Monday, December 29, 2008

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers

This book by Xiaolu Guo has an inside that matches its tempting cover. With a very different approach to east meets west, woman meets man it takes the reader on a venturous literary journey. Through a simple dictionary the reader gets to follow the story of Z from China who's sent to England by her parents to study English. With her comes a dictionary and since she can barely speak a word of English before she lands in England this dictionary is her first and only friend in the western world.

She later meets an older man and step by step, through immense cultural clashes and completely different views on life, their one year love story is told. The book is written in a hobble way, in a way one newly arrived to the west without any prior knowledge in a language would write, in broken English.

Admittedly I did find it rather difficult to read - and even more difficult not to use my friend the pen and point out solecisms, spelling errors and my musings... - at first, but then I realised that if you were to translate Swedish to English straight off, this is pretty much how it would read. That somehow made it easier to just relax, read and think about the thoughts and ideas, cultural concepts and misconceptions that hid behind the words.

I find the book to be quite brilliant, both the unusual and unique way of telling a story. How in many ways very, very different we look at animals, family, food, freedom, grammar, life, living, love, relationships, tense, travel, words, work here in west compared to east. The way both world's take so many, too many, things for granted makes me sad. How in midst of all these differences there's often a core of the same basic needs and longings. Not to mention how much humour there is to be found in someone struggling to grasp and learn a new language.

Highly recommended read.

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