Guo's novel, which borrows from Roland Barthes' book of the same name, examines the nature of what it is that connects two humans, and how that is communicated through language and cultural difference, when a Chinese woman moves to London and falls in love with an English man. The Guardian called A Lover's Discourse "an unapologetically intellectual project".
Guo moved to England in 2002, having published six books in her native China. At 47, she is the youngest author to be recognised on a shortlist that has celebrated experienced writers: two on the list, M John Harrison and Paul Griffiths, are in their seventies. Their books, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again and Mr. Beethoven, respectively, were part of a group that chair of judges Frances Wilson said were "concerned with characters in extremis and loss of moorings”. The winner will be announced on 28 October.
For Guo, the Goldsmiths shortlisting is the latest in a long list of awards recognition: the author has been shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, the Costa Biography Prize, the Jhalak Prize and the Man Asian Literary Prize, among others.
The shortlist in full:
Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press)
A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo (Chatto & Windus)
The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M John Harrison (Gollancz)
Meanwhile in Dopamine City by DBC Pierre (Faber)
The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press)
Bina by Anakana Schofield (Fleet)