Radical

Radical

A Life of My Own

Summary

**An Observer Book of the Year**

The new memoir from prize-winning writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo - playful, provocative and original, it's her deeply personal take on striving for a life of her own


'When it comes to spinning light and shadow on the complexities of living, loving and language, Xiaolu Guo is one of the most valuable writers in the world' DEBORAH LEVY

The world can seem strange and lonely when you step away from your family and everything you have tried to call your own. Yet beauty may also appear. In the autumn of 2019 Xiaolu travelled to New York to take up her position as a visiting professor for a year, leaving her child and partner behind in London. The encounter with American culture and people threatens her sense of identity and throws her into a crisis - of meaning, desire, obligation and selfhood.

This is a memoir about separation - by continents, by language, and from people. It's about being an outsider and the desperate longing to connect. Xiaolu uses her exploration of language (one of the meanings of the word 'radical' is the graphic component, or root, of Chinese characters), and her own life, to create this unique text. At once a memoir, a dictionary, and an ardent love letter, it is an expression of her fascination with Western culture and her nostalgia for Eastern landscapes, and an attempt to describe the space in between. An archive of an artist's search for creative freedom, it is above all else an intimate account of her efforts to carve out a life of her own.

'Radical in angle of attack, smart and brave' IAIN SINCLAIR, author of The Gold Machine

Reviews

  • An etymological voyage that lives up to its title: radical in angle of attack, smart and brave. Making the urban condition of restlessness and pain into poetry
    IAIN SINCLAIR, author of The Gold Machine

About the author

Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo was born in China. She published six books before moving to Britain in 2002. Her books include: Village of Stone, shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize; A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, shortlisted for the Orange Prize; and I Am China. Her recent memoir, Once Upon a Time in the East, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Rathbones Folio Prize 2018. It was a Sunday Times Book of the Year. Her most recent novel A Lover's Discourse was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2020. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a visiting professor at the Free University in Berlin.
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