Tribute to my European husband

I am in black and red, the Durruti colours today. These are the colours which Peter loved to see me in at special occasions and he thought that they suited me best.

Peter has left us in a manner true to himself. With dignity he stopped breathing, his mind still lucid, lying in a working class hospital bed in a general ward where patients are from the populace and the lumpen proletariat. He was taken to hospital in an ambulance because he had a convulsion and shock at home on Sunday afternoon. Failing his attempt to leave the hospital after he regained consciousness, he demanded to be moved to the First Class ward where there would have been a view of the sea and privacy. He only spent 12 hours in that hospital which he hated. He asked to see Manfred, Peter's beloved young German intellectual friend from Berlin. Peter and I spent 3 hours alone together. At 4 o'clock in the morning we read Les Archives -Paris, going through the black and white photos of the 19th century Parisian cafes, streets, and portraits of the working class and the prostitutes with his special pillow and some light music. He was extremely tired, weak and had difficulty in speaking in the early hours of Monday morning February 12, 2001 but refused to take a rest until the last minute, 5.15 a.m. He left after he realised that he was a good husband, a great, courageous and beloved friend. Peter went with the hope of living in the 19th arrondisement of Paris. The apartment must be situated between Buttes Chaumant and the hospital and he must travel to Italy regularly. He craved for Italian ice cream with lots of strawberries.

Peter is free from all his sufferings, contradictions, and conflicts in this Life. He has lived a full life intensely for 33 years since he was 25 when he discovered Europe, especially Paris. He described himself as a hypochondriac but an adventurous hypochondriac. I can fully understand his extreme hate for the hospital since it represents institution, conformity and lack of privacy. Being a true revolutionary at heart, he has fought with his might for respect, dignity and privacy during his days in hospital. He hated to be woken up at 6 a.m. in the morning when the cleaning woman came into the room without knocking to empty the rubbish bin. He could not stand that the doctor came in to take his blood or the nurses came in all the time to give medicines, injection etc. while he was dreaming or thinking of Europe. They spoilt the atmosphere. Peter was angry that none of the nursing staff ever noticed that we had put up Botticelli prints on the wall in the hospital room. Yet Peter was grateful and happy about my 'Hong Kong connection" that helped him in the quest for a private room and accepted him as one of their own. It is the same Hong Kong connection which is launching today's Mouvement d`adieu in comradeship and brotherhood for Peter. This memorial booklet is produced in the same spirit.

Peter did not play the role of an 'ideal" husband in the conventional sense. He did not perform daily worldly chores because he was often quick tempered, chauvinistic and demanding. But to me, he has been an original, interesting and bon vivant partner who is larger than life and was a 100% romantic and intellectual. He had a tremendously overwhelming Life Force. There were no dull moments when Peter was around. At times, they were too exciting and exhausting. My husband would not go anywhere without being noticed either in sight or voice. Peter used to say in our arguments over daily routines 'Although I am difficult you will miss me when I die, you will not be able to find anyone else like me!". I knew all along that this is the truth and I did miss him even before he died when he was sick, weak and in low spirit.

We shared the same political ideology, humanitarianism, love for travelling, and the passion for meeting people with real characters, thirst for friends and friendship, and above all the Quality of Life and living. I admired, respected and nurtured Peter's undivided devotion and passion for Europe and the teaching of it, his non-stop European research (without publication though because he despised the act of publishing for publication's sake) in history, politics, literature and its civilisation. He has opened up a whole New World and horizon for me since we met in 1974. I am proud and pleased that his European connection and French friends have accepted and included me into this New World. Peter has moved Europe to me at my doorstep in Hong Kong. The legend of the East meets the West was our 24 and a half year marriage and we are proud to declare that it worked towards the end. Peter contributed to making it a success by his love of Chinese cuisines and Chinese students. He demonstrated his respect for the Chinese herbs, Qi Zong, Buddhism even in his sick bed when he was dreaming and thinking of Europe.

Anyone who did not understand what I have seen in my husband or how could I put up with all the demands with pleasure will have his/her puzzles resolved now. My support for his leaving the hospital when he was seriously ill, to indulge him in all his irrational and crazy ideas about travelling, and socializing all the time, stem from my identification with his dreams and his romanticism. This explains why I did not mind at all about Peter drinking regularly with friends at Wan Chai, picking up and flirting with young pretty girls, talking about Paris, the Spanish Civil War and May 68 all the time. This is part of the tradition and the continuation of the most happy period in Peter's life.

I am truly honoured that Peter chose to have me and Manfred to accompany him on the last leg of his journey in this world. Peter said to me that he made 3 brilliant decisions in Life: to have married Jenny, to have travelled a lot and to return from Berlin to Hong Kong for his treatment of Leukemia. I will add a fourth one: he kept his lucid mind with courage until the last breath and it was his conscious decision to free himself from further suffering and the possible threat of losing his human dignity with the escalation of the aggressive cancer cells. Peter achieved Peace in mind in the last week of his Life in spite of his Fear.

I, together with all our beloved friends, will respect him for his final decision despite the great sorrow and loss. l promise to assume my new role of an unconventional widow of Peter Deli with pride.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to all our friends, colleagues and students of Peter. It was with your constant support that Peter sailed through this last part of his journey in Life filled with Love and warmth.

Jenny Ka Yu
25th February, 2001


Peter Deli, my father, was a man who loved life. His world was enriched
by his love of literature, music and art. Seldom a day went by without my dad drawing on his knowledge of history to complement some aspect of life. When he traveled he would never fail to mention some historical event that made the experience that much richer. For example, when we lived in Paris he would reminisce on the May '68 student protests of which he had been a part of. In Italy he would constantly remember the accomplishments of the Roman Empire and the lasting results of the Enlightenment. Every place had history and value in his eyes and he added that history and value to his own life.

He was a loving father and helped me to see many things in life that I otherwise would have missed on my own. Even in his last few months he would tell me of dreams he had about living in the ancient Roman world and seeing history first hand. He was a great thinker and intellectual and his words of wisdom will live on in all those who have known him. I remember our frequent discussions about God and Christianity and how he loved to explore the history of it. In his last days we spoke more of these things and I know that he thought long and deeply about them. I hope and pray that before he died he made his peace with God because I know he contemplated his situation as the end of his time drew near. I pray that one day I will meet my father in heaven again and relive the joy of his time here on earth.

'There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die." Ecclesiastes 1:1-2

Louis Deli


I am Peter's niece. He was always known to me as my Uncle Peter.
Everytime we went out to family meals, or went to his house, I was always happy to see him. I had always found him very comical: his endless jokes, his loud voice, and not to mention, his laugh. I found it exceptionally funny every time he was with Aunty Jenny. They would always argue over such strange things, sometimes pointless. Yet I enjoyed every bit of it.

There was a peculiar incident once, when I was about 10, and I all of a sudden asked Uncle Peter whether he still had any sperms! I have no idea what had gotten into me. At first he must have been shocked as all of a sudden his 10 year old niece asks him a personal question, but I can still distinctly remember him cracking up laughing.

The most memorable thing about my uncle is that he taught me a new name for calling my parents. It was Mumoi and Dadoi. My parents weren't all too pleased but I loved these new names and kept on saying them.

Anyway, the memory of my uncle will always stay deep in my heart and shall never be forgotten as he will always be my Uncle Peter.

Aline Davies


Peter Deli was one of the most irritating people I have ever known. (And, as he
told me more often than once, he thought the same about me.) Yet, like many others, I loved him.

Peter and I came to teach at the University of Hong Kong at the same time. We very quickly became friends, and later became brothers-in-law.

It was very clear to me from the beginning that he possessed a remarkable talent. He was as those who knew him can testify, a true intellectual, someone who had a genuine and often passionate interest in ideas, who was widely read in history, the European novel, the Greek classics, and much else. But the talent I'm thinking of was for something different-though the two are not unrelated. It was for what Henry James called "vivification", which means, in Peter's case, an ability to bring to life in the minds of others, to make interesting and memorable, the people that he knew and the worlds they inhabited. The talent, that is, of the dramatist and novelist. Peter might have agreed, unless overcome by undue modesty, that what Henry James once said of himself, was also true of him: "I live, I live intensely, and am fed by life, and my value, whatever it might be, is my own kind of expression of that. Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance."

The form of Peter's art was, of course, almost entirely oral. Some who have listened to his wonderful stories might regret that, to my knowledge, he never wrote them down. No doubt they are right. But for me, personally, when Peter died, he took his stories and his fascinating cast of characters with him. It is not the stories per se that are important to me. I don't feel a need for a structured text to prevent them from fading-although, if one existed I would be delighted to have it. What is very important to me are the memories of the contexts in which I heard them. Usually it was a restaurant. Just the two of us. Both of us in what Peter called "good form". There would be great conversation, fuelled by good food and wine. There would be Peter's big, beaming smile, his unforgettable laugh, his enthusiasms, his love of life. Hours would go by: two friends conversing about the fundamentals, getting slowly drunk, enjoying themselves. And there was no irritation: Not ever. Well, hardly ever. Countless stories would be told, mine as well as his. They were central to the occasion, but they didn't define it. At least for me, they were there by invitation because they deepened and widened the friendship. Now that Peter has left us, I feel that they have lost their natural home.

We had 25 years of meetings like this, though, regrettably, they became fewer in recent years.

Peter Deli was a great man.

His death leaves the world a greyer place

I shall miss him very much

Colin Davies