Xiaolu Guo

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Xiaolu Guo
Guo at the 2014
Brooklyn Book Festival
Born 1973
Occupation Novelist, filmmaker and essayist
Period 1987-present

Xiaolu Guo (simplified Chinese: 郭小橹; traditional Chinese: 郭小櫓; pinyin: Guō Xiǎolǔ) born 1973[1]) is a Chinese-British novelist and filmmaker, who explores alienation, memory, journeys, translation, and transnational identity. Her novels have been translated into 27 languages. In 2013 she was named as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, a list drawn up once a decade. [1]


Guo has served on the judging panel for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and in 2016 she served as a jury for the Financial Times Emerging Voices Awards for Fiction. She has lectured on Creative Writing and Filmmaking at King’s College,London, the University of Westminster, Colgate University, Swarthmore College in the USA and Harvard University. She is an honorary Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham. Guo lives in London and was a guest of the DAAD Artists in Residence in Berlin in 2012 and a Writer in Residence of the Literaturhaus Zurich and the PWG Foundation in Zurich in 2015.


Guo's 2005 autobiographical novel, Village of Stone focuses on two people, Coral and Red, who live together in Beijing, and how Coral's life changes one day when she receives a dried eel in the post, an anonymous gift from someone in her remote home village. Doris Lessing spoke highly of the book in 2004: ‘Reading it rather like finding yourself in a dream.’ Times Literary Supplement prasied the novel: ‘The language has the pared-down simplicity of a fable; the effect is a bit like that of a Haruki Murakami novel.’

Guo's 2008 novel, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers, tells the journey of a young Chinese woman in London. She soon renames herself "Z" and her encounters with an unnamed Englishman spur both of them to explore their own sense of identity. The novel is written in the heroine's broken English to begin with, in a dictionary form. With each chapter her English gradually improves, reflecting the improvement of the heroine's own English over the year in which the novel is set.[citation needed] Ursula K Le Guin reviewed the book in the Guardian: ‘We're in the hands of someone who knows how to tell a story… It succeeds in luring the western reader into an alien way of thinking: a trick only novels can pull off, and indeed one of their finest tricks. [2]

Her 2009 novel UFO In Her Eyes, set in a semi-real Chinese village, is an experimental meta-fiction in the form of a series of police interviews about an alleged ufo sighting. It was adapted into a feature film and directed by Xiaolu Guo herself. It received the Best Script Prize at Hamburg International Film Festival.

Guo's 2010 novel, 20 Fragments of A Ravenous Youth is a coming of age story about a 21-year-old Chinese woman Fenfang, her life as a film extra in Beijing, to which she has traveled far to seek her fortune, only to encounter a Communist regime that has outworn its welcome, a city in varying degrees of development, and sexism more in keeping with her peasant upbringing than the country's supposedly progressive capital.

Guo's 2010 book, Lovers in the Age of Indifference is a collection of short stories, that depicts the lives of people adrift between West and East, set in various locations.

In Guo's 2015 novel, I Am China, London-based literary translator Iona Kirkpatrick discovers a story of romance and revolution as she translates a collection of letters and diaries by a Chinese punk musician named Kublai Jian. Unbeknownst to Iona, Jian has come to Britain seeking political asylum, while another character, Mu, is in Beijing trying to track him down. As the translator tracks Jian and Mu's twenty-year relationship, she develops a sense of purpose in deciding to bring Jian and Mu together again before it is too late. It was one of a NPR's Best Books of 2014. [3]

Once Upon a Time in the East, is a chronicle of growing up in China and her journey to the West, due to be released in January 2017 in the UK by Penguin Random House.


Guo's 2004 film is The Concrete Revolution, a film essay about the construction workers in Beijing building stadiums for the 2008 Olympics. It received Grand Prix at the International Human Rights Film Festival in Paris, 2005.

Guo's 2006 film, How Is Your Fish Today?, inspired by Alain Robbe-Grillet's Trans-Europ-Express (1966) is a docu-drama set in modern China, focusing on the intertwined stories of two main characters; a frustrated writer (Rao Hui) and the subject of his latest film script, Lin Hao (Zijiang Yang). It was selected for the Official Competition at Sundance Film Festival 2007 and Rotterdam Film Festival, received Grand Prix at International Women's Film Festival in France.

Guo's 2008 film, We Went to Wonderland is a black and white essay film focusing on two elderly Chinese communists who arrive in the rundown East End of London and comment the Western world from their astonished Chinese perspective. The film which premiered at the Rotterdam IFFR was immediately picked for the New Directors/New Films Festival of the MoMa / Lincoln Film Society in New York.[citation needed]

Guo's 2009 feature is She, A Chinese, a homage to Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise. This film won the Golden Leopard at the 2009 Locarno International Film Festival and the Best Script Award at the Hamburg Film Festival 2010. It has been distributed in the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland.[citation needed]

Guo's other 2009 film, Once upon a time Proletarian, is a sister film to She, a Chinese. This documentary looks at China in the post-Marxist era. It premieres at the Venice Film Festival 2009 and has been shown at Rotterdam IFFR and Sheffield Doc/Fest.[citation needed]

Guo's 2011 film, UFO In Her Eyes is a cinematic adaptation of her novel of the same title. The film stars Shi Ke and Udo Kier and is a political metaphor recounted through the transformation that befalls a small Chinese village after an alleged UFO sighting. Inspired by Soviet cinema, Xiaolu Guo dedicated this film to Soy Cuba, a banned 1964 Soviet-Cuban film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov.[2] It received the Public Award at Milan 3-Continental Film Festival 2013.[citation needed]

Guo's 2013 film, Late at Night, Voices of Ordinary Madness, focuses on Britain's underclass society, each fighting their ground in their own way. It is the second part of Guo's Tomorrow trilogy, continued after her documentary Once Upon A Time Proletarian. It premiered at the 57th BFI London Film Festival 2013 and Rotterdam Film Festival 2014, and was exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.[3]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Guo's third novel, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers, inspired by Roland Barthes's "A Lover's Discourse", written originally in English, was nominated for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction and it has been translated into 26 languages. She was also the 2005 Pearl Award (UK) winner for Creative Excellence.[4] Her first novel Village of Stone was nominated for the Independent best Foreign Fiction Prize as well as the International Dublin IMPAC Awards. She writes in both English and Chinese, and has served as the jury member for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Her most recent novel is I Am China, set in Europe, China and America, was awarded for Giuseppe Acerbi Prize for Young Readers 2015 in Italy and longlisted for the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.[citation needed]

Her feature film She, a Chinese premiered at the 2009 Locarno International Film Festival, where it immediately took the highest prize, the Golden Leopard. Her previous feature How Is Your Fish Today was in Official Selection at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and received the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Créteil International Women's Film Festival in Paris. Her documentary We Went to Wonderland (2008) was selected for the New Directors/New Films Festival at the MoMA/Lincoln Center in New York in 2008. The Concrete Revolution premiered at the Margaret Mead Film Festival and IDFA 2005, among others. Once Upon A Time Proletarian was premiered at Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival 2009, and received Grand Prix de Geneva at the Documentary Forum Rencontres Media Nord-Sud in Switzerland in 2012.[5] She was awarded the Gilda Film Prize for her film career at the 37th International Women Film Festival Florence in Italy, 2015.

List of books[edit]

  • Once Upon a Time in the East (memoir, 2017)
  • I am China (novel, 2014)
  • Lovers in the Age of Indifference (short story collection, 2010)
  • UFO in Her Eyes (novel, 2009)
  • 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth (novel, 2008)
  • A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers (novel, 2007)
  • Village of Stone (我心中的石头镇 Wo Xin Zhong de Shi Tou Zhen) (novel, 2003)
  • Movie Map (电影地图 Dian Ying Di Tu) (film critics, 2001)
  • Film Notes (电影理论笔记 Dian Ying Li Lun Bi Ji) (film critics, 2001)
  • Fenfang's 37.2 Degrees (芬芳的37.2度 Fenfang de 37.2) (novel, 2000)
  • Flying in My Dreams (梦中或不是梦中的飞行) (essay collection, 1999)
  • Who is my mother's boyfriend? (我妈妈的男朋友是谁?) (screenplay collection, 1998)
  • Poetry Collection (诗集,1991)


  • Fishermen Always Eat Fish Eyes First (2017), Freeman's Home
  • My Writing Day (2016), the Guardian [4]
  • The Ying and Yang of Heidi (2016), Viceversa Literatur [5]
  • Waiting for the Second Renaissance (2014)
  • Reading Howl in China (2014), First published in Aeon Magazine Reading Howl in China
  • The Blood Eater (2014), First published in the Intelligent Life My Madeleine
  • Memories of An Island (2014) Dark Mountain, Issue 7
  • Coolies (2013), 14-18 NOW [6]
  • Beyond Dissidence (2012), First published in The Independent
  • Notes Towards A Metaphysical Cinema Manifesto (2010)
  • Further Notes Towards A Metaphysical Cinema Manifesto (2010)
  • A Soul In Sakhalin (2009), First published on BBC 3, The Essay


As director/producer/screenwriter[edit]

  • Late At Night - Voices of Ordinary Madness (Documentary, 2013)
  • UFO in Her Eyes (Fiction Feature, 2011)
  • She, a Chinese (Fiction Feature, 2009)
  • Once upon a time Proletarian (Documentary, 2009)
  • An Archeologist's Sunday (Fiction Short, 2008)
  • We Went to Wonderland (Documentary, 2008)
  • Address Unknown (Fiction short, 2007)
  • How Is Your Fish Today? (Fiction Feature, 2006)
  • The Concrete Revolution (Documentary, 2004)
  • Far and Near (Documentary, 2003)

As screenwriter[edit]

As playwright[edit]


  • UFO in Her Eyes

Public Award, Milan 3 Continents International Film Festival, 2010 City of Venice Award (2nd Prize), Premio Città di Venezia, 70a Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica 2013

  • She, A Chinese

Golden Leopard (Grand Prix) in the International Competition, Locarno International Film Festival 2009. Mount Blanc Prize for the Best Script, Hamburg Film Festival 2009.

  • Once Upon A Time Proletarian

Grand Prix de Geneva, Forum 2011. Nomination, Horizon Award, Venice Film Festival 2009

  • How Is Your Fish Today?

Grand Prix, Créteil International Women's Film Festival 2007, France; Nominated, Best Drama at Sundance Film Festival 2007; Special Mention at the Rotterdam Film Festival's Tiger Award 2007, Special Mention at the Pesaro Film Festival 2007 and the Fribourg Film Festival 2007.

  • The Concrete Revolution

Grand Prix, International Human Rights Film Festival, Paris 2005; Special Jury Prize at EBS International Documentary Festival, Seoul 2005

  • Far and Near

ICA Beck's Future Prize 2003, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

  • 2013: Granta "Best of Young British Novelists"

Notes and references[edit]

Reflections of an Environmental Refugee *[7]


External links[edit]