The Archaeology of an Imaginary City
Set in the long-lost City of Victoria (a fictional world similar to Hong Kong), Atlas is written from the unified perspective of future archaeologists struggling to rebuild a thrilling metropolis. Divided into four sections--"Theory," "The City," "Streets," and "Signs"--the novel reimagines Victoria through maps and other historical documents and artifacts, mixing real-world scenarios with purely imaginary people and events while incorporating anecdotes and actual and fictional social commentary and critique.
Much like the quasi-fictional adventures in map-reading and remapping explored by Paul Auster, Jorge Luis Borges, and Italo Calvino, Dung Kai-cheung's novel challenges the representation of place and history and the limits of technical and scientific media in reconstructing a history. It best exemplifies the author's versatility and experimentation, along with China's rapidly evolving literary culture, by blending fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in a story about succeeding and failing to recapture the things we lose. Playing with a variety of styles and subjects, Dung Kai-cheung inventively engages with the fate of Hong Kong since its British "handover" in 1997, which officially marked the end of colonial rule and the beginning of an uncharted future.
Dung Kai-cheung's Atlas: The Archeology of an Imaginary City is a most unusual work in the history of modern Chinese literature: part fiction, part history, part theory--all in the service of the author's unique method of fictional 'archaeology,' an endeavor that has unearthed a wealth of materials--streets, buildings, personalities, names and signs, and marvels and legends--about this 'vanished' city, the traces of which constitute the sum total of Hong Kong's cultural memory. A cross between fact and fiction, history and mystery, Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, this work defies all generic categories and now stands as a contemporary classic.
Leo Ou-fan Lee, author of City Between Worlds: My Hong Kong
...seamless, yet eccentric...a playful yet poignant invitation to begin layering new symbols and projections over the city's landscape.
Readers pleased by cliff-hanging, nail-biting, page-turning adventure will not be satisfied with "Atlas." Devotees of writers as curious as Borges, Calvino and Eco, will love this map of maps of an imaginary city.Japan Times
Well worth the experiment.
2013 Best Translated Book Award Fiction, long form category