Chinese writer Xiaolu Guo’s memoir tells of extraordinary upbringing and search for identity

By James Kidd

Xiaolu Guo is not an easy person to pin down. This, I suspect, is just how she likes it. “I am an extremely optimistic pessimist,” the 44-year-old writer and filmmaker tells me, with what seems to be a characteristic combination of honesty and paradox. Similar ambiguities are present everywhere in her conversation. “My existence is nearly beyond gender,” she says later during a discussion of her recent motherhood: her daughter, Moon, was born in 2014.

Guo’s cultural and geographical identities are similarly blurred. A veritable global citizen, she was born in China, but has lived in London for the best part of two decades – when she is not visiting her second home in Berlin, that is, or travelling across Europe, Asia or America. “A passport and the nationality written on its cover would never define me,” Guo writes in her new book, Once Upon a Time in the East.

Far from being a hindrance, this essential restlessness has formed the bedrock of her diverse artistic career. She has written novels (in both English and Chinese), journalism, essays and scripts for soap operas. An award-winning filmmaker, Guo has also directed documentaries (including The Concrete Revolution, about construction workers exploited before the 2008 Beijing Olympics) alongside more surreal works: How is Your Fish Today?, a loose adaptation of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s 1966 movie, Trans-Europ-ExpressRead more

Source: The National