Novelist Xiaolu Guo Set to Teach in Berlin This Winter

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The Chinese-born British writer will be a visiting professor at Freie Universität Berlin

The award-winning Chinese-British author and film director Xiaolu Guo will hold the Samuel Fischer Visiting Professorship at the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature, Freie Universität Berlin, over the 2022/2023 winter semester. She will be teaching a seminar called "Translating the East," which explores how Western readers can gain a more profound understanding of East Asian literature, and how migration and multilingualism have impacted the practice of literary translation from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese into English and other Western languages.

Xiaolu Guo was born in China in 1973 and grew up in a small village in the province of Zhejiang. After graduating from Beijing Film Academy, she published six books in Chinese, before moving to London in 2002. Soon after, she began writing in English. She has published a wide array of novels, essays, and short stories that have been translated into twenty-eight languages. German translations of her work have been published by Knaus Verlag. Guo is also an award-winning director. She has taught directing, literature, and creative writing at universities including Harvard, Columbia, Zürich, and Bern. In 2012 she was granted a residency through the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program. Retrospectives of her films have been shown at the Swiss Film Archive (2011), the Greek Film Archive (2018), and the Whitechapel Gallery in London (2019).

In Guo’s work she grapples with the complex interrelationships between migration, foreignness, and memory, as well as transnationality and translation. She gained a wider following with the release of her award-winning film How Is Your Fish Today (2006). The documentary-style drama, which is heavily influenced by Alain Robbe-Grillet, is a metafictional depiction of an unsuccessful author and his protagonist, whose paths in life appear to cross in mysterious ways.

Guo achieved international success in 2008 with her novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers , which has been translated into twenty-six languages and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Inspired by Roland Barthes and written in broken English, the novel tells the story of a young Chinese woman called Zhuang who comes to London to learn English, makes observations about her everyday life in the unfamiliar city, and finds love at the cinema.

The film She, a Chinese , for which Guo received the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival, was released the following year. The film depicts the monotony, dreams, and violence in the life of Li Mei, a young woman who makes it to London from her Chinese village via Chongqing. It reflects on the challenges posed by culture clashes and upheavals between East and West.

In 2017 her book Once Upon a Time in the East was released (the US version was published under the title Nine Continents ). In this autobiographical text, Guo narrates her childhood spent with her grandparents in a fishing village in eastern China, her sojourn in Beijing - a city buzzing with contradictions and undergoing rapid transformation, and her move to London, where her daughter was born. The book draws a fascinating portrait of China in the 1980s and 1990s, and centers on Guo’s perspective as someone who is an outsider and at home in both the East and West. Guo received the National Book Critics Circle Award (2017) and was featured on the shortlists for the RSL Ondaatje Award, Costa Award, and Folio Prize. Her latest novel,

As Samuel Fischer Visiting Professor to Freie Universität Berlin this 2022/2023 winter semester, Guo will be examining texts by writers such as Haruki Murakami, Gao Xingjian, Mo Yan, Liu Xiaobo, and Yoko Tawada in her "Translating the East" seminar. She is also planning to include some translation exercises in the class.

The seminar will be held from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays from October 19, 2022 in room KL 29/235. Registrations via Campus Management are open from October 4. There are also a limited number of spaces available for members from other departments and universities. The official inaugural lecture will take place on November 3, 2022.


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