concise

The latest addition to my website is Xiaolu Guo‘s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers. This is her first book written in English though it is (deliberately) written in bad English. It is a semi-autobiographical account of her own arrival in London and her struggles with the language and the culture. She writes as she would have spoken then (apparently it is based in part on the diaries she kept at the time). The chapters are divided into headwords, which are the words she struggles with at this time and each chapter heading also has the English dictionary definition of the word which can sometimes be a help to her but sometimes add to her confusion. As the title shows, it is also about love, another issues which shows up the cultural differences between the two countries. She meets a man twenty years older than her in a cinema and, within a week, she has moved into his house. He is bisexual, has been a drifter and now earns his living delivering things in a scruffy white van. Their cultural differences are, of course, brought out. He is a vegetarian, she is not. They have different views on relationships and various other issues, though some of these differences may well be male-female, rather than English-Chinese. The book is very funny but also has a very serious intent and works very well though, as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, it seems odd that she clearly is not British.