About the Book
Xiaolu Guo is one of the most acclaimed Chinese-born writers of her generation, an iconoclastic and completely contemporary voice. Her vivid, poignant memoir, Nine Continents, is the story of a curious mind coming of age in an inhospitable country, and her determination to seek a life beyond the limits of its borders. Xiaolu Guo has traveled further than most to become who she needed to be. Now, as she experiences the birth of her daughter in a London maternity ward surrounded by women from all over the world, she looks back on that journey. It begins in the fishing village shack on the East China Sea where her illiterate grandparents raised her, and brings her to a rapidly changing Beijing, full of contradictions: a thriving underground art scene amid mass censorship, curious Westerners who held out affection only to disappear back home. Eventually Xiaolu determined to see the world outside China for herself, and now, after fifteen years in Europe, her words resonate with the insight of someone both an outsider and at home, in a world far beyond the country of her birth.
Nine Continents presents a fascinating portrait of China in the eighties and nineties, how the Cultural Revolution shaped families, and how the country’s economic ambitions gave rise to great change. It is also a moving testament to the birth of a creative spirit, and of a new generation being raised to become citizens of the world. It confirms Xiaolu Guo as one of world literature’s most urgent voices.
“This is autobiography as Bildungsroman or indeed as Künstlerroman . . . Aside from the fast-paced plot, this is most interesting for its probing portrayal of Guo’s ambivalent relationship with her homeland . . . Moving and often exhilarating.” —Financial Times (UK)
“The most compelling Chinese memoir since Jung Chang’s Wild Swans . . . Guo’s writing is more personal and poetic than Chang’s crisp, scholarly prose—and more openly angry . . . She’s refreshingly fierce and funny about the flaws she finds in British culture.” —Telegraph (UK) (5 stars)
“By turns raw, intelligent, compelling, sad, uncompromising and reticent . . . Guo’s talent is to highlight all those things about China that make it so different while simultaneously making it somehow seem both familiar and comprehensible.” —South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)
“Guo is . . . rebellious, flamboyant and fundamentally optimistic . . . Some of Guo’s narratives of herself are staggering . . . Fascinating.” —Scotland on Sunday (UK)
“This autobiography is her account of fiery, artistic defiance and a testament to the act of storytelling . . . Guo writes in the audacious, restless and fragmented prose that has become her imprint: a feverish style that can be as merciless as the world she portrays . . . [A] penetrating writer.” —New Statesman (UK)