Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo and A Lover's Discourse. Photo: Getty.

Xiaolu Guo's 10th novel, A Lover's Discourse, has been shortlisted for The 2020 Goldsmiths Prize, which recognises "literature at its most novel". 

Guo's novel, which borrows from Roland Barthes' book of the same name, examines the nature of what it is that connects two humans, and how that is communicated through language and cultural difference, when a Chinese woman moves to London and falls in love with an English man. The Guardian called A Lover's Discourse "an unapologetically intellectual project".  

Guo moved to England in 2002, having published six books in her native China. At 47, she is the youngest author to be recognised on a shortlist that has celebrated experienced writers: two on the list, M John Harrison and Paul Griffiths, are in their seventies. Their books, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again and Mr. Beethoven, respectively, were part of a group that chair of judges Frances Wilson said were "concerned with characters in extremis and loss of moorings”. The winner will be announced on 28 October.

For Guo, the Goldsmiths shortlisting is the latest in a long list of awards recognition: the author has been shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, the Costa Biography Prize, the Jhalak Prize and the Man Asian Literary Prize, among others.

The shortlist in full:

Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press)
A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo (Chatto & Windus)
The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M John Harrison (Gollancz)
Meanwhile in Dopamine City by DBC Pierre (Faber)
The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press)
Bina by Anakana Schofield (Fleet)

  • A Lover's Discourse


    'It is hard not to be impressed by Guo's vivacious talent' Sunday Times

    A story of desire, love and language - and the meaning of home - told through conversations between two lovers

    A Chinese woman comes to London to start a new life, away from her old world. She knew she would be lonely, adrift in the city, but will her new relationship bring her closer to this land she has chosen, will their love give her a home?

    A Lover's Discourse is an exploration of romantic love told through fragments of conversations between the two lovers. Playing with language and the cultural differences that her narrator encounters as she settles into life in a post-Brexit Britain, Xiaolu Guo shows us how this couple navigate these differences, and their romance, whether on their unmoored houseboat or in a stifling flatshare in east London, or journeying through other continents together...

    Suffused with a wonderful sense of humour, this intimate and tender novel asks universal questions: what is the meaning of home when we've been uprooted? How can a man and woman be together? And how best to find solid ground in a world of uncertainty?

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