You can always offend somebody smoothly when you put the magic word “but” after a compliment. The 40-year-old female British Chinese novelist and filmmaker, Xiaolu Guo, employed the tactic directing her opinion to Jonathan Franzen, the widely celebrated American author, notable known for his National Book Award-winning novel “The Corrections”, during the Jaipur Literature Festival’s “The Global Novel” Panel discussion on Saturday:
“I love your work, Jonathan, but in a way you are smeared by English American literature … I think certain American literature is overrated, massively overrated, and I really hate to read them.”
Xiaolu Guo stood out from other panelists, voicing her fierce opinions on the panel discussing the meaning of ‘Global’ and ‘Universal’ in the context of the novel. She, moreover, addressed her critical comments towards the international domination of anglo-centralized novels in the publishing industry, saying that she felt writing in English made her feel freer, whereas growing up in Communist China made writing hold a certain ideological baggage. She also thought that writing in English was also the “easiest and laziest” as you “don’t have to wait months or years for the book to be translated and thereby reach a world audience.”
With her current domicile in the UK and being academically published in English, this is not the first time the bilingual author with a Chinese mother tongue has s stated her distaste for anglo-centrism in literature:
“Sometimes I prefer to not read English literature just because the fact we are too much living in a English speaking world. But when I was younger I loved beat poets and perhaps I still do.” Said Guo, during an interview with Savidge Reads when being asked what her current favorite literature was.
As an award-winning film-maker, she also addressed her frustration as to how the anglosphere also dominates cinema. As she told the The Guardian:
“I don’t think English society or the English market care about the Chinese at all.. [there’s] no room for east Asian or subtitled third world films.”
We obviously do seem to live in a world where English seems to be the lingua franca for communication between two different cultures. Nevertheless, in contrast to what Miss Guo stated, it is still disputable to say that we are too much living in a English speaking world; English is not even most spoken language in the world.
Whether her aim was to simply justify sino-oriented and third world works or not, her statement during the festival’s panel discussion was a harsh statement towards Jonathan Franzen and American Literature. No offense, but it’s offensive.