Xiaolu Guo explores belonging and authenticity through the language of lovers

“My body is here, but I don’t feel I am here, right now,” the nameless narrator in Xiaolu Guo’s A Lover’s Discourse explains to her partner.

A Chinese graduate student in post-Brexit vote London, she struggles to find a sense of belonging in a foreign land, and in a relationship that quickly deepens but remains uncertain: “I don’t feel my existence in this environment.”

Discourse, which takes its name from Roland Barthes’s book A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, is a series of short vignettes addressed from the narrator to her (also unnamed) lover. But Guo does away with the romantic, and instead explores themes of attachment, foreignness, belonging, and authenticity, with the central relationship as the backdrop for these musings and for conversations on everything from the value of landscape architecture to the meaning of originality.

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Words of Love is a story from our issue, “Rural Rising.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the deputy managing editor at The World of Chinese. He writes mainly about society, sport, and culture, with his pieces touching on diverse topics from the future of China’s ski industry to efforts to prevent juvenile crime.

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