by Ruyian Xu
“When I immigrated to the US,” Ruyian Xu, the author of The Lost and Forgotten languages of Shanghai reveals, “I was ten years old and did not speak any English… Eight years later, when I returned to China… English had become the only language I was fluent in. I could no longer read or write in Chinese, and I was afraid of saying the wrong thing or not being understood all over again. Those experiences made me interested in how absence in a language can isolate people and inspired me to write this novel…”
The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai is a story of Li Jing, a successful, happily married businessman, who suddenly, as a consequence of an explosion that shattered the building where he was dining, losses his ability to speak his native language, Chinese. The only words than emerge from his mouth are the English phrases he learned as a child growing up in Virginia.
He finds himself unable to communicate with his son and wife, whom he once courted with beautiful words. He turns to Rosalyn Neil, an American neurologist, and two of them soon develop a relationship that his wife doesn’t need a translator to understand …