The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai
By Ruiyan Xu
(St. Martin's Press, Hardcover, 9780312586546, 352pp.)
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
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A dazzling debut novel about the power of love and language...
Li Jing, a successful, happily married businessman, is dining at a grand hotel in Shanghai when a gas explosion shatters the building. A shard of glass neatly pierces Li Jing's forehead—obliterating his ability to speak Chinese. The only words that emerge from his mouth are faltering phrases of the English he spoke as a child growing up in Virginia. Suddenly Li Jing finds himself unable to communicate with his wife, Meiling, whom he once courted with beautiful words, as she struggles to keep his business afloat and maintain a brave face for their son. The family turns to an American neurologist, Rosalyn Neal, who is as lost as Li Jing--whom she calls James--in this bewitching, bewildering city, where the two form a bond that Meiling does not need a translator to understand.
RUIYAN XU, who was born in Shanghai but came to the U.S. at age 10 without speaking a word of English, graduated from Brown University with honors in creative writing. She won the 2004 Hochstadt Award from Hedgebrook and a 2005 Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists; and has been awarded residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Jentel, Ragdale and the Anderson Center. An excerpt of The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai was published by the Great River Review. Xu lives in Brooklyn.
Advance Praise for THE LOST AND FORGOTTEN LANGUAGES OF SHANGHAI:
"From the explosion of its first pages to the searing emotion of its last, The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai is a novel that burns with the heat of clashing cultures and love transformed. Ruiyan Xu is a wonderful writer with a perfect ear for both the words and the silences that define us." --Peter Manseau, Author of Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter
"What a gem of a debut. This is the most literary kind, rarely found in fictions about new China. There is such deep silence in her prose, hinting at the depth of human suffering, anguish and hope. A gifted novelist, she gives us the insight into a Shanghai that is at once strange, and familiar, old and new, creating a literary landscape for its dwellers that is vast and beguiling, which is precisely the spirit of this metropolis, and of this fine fiction." --Da Chen, Author of New York Times bestselling memoir Colors of the Mountain and Brothers (chosen as one of the best novels of 2006 by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Miami Herald, The Salt Lake Tribune, and Publishers Weekly)
"One part medical mystery, one part love story, THE LOST AND FORGOTTEN LANGUAGES OF SHANGHAI is an engrossing novel that will enchant you from beginning to end." --David Ebershoff, New York Times bestselling author of THE 19TH WIFE and THE DANISH GIRL
"In her captivating debut novel, Ruiyan Xu paints an absorbing portrait of modern Shanghai. When a terrible explosion leaves husband and father Li Jing without the language in which to communicate, the Li family must rediscover who they are and how to live. The LOST AND FORGOTTEN LANGUAGES OF SHANGHAI is a richly nuanced and compelling story of loss and grief, betrayal and redemption by a gifted new voice." --Gail Tsukiyama, award-winning author of THE SAMURAI'S GARDEN and THE STREET OF A THOUSAND BLOSSOMS
"This is an intelligent and thoughtful exploration of the terrifying isolation that can come from loss of language. The novel skilfully examines the complex relationship between language and identity, seeing beyond the words themselves to the way in which they mould our thoughts and shape our personalities. With sensitivity and perception, Ruiyan Xu penetrates right to the heart of the dilemma of translation, the etiquette that is embedded within each language, the nuances of tone. This is a novel which makes us think beyond our boundaries, that opens up a fresh understanding of our relationship with language." --Clare Morrall, author of the Booker Prize finalist ASTONISHING SPLASHES OF COLOUR