Xiaolu Guo

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Xiaolu Guo
Xiaolu Guo, 2008
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 uses cinema and literary language to explore themes of alienation, memory, personal journeys, daily tragedies, literature translation and develops her own vision of China's past and its future in a global environment. Her novels have been translated into more than 26 languages. In 2013 she was named as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, a list drawn up once a decade.

She has lectured on Creative Writing and Filmmaking at King’s College London, the University of Westminster, Colgate University, Swarthmore College in the USA as well as at Harvard University. She is an honorary Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, UK. Guo currently 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.


Village of Stone[edit]

Coral and Red live together in Beijing. One day, Coral receives a dried eel in the post, an anonymous gift from someone in her home town… Village of Stone brilliantly evokes the harshness of life on the typhoon-battered coast of China, where fishermen are often lost to violent seas and children regularly swept away. It is the beautiful, haunting story of one little girl's struggle to endure silence, solitude and the shame of sexual abuse, but it is also an incisive portrait of China's new urban youth, who have hidden behind their modern lifestyle all the poverty and cruelty of their past.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers[edit]

The novel tells the story of a Chinese woman who is sent by her parents to study English in London. She soon renames herself "Z" and meets an Englishman who remains unnamed in the novel. Through the encounter, and the puzzles of tense, verb and adverb, they both get to discover their own identity as well as the impossibility of two lovers to communicate.

The novel is written in the heroine's broken English to begin with, in an experimental dictionary form. With each chapter this broken English gradually improves, reflecting the improvement of the heroine's own English over the year in which the novel is set.

Lovers in the Age of Indifference[edit]

In this collection of short stories, Guo zooms into tender and surreal moment in the lives of lost souls and lovers, adrift between West and East. The stories are set in every corner of the planet: a marriage splinters during a game of mah jong; a depressed fiancee is lifted by a mid-air encounter with a Hollywood legend; a mountain keeper watches over a lonely temple but is perturbed when, finally, a visitor dares to arrive. Her personal and provocative fables capture the sense of alienation thrown up by life in the modern world, and we join her characters in their search for human contact and love in rapidly changing landscapes all around the globe.

20 Fragments of A Ravenous Youth[edit]

The story of Fenfang, a punk girl from southern China who runs away from home to Beijing at the age of seventeen. She moves through a series of jobs, ending up making a living as a movie extra and trying her luck as a scriptwriter. She fights with herself and with the harsh city throughout her monologues.

The novel is written as a series of snapshots of her life as well as one of her movie scripts, as she negotiates boyfriends, a changing China, and tries to educate and define herself. The novel was rewritten by the author from her earlier Chinese language novel "Fenfang's 37.2 Degrees." The original version has no punctuations or chapter separations.

I Am China[edit]

The novel contains many layers of narrative.

In a quiet apartment above a north London market, English translator Iona Kirkpatrick reads a photocopy page of a Chinese letter: 'Dearest Mu, The sun is piercing, old bastard sky. I am feeling empty and bare. Nothing is in my soul...'

In a detention centre in Dover exiled Chinese musician Jian is awaiting an unknown fate. In Beijing his girlfriend Mu sends desperate letters to England to track him down, her last memory of them together a roaring rock concert and Jian the king on stage. Until the police stormed in.

As Iona unravels the 20 years' relationship of the two Chinese lovers - from their first flirtations at Beijing University to Jian's march in the Jasmine Revolution, Jian and Mu seem to be travelling further and further away from each other. [1]


Late at Night, Voices of Ordinary Madness (2013)[edit]

As George Orwell wrote : “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” This film essay relentlessly focuses on Britain’s mean streets and its dwellers, each fighting their ground in their own way. The filmmaker uses quotes, archives and media materials to construct an image of today’s Britain and leads us to question our future under the institutional madness of global capitalism.

This film is the second part of Xiaolu Guo’s “Tomorrow” trilogy, continued after her documentary “Once Upon A Time Proletarian” on Post-Mao era China (Venice & Toronto official selection 2009). This time her camera turns from East to West, and examines further our collective anxiety in the post-industrial age.

It was 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. [2]

UFO In Her Eyes (2011)[edit]

Premiered at Toronto Film Festival, UFO In Her Eyes is a cinematic adaptation of her most recent novel of the same title. The film stars Shi Ke and Udo Kier and is a political metaphor recounted through the phantasmagoric 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 1964 Soviet-Cuban film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. The movie's score is composed by the Somali-Canadian musician Mocky and produced by German-Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin.[2] It received the Public Award at Milan 3-Continental Film Festival 2013.

She, A Chinese (2009)[edit]

The inner and exterior journey of a young woman in the landscape of village and city, East and West, love and desire. It contains 12 chapter headings and the soundtrack was scored by English composer John Parish. This film won the Golden Leopard at the 2009 Locarno International Film Festival and distributed in the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland.

Once upon a time Proletarian (2009)[edit]

Sister film to She, a Chinese, this documentary attempts a subjective anatomy of contemporary 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.

We Went to Wonderland (2008)[edit]

A black and white essay film. Two elderly Chinese communists 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.

How Is Your Fish Today? (2006)[edit]

A writer's dreamed trip between city and village, reality and fiction, in a chaotic contemporary China. How Is Your Fish Today? explores the way we imagine reality and how a writer plays with his story telling, and suggests how one's life gains meaning and weight through imagination. The filmmaker mentioned in her interviews that she was influenced by Alain Robbe-Grillet's: Trans-Europ-Express. It was selected for the Official Competition at Sundance Film Festival 2007 and received Grand Prix at International Women's Film Festival in France.

The Concrete Revolution (2004)[edit]

A meditation on the price paid for the building of the new China. This film essay starts with unemployed peasants rushing into Beijing to work on the demolition and construction of the city. New China uses these people's desperation to realize its huge ambitions. But the workers don't belong in Beijing, and Beijing has no place for them either. They long to return home.
As China sends rockets into space and prepares to host the 2008 Olympics, this poetic film essay shows a crucial turning point in China's history, and captures a rapidly disappearing past and erosion of its roots.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Her 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.[3] 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 England, China and America, and was longlisted for the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

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 in Switzerland in 2012. Guo’s films, now in educational distribution, are shown at universities, museums and art-house cinemas around the world.

List of books[edit]

  • 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)


  • 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)
  • Coolies (2013), 14-18 Now [3]
  • 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[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, Speicial 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"


External links[edit]