The Translingual Artist’s Pre-Existing Condition
Xiaolu Guo’s Internal Lineage of Exile
Translingual writers, with their unique ability to master affecting prose or poetry in more than one language, offer particularly fascinating queries of research. Xiaolu Guo is one such translingual writer who, as both a novelist and filmmaker, also creates art in more than one medium. Few artists have accomplished the level of complexity inherent in creating profound work in both varied mediums of art and different languages. Exploring the unique drives that allow these multidimensional artists to access disparate planes of creative ability is a worthy direction of analysis. Yet, as an artist that innately inhabits varying identities and statuses, the translingual writer denies easy categorization and simplified attempts at labeling identity. The artist’s unique translingual ability, unsurprisingly, often accompanies immigrant or exile status but, as Guo’s 2017 memoir, Nine Continents: A Memoir in and Out of China insightfully demonstrates, displacement and exile are not conditions solely relegated to the realm of geopolitical borders. Instead, what becomes brilliantly clear through Guo’s painful and captivating memoir is a pattern of internal exile reaching far back into her lineage that precedes the artist’s experience of external alienation through immigration. Natasha Lvovich coins the idea of an internal position of exile that so regularly plagues the most memorable translingual authors as a, “pre-existing condition of translingual creativity” (2015, 118). Lvovich (2015) explains: “They are often people who have found themselves in the outsider position, in internal exile, even before their voluntary or involuntary physical exile” (118). This poignant state of pre-existing internal exile is a determinative concept that frequently lies at the root of the best translingual artist’s formative experiences. This essay explores the phenomenon of a pre-existing internal exile among translingual artists, especially as it appears throughout Xiaolu Guo’s 2017 memoir, Nine Continents.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).