The Italian edition of the book ‘Cinque Secoli di Italiani a Hong Kong e Macao’ was finally presented last night, the 14 of April, 2014 at Domani Restaurant, Hong Kong.
About 60 people attended and a speech, in Italian as it was right and proper, was delivered by the Consul General of Italy in Hong Kong and Macau, Dr. Alessandra Schiavo.
One of the guests standing close to me commented that as far as the cover of the book is concerned probably Caravaggio would have managed to create something better. I explained to the young fellow that, yes, maybe it is true but the ‘baby’ had to be delivered in a hurry.
This book looks impressive and not only for its size. It contains several long contributions, including mine, which appeared to me unnaturally long. Later, at home, I discovered why: one page that should have been put only in the historical introduction was again reprinted into my poetic souvenirs. Never mind, I am sure that no one will notice. The opener is a short introduction written by the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano,
I was not supposed to speak at the presentation but in order not to be finding wanting – for a last minute call on stage – I jotted down some loose sentences which I have by now thrown into the dustbin. I’ll repost them below, in order not to deprive posterity of my blurbs.
Buy this book in Hong Kong – not in Italy where the copyrights were given to the editor, Brioschi – because your money will ends up in two worthy no-profit organizations: the Societa’ Dante Alighieri and the Scuola Manzoni.
Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Thank you for being here tonight,
Thank you, Consul General Dr. Alessandra Schiavo,
Thank you, cavaliere Stefano Bassanese of Domani, for your usual & exquisite hospitality.
Thank you to the Dante Alighieri Society and its president, Bruno Feltracco, Elisa and the other teachers who helped with the editing.
Personally I have always been a fan of history, especially local history and I have collected books connected with places where I have lived, photos, documents, whatever. When Alessandra told me about this project, I felt thrilled and honored to be part of it.
Hong Kong and Macau are places where everything shifts like quicksand. Once we move out from here, our names are forgotten. Now, because of this book, all the people who have contributed will not fade away completely. I am convinced that this book will set the record straight about our history, a thing which in the end will be good for our Country.
Alessandra’s idea, at the very beginning, was a sort of photographic album with individual contributions provided by members of the Italian community and later was expanded to the present form. But to tell you the full story of this book we should write another book, because this work has been like the delivery of a baby, a sort of never-ending Work in Progress. We had no previous experience on something like this and we had to tackle problems one by one, as they came.
The editing work took more time than we initially expected. To write is a simple craft, like producing shoes or garments: but the more you write the better you write. In a world where emails and twits are the norm, not all the people can write in a clear and proper manner. After receiving the first individual contributions we though about inserting two introductions: one secular, which I wrote, and one for the clergy, written by Fr. Gianni Criveller. A turning point was the discovery of a list of Italian Consuls in Hong Kong that emerged from the archives of the Foreign Affair Ministry in Rome. No one has ever seen such list before because it has never been published. We discovered that the first Italian Consul General in Hong Kong, starting from 1861, was John Dent of the firm Dent and Company. If you remember the 1986 movie Taipan, there is a Tyler Brock, the fictional bad guy, who was actually a clever rendition of John Dent’s uncle Lancelot Dent, an opium merchant. In the film we could see him and Taipan fighting with steel hooks during a typhoon. We are Lucky to have Alessandra as Consul, apparently not a so fierce character when coming to a fight with grippling hooks but certainly not less determined in achieving her goals.
This book will be a reference for the future, a keystone, even if it is not complete and contains mistakes and omissions, for which I do apologize. For sure several names and situations have been left out but, at least, now there there is a base on which to build something more accurate.
With it, in a way, we have all achieved immortality together or, well, a sort of it…