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Reborn Translated: Xiaolu Guo as a World Author

Flair Donglai Shi


This paper introduces the concept of “world author,” taking as its exemplar the Chinese British writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo. It investigates how Guo utilizes her bilingualism to construct and negotiate her creative agency, especially when dealing with the political and commercial forces imposed on diasporic authors. Through engaging with Rebecca Walkowitz’s idea of world literature as being “born translated,” I point out that the translational should not be limited to the thematic and representational arrangements internal to a given text. Instead, translation as movements between linguistic systems and media forms can generate multiple
versions of a text, to the point that such translational multiplicity fundamentally challenges its supposed singularity. This argument is demonstrated with Guo’s self-translation of the stories of Fenfang and her filmic adaptation of the novel UFO in Her Eyes. Through these examples of what I call “translational rebirths,” I demonstrate the importance of paratextual details and intertextual connections between clusters of an author’s creative output for the interpretation and appreciation of l’oeuvre d’un auteur instead of une oeuvre d’art. This case study also shows the need for the academic debates on world literature to go beyond the singularity of texts and evaluative criteria of worldliness based on this assumption, so that the discipline can realize its full potential in accommodating multilingual transnational authors like Guo.


World Literature; Xiaolu Guo; Bilingualism; Minor Literature; Translational

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2021.03608