China: Xiaolu Guo: Far East to East End

Xiaolu Guo, the Chinese novelist and film-maker, has crossed not only continents but languages. Boyd Tonkin catches up with an intrepid traveller in Hackney: The Independent

Guo XiaoluXiaolu Guo, the prolific Chinese novelist and film-maker improbably settled in a deck-access council block in east London, is upset about a recent attempt at literary censorship. A publisher’s editor advised her to remove a pivotal chapter about an abortion from her new novel, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Chatto & Windus, £12.99). An editor in Beijing? No, in New York. “It’ll become like chick-lit, and I hate that word,” she fumes. “I’m really angry and worried.”

Much of the novel, her first written in English, cleverly courts our assumptions about the chasm between Chinese and Western cultures, only to upend them. So this bid to doctor her work to fit the puritanical gentility of American liberalism, rather than Chinese communism, rather proves the point. Battles between repression and rebellion obey no neat distinctions of geography, or ideology. And this is one bout she appears to have won, as I later learn: the abortion will probably stay in her US edition.

Read More