short-listed in this year’s Penguin Varuna Development Scholarship competition.
• Short story “Rose Petal Path” accepted for the Indian-Australian anthology Alien Shores. Scheduled for publication by Brass Monkey Books in Australia in May 2012.
041 226 5590
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