PETER MOSS SCORES BIG ON A TIME MAGAZINE REVIEW!
Peter Moss is an Anglo-Indian writer with a prolific output (see links below). No Babylon is the third in his autobiographical trilogy which includes Bye Bye Blackbird (his childhood in India and subsequently in Britain), Distant Archipelagos (his years in Malaysia) and now No Babylon which encompasses his life in Hongkong.
Time Magazine (Asia edition) have reviewed No Babylon, and if you click on Time Magazine Review this will take you to the actual site. To be reviewed in Time Magazine, as most of us will appreciate, is a tremendous accolade.
Although it doesn't have the same pizzazz as going to the live source, for those who have a problem with linking to the Time Magazine article, take a look at the text reproduced below.
Peter is also the recipient of an MBE (Member of the British Empire) bestowed upon him by the Queen in her Honours List for his services in Hongkong. Congratulations are definitely in order!
Peter Moss, No Babylon, iUniverse
Just when you thought that there was not one word left to be added to the vast canon of post-colonial literature—no more stern apologia from superannuated officials, no more sobbing memoirs of privileged childhood from the waifs and strays of empire—along comes a work that is neither a defense of colonialism nor a veiled lament for its passing. The glib assumption one first makes of Peter Moss’ No Babylon—coming as it does from British Hong Kong’s former propaganda chief—is that it will be the kind of memoir any undergraduate seminar could destroy in minutes, excoriating an Orientalist cliché here, seizing upon a political or gender bias there. In fact, the book is nothing of the kind. Moss has an acute sense of separateness from the colonial hierarchy of which he was officially a part, stemming, one soon reads, not only from his Anglo-Indian ethnicity but also his sexual orientation (he was gay during years when being so was not only socially unacceptable in the territory but illegal). This otherness means that he is just as comfortable, if not more so, in the company of the second-class citizens of empire—the maids, the drivers, the delivery boys, the rural poor—than he is with his establishment peers. He sends his servants’ children to costly international schools; he puts up an incessant parade of deserving cases at his government quarters (from a crippled Nigerian asylum seeker to the abandoned son of destitute Chinese refugees); and, despite warnings of treason on the eve of the 1982 Falklands War, insists on dining with the Argentine consul, who is about to be deported, “because he is a family friend.” Any erstwhile colleagues who suspected Moss of harboring anti-establishment sympathies beneath his M.B.E. need only skim through No Babylon to have their apprehensions resoundingly confirmed.
Moss’ book—the third volume in an autobiographical trilogy that began with Bye Bye Blackbird and Distant Archipelagos—is more than just an exhilarating confessional, however. The story begins with his arrival in Hong Kong in 1965 as a senior information officer in Government Information Services (the departmental initials were sarcastically said to mean “God Is Speaking”). A rich store of anecdotes spans what were, arguably, the most tumultuous periods of Hong Kong’s history—the civil unrest and refugee influx of the late 1960s, the social changes wrought by rapid industrialization of the 1970s, and the 1980s boom years (which were never fully enjoyed, owing to the deep anxieties surrounding Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997). The book nears conclusion with Moss’ eventual appointment as department head and it also—in a marvelous final twist—relates a fall of sorts. During his career, Moss kept his employer at arm’s length not only emotionally but contractually, turning down opportunities to join the government’s “permanent and pensionable establishment” in favor of remaining on ad hoc terms. This meant that he retired, at 58, without the comfortable pension an official with his length of service could expect. Neither had he saved the bonuses that were payable at the end of each of his contracts. “I had treated my gratuities as pocket money, and had continued to blow most of them,” he writes. “‘Live for the moment’ had been my motto, and the moments had been many and memorable.” Thus, at the end of it all, Moss is broke and living, astonishingly, among the masses in a blue-collar housing estate, dependent for a time on handouts from friends, of which he has deservedly many (the abandoned boy that Moss sheltered decades ago, now married and middleclass, returns to make his old benefactor a gift of almost $30,000). Far from being bitter about his circumstances, Moss merely notes that it was “especially pleasing” to realize that his neighbors on the estate were the descendants of squatters resettled in housing programs that he once extolled as the government’s spin supremo.
Spirits don’t come much more generous than this. These days, Moss is not short of remunerative assignments if his prolific output of books and articles is anything to go by, and he is living in a spacious new home on Ma Wan - one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, described by Jan Morris as “ Hong Kong in miniature” because of the juxtaposition of slick new apartment blocks and the largely abandoned fishing village that was once the island’s only settlement. From the highest colonial circles to a working class estate to an island home that encapsulates the new Hong Kong as it hovers between the past and future: Moss’ trajectory mirrors much of the territory’s own journey, these past forty years. And his delighted absorption into the people of Hong Kong - after decades spent inculcating their loyalty to a colonial regime—is, surely, among the happiest of post-colonial endings.
ABOUT PETER MOSS
Peter Moss, of Anglo-Indian heritage, is a very successful author of international repute. Visit his imaginatively designed and informative home page at: http://www.geocities.com/petermoss/
Author of Bye Bye Blackbird (An Anglo-Indian Memoir), Distant Archipelagos (Memories of Malaysia) and The Singing Tree (a novel set in the Amazon), Peter Moss saw himself as an imperial by-product long before the Queen bestowed on him Membership of the British Empire for his services in Hong Kong, where he still lives and writes. No Babylon (A Hong Kong Scrapbook), Peter's third book of autobiography, is about his years in Hong Kong and made its appearance in January 2006. He now intends to catch up with other books he has been commissioned to write, including a biography of the China Coast artist George Chinnery. Most of his earlier works can be found at http://www.formasiabooks.com
Bye Bye Blackbird is
available through iUniverse Publications on line.
Distant Archipelagos is
now also available at iUniverse Publications
No Babylon can be obtained
from the same publishers, at: