The Dissident

Nell Freudenberger

17 January 2013
432 pages


From the award-winning author of Lucky Girls comes an intricately woven novel about secrets, love, art, identity and the shining chaos of everyday American life. Yuan Zho, a celebrated Chinese performance artist and political dissident, has accepted a one year’s artist’s residency in Los Angeles. He is to be a Visiting Scholar at the St Anselm’s School for Girls, teaching advanced art, and hosted by one of the school’s most devoted families: the wealthy if dysfunctional Traverses. The Traverses are too preoccupied with their own problems to pay their foreign guest much attention, and the dissident is delighted to be left alone – his past links with the radical movements give him good reason to avoid careful scrutiny. The trouble starts when he and his American hosts begin to view one another with clearer eyes.
‘Freudenberger is most certainly the genuine article.’ Guardian
‘Freudenberger’s novel unfolds into that rare thing, a work of poetics itself, a medication in art. The fact that she does it with such wit and compassion, such generosity of mind and heart, is miraculous.’ The Times
‘A fiercely intelligent first novel . . . Lots of sharp, funny dialogue, it has something of a Lost in Translation feel.’ Eve Magazine