March 21, 2023


Author Wang Gang

Penguin Books

March 30, 2010


English, a major bestseller in China, where it was voted Best Novel of the Year by both critics and the general public is now available in nine more countries including the United States, where American readers may also take a look a this touching story set in the remote Uyghur-majority Xinjiang region of northwest China.

A twelve-year-old boy named Love Liu eagerly awaits the arrival of a man from Shanghai who will become the school’s first English teacher. The country is in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, and standing out or daring to be different could land one in jail, or worse. Uyghurs have already suffered ethnic, religious, and cultural repression by the Chinese government.

So when Love Liu catches a glimpse of the new teacher, he’s unprepared for the emotions that will seize him. No one had ever seen such a man in their remote town-tall, with shiny hair, excellent posture, and stylish clothes. Under his arm is an English dictionary, the only English dictionary to be found in that part of China.

With the dictionary at his disposal, Love Liu is determined to learn English, and becomes obsessed with holding the dictionary, flipping its pages, and learning every word on every page. But others resist learning English, and those who take the class are held suspect, not only by their classmates but also by their parents, who intervene to shield their children from the corrupting influence of the new teacher.

Love Liu is caught between his fascination with a language from a different land and a people they are taught are dangerous.

English is an inspiring coming-of-age novel that gives readers an idea of the cruel and brutal conditions of China during the Cultural Revolution, and how the simple act of learning a language could cause a huge uproar.

Wang Gang is the author of a number of critically acclaimed novels as well as the screenplays for two enormously popular Chinese films. After eight years without publishing a book, he wrote English based on his experiences growing up in the remote northwest of China. A member of the Chinese Writing Association, Wang Gang lives in Beijing.

Martin Merz, translator, a native speaker of English, has a degree in Chinese language and literature from Melbourne University in Australia and is completing a master’s degree in applied translation at the Open University in Hong Kong. Jane Weizhen Pan, translator, and also a resident of Melbourne, is a native speaker of Chinese who grew up in China’s far north and is a professional translator as well as an interpreter in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English.

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