This is a trilogy chronicling the amorous, intellectual and artistic adventure of a college student from Hong Kong called Tom, portraying him exchanging ideas and knowledge relating to western visual art from the Gothic Period through the Romantic Period with his fellow female student Sonia and the two developing at first a very good intellectual relationship and eventually a love relationship as they go through an intellectual and artistic experience from start to finish. Tom and Sonia have their own dream lovers, Tom being infatuated with a Eurasian girl called Anastasia (half Russian and half Vietnamese) with whom he had a kind of a one-night-stand in Berlin during the summer vacation before the current term began, and Sonia being attached to her boyfriend who is still studying in Cambridge, England.
As the story unfolds, because Anastasia has disappeared from Tom’s world with neither explanation nor any contact details, Tom has been trying to track her down ever since his return from Europe, succeeding at last with the help of a friend to re-establish contact with her; and surprisingly Anastasia asks Tom to come over to join her in Greifswald, a small university town on the Baltic coast where she is studying art history, which Tom does at once to find himself joining Anastasia on an artistic trip to explore the famous fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein in Bavaria before heading for Greifswald, where the two lovers, their love rekindled, enjoy their sojourn in this Nordic land, loving each other and attending lectures on Romantic artists such as Caspar David Friedrich at the university, until one fine day Anastasia is called back to Russia to attend to her sick mother, leaving Tom all alone in this Viking land.
To deal with his plight Tom soon meets up with Sonia in England. On his way flying to London via Iceland Tom stopovers in Reykjavik and has a great time, experiencing the Icelandic landscape and seascape and even bumping there into a friend from Hong Kong! Sonia soon joins Tom in London and then goes up to Cambridge to see her boyfriend, only to find him already attached to another lover, leaving her broken-hearted to return to London, to whole-heartedly start an artistic exploratory journey with Tom in London and then all the way, by train, to Vienna, where Tom has been the previous year with his father. While still in London the two go to museums and galleries to study great works by such great artists as William Turner, John Constable and William Blake, which got them ready for the next stage of their artistic exploration of Romantic painters in Vienna.
Remarkably, once in Vienna Tom takes Sonia first of all on a culinary trip rather than on an artistic one, to savour Viennese specialities in pastry and coffee, while Sonia, beginning to fall in love with Tom, signals to him her affection before they actually go for museums and art galleries. The city fascinates Sonia and their last days there are spent happily studying works by Dürer, the Dutch Masters and Gustav Klimt; waltzing all night long in Stadtpark (City Park); visiting the Vienna Boys Choir in their Augarten home and enjoying Andre Rieu’s concert in Schönbrunn Palace just hours before flying home, with their mutual affection definitely reaffirmed at Vienna Airport!
Thomas YH Chan
Born into a middle class family in Hong Kong (whose forebears had migrated down to South China from Manchuria), Thomas YH Chan grew up under British colonial rule and western education, going to a Catholic elementary school and then to a public school for his secondary schooling before going to college in Germany, studying initially Physics and Mathematics and then switching to Logic and Philosophy. After spending two years of student life at the University of Heidelberg in the then West Germany, Thomas returned to Hong Kong on his father’s advice to complete a bachelor’s degree programme in German Literature and Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Right after graduation Thomas took up teaching as a tutor at the Department of Philosophy at HKU and on completion of the two-year contract continued his graduate studies in Philosophy at the University of Vienna from which he graduated with a doctorate.
As a returned student from Germany Thomas shouldered the responsibility of liaising with and looking after visiting foreign students to HKU, particularly ones from continental Europe. This continued well into the early years of his academic career, first at HKU and then later on at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) where he served for twenty long years as a Professor of German and English, before taking up his appointment as Head of Department of English at Hong Kong Chu Hai College of Higher Education, a local private postsecondary college, where he devoted ten long years to nurturing his students. Since May 2017 Thomas has been serving as Professor in the School of Humanities and Languages of Caritas Institute of Higher Education in Hong Kong.
In terms of language teaching Thomas has designed and taught courses in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) as well as in ESP (English for Specific Purposes), in particular Maritime English and Technical Writing for engineering students, owing largely to his science background and his interest in both technology and the fine arts.
Thomas got interested in the magic of words and literature at an early age and as an undergraduate soon began to write articles for the HKU student newspaper while serving at the same time as the newspaper’s secretary and assistant editor. He also contributed articles to local newspapers, most of which were on literary and philosophical issues and themes. As a graduate student at the University of Vienna Thomas had the opportunity to acquaint himself in-depth with European visual art and come to appreciate it, so much so that even today he is still giving lectures and designing courses on Western Art and Culture for his students.
To date, Thomas has written four novels, the first one on European culture, in particular visual art in Germany and Austria, titled 《Journey to the West - In Search of Love, Intellect and Art》 and the second one on logic and critical thinking, basically for his students, titled 《Who Needs Critical Thinking Anyway?》. The third novel titled 《Two for the Road on Exchange to Germany》 has evolved from Thomas’s effort to enable his students to acquire the basics of German through reading a novel, the story of two Hong Kong college students trying hard to master German while going on academic and cultural exchange to a key German university. To date, Thomas has written his fourth book titled 《Watershed: Nostalgia and Wishful Thinking》, published in March 2020, which is a departure from his former novels in that this is a book on politics, culture and the future of the world and Hong Kong.
- Book 1
- 1) Sonia and Tom Enrolled on the Western Civilisation Course
- 2) Planning a Backpack Trip to Germany
- 3) Who was Matthias Grünewald?
- 4) Masterpieces of the Limewood Sculptors
- 5) Tom’s Resolution to Equip Himself with Art History
- 6) Reflecting on Prof. Derbholz’s Handouts
- 7) Why Anastasia Should Have Chosen Greifswald to Study Art History
- 8) Sonia’s Amazing Breadth of Knowledge
- 9) A Call from the Grand Duchess
- 10) Exploring the Romantic World of King Ludwig
- 11) Greifswald is an Artistic and Academic Paradise
- 12) Happily Ever After in the Nordic World!
- Book 2
- 1) The Enigma of Anastasia
- 2) Flying from Stralsund to London on Icelandic Airlines
- 3) Reunion in Feltham
- 4) A Day Trip to Cambridge
- 5) Fingal’s Cave- Where Nature, Visual Art and Music Merge
- 6) Turner’s Painting of Fingal’s Cave
- 7) “Can We See Them All in Just Two Days?”
- 8) Time for Stock Taking in More Than One Sense
- Book 3
- 1) Arrival in Vienna
- 2) Savouring Wiener Kaffee and Apfelstrudel in Viennese Coffee Houses
- 3) A Stroll Through the Interior City
- 4) Getting to Know University of Vienna
- 5) A Heart-to-Heart Talk in Front of the Art History Museum
- 6) Art History Unfolding Before Their Very Eyes
- 7) Waltzing in Front of Kursalon in Stadtpark
- 8) Visiting the Vienna Choir Boys in Palais Augarten
- 9) Enjoying Andre Rieu’s Music in Schönbrunn Palais
- 10) Getting Married in Vienna!
- Book 1