This article is from 2009.
After her reading at the Book Festival last year, Chinese author Xiaolu Guo spent a lot of her Q&A session chatting about the literary headaches, not to mention boredom, created by translating from her first language, Chinese, into English. She had gone from living in Beijing with what she described as ‘a very broken and childish’ English, to residing in London. Despite struggling with the written subtleties of English tone and slang, Guo mastered a translation of her Chinese language novel, Village of Stone, which was shortlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2004.
Having smoothed over the language speedbumps she had at first, Guo then wrote her first English language novel, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, which was shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. Fast forward two years, and she’s back with UFO in Her Eyes, which uses various points of view to piece together the mystery surrounding a UFO sighting.
Set in a backwards peasant village in southern China, Guo has come up with an easy-to-digest political parable which playfully switches voices between a curt, cold police officer’s line of questioning, to an illiterate and potty-mouthed pork butcher, with shy spinsters and no-nonsense tea farmers filling in the gaps. Showing she’s now comfortable enough with English to write a multi-layered satire with it (and make films too, but that’s a whole other story) her lighthearted, sweary comedy pokes fun at China’s clumsy transition from Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution into a capitalist superpower.
26 Aug, 7pm, £9 (£7).