From the acclaimed author of Nine Continents and a Granta Best Young British Novelist, Radical is an enchanting reflection on identity and meaning from the fringe of society.
The world can seem strange and lonely when you step away from your family and everything you have built for yourself. Yet beauty may also appear. In the autumn of 2019, Xiaolu traveled to New York to take up her position as a visiting professor for a year, leaving her child and partner behind in London. The encounter with American culture and people threatened her sense of identity and threw her into a crisis – of meaning, desire, obligation, and selfhood.
This is a book about separation – by continents, by language, and from people. It’s about being an outsider and the desperate longing to connect. Xiaolu uses her exploration of language (one of the meanings of the word “radical” is the graphic component, or root, of Chinese characters), and her own life, to create this unique text. At once a memoir, a lexicon, and an ardent love letter, it is an expression of her fascination with Western culture and her nostalgia for Eastern landscapes, and an attempt to describe the space in between. An archive of an artist’s search for creative freedom, it is above all else an intimate account of her efforts to begin anew.
Praise for Radical:
“When it comes to spinning light and shadow on the complexities of living, loving and language, Xiaolu Guo is one of the most valuable writers in the world.”—Deborah Levy, author of The Cost of Living
“An etymological voyage that lives up to its title: radical in angle of attack, smart and brave. Making the urban condition of restlessness and pain into poetry.”—Iain Sinclair, author of The Gold Machine
“A wild, passionate, gorgeous book, wandering the borders of language and desire; walking cities and remembering the ghosts of past landscapes. Xiaolu Guo’s books always open up new connections and curiosities for me. She is certainly among my favourite contemporary writers.”—Aysegül Savas, author of White on White
“Xiaolu Guo is a writer like no other, and this is a memoir like no other. Organised through a series of words that cut across languages, the book shows the divides and the connections that define a life lived between China, Europe and America, all explained with wit, lightness of touch and the occasional pinch of heartbreak.”—Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, University of Oxford