It started in late 2013 during lunch in a wonderful, excellent (and defunct) Italian restaurant in Admiralty Centre, in Hong Kong. My friend Alessandra Cocchi had invited me to join two Italian gentlemen and a Chinese lady writer for a cultural discussion. The Hong Kong Italian community is very actively involved in cultural events, with the active support of the local Consulate General; this contrasts with other nations who shine by their absence.
The animated conversation was led by Ciriaco Offedu, a businessman and writer, de facto Ambassador of Sardinia and of the Sard language in Hong Kong; Ciriaco, with other literati had launched and maintained a successful blog (in English) named Beyond Thirty-Nine (39 being the international calling code of Italy). The erudite conversation, conducted in Italian, was challenging, but –before drinking too much of the superb wines- I managed to participate actively. After a badly needed double-espresso I agreed to submit soon a text for the blog.
That long essay summarized decades of personal interest and involvement in the benefits of a uniquely human life essential: Pleasure. But I focused it on the pleasure of food (at least in the title!); you can find it (with other contributions) at https://beyondthirtynine.com/georges-blog/.
In 2015, Ciriaco edited a book titled Writing First, with a selection of essays (including one of mine) published on Beyond Thirty-Nine.
At the same time I was considering a change in my professional career that had to take place outside Hong Kong. Soon afterwards I started collaborating from afar with Jan W. Vasbinder, and the Para Limes Institute on Complexity of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore. To improve that collaboration I needed a revamped website, and a new Webmaster who would replace Venus WY Wong, now overwhelmed and exhausted Executive Officer of the large Department where we worked at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. This Webmaster par excellence is my friend Yves P. Huin, who lived for two decades in Palo Alto before migrating to Arizona. Yves and I had been quite close to each other and I knew that he would master the complexity of a website with maestria; indeed he succeeded.
This prompted me, with Yves vigilant support, to start writing essays for my novel website.
These essays accumulated and were reaching a critical mass. We decided to regroup some by themes and ‘publish’ them online.
Montaigne made several attempts at his “Essais”—the French word meaning, simply, “tries,” in the sense of experimental effort, though the English word “sketches” comes closer. It is a format that offers flexibility, freedom, wandering, errors to be forgiven (and forgotten) – in short what the discerning reader should like.
These volumes are roughly arranged in chronological order, and the fifth volume includes one on the two cities that –besides their sister San Francisco- changed me most, and I still love: La Serenissima Venezia and the Fragrant Harbour i.e. Hong Kong; since all started with a meeting with Ciriaco Offedu, Ambasciatore Straordinario di Sardegna, a short recognition is included.
The following attempts to blend past experiences and beliefs with diverse philosophies, thoughts, currents or discoveries.
To close, I offer a series of keys to survival, magnified and catalyzed by a unique human feature: Pleasure.
Another recurrent them that will be at the core of all my divagations is Complexity; fasten your seatbelt: it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
But I hope to please you!
Yves Huin is the organizer, editor and publisher of this collection of volumes. They are permanently subjected to revision, deletions and additions, or changes according to novel findings or the whims of politics or world economy. We attempt to provide (very) selected and opinionated documents that trigger critical thinking and further research. The readers’ feedback will tell us if we have a credible voice, or if we should follow Candide, and ultimately go cultivate our garden.
Georges M. Halpern, 2019