In 1982 Chinese playwright, novelist and artist Gao Xingjian was diagnosed with lung cancer, the very disease which had killed his father. For six weeks Gao inhabited a transcendental state of imminent death, treating himself to the finest foods he could afford while spending time reading in an old graveyard in the Beijing suburbs. But a secondary examination revealed there was no cancer - he had won a 'reprieve from death' and had been thrown back into the world of the living. Faced with a repressive cultural environment and the threat of a spell in a prison farm, Gao fled Beijing. He travelled first to the ancient forests of central China and from there to the east coast, passing through eight provinces and seven nature reserves, a journey of fifteen thousand kilometres over a period of five months. The result of this epic voyage of discovery is Soul Moutain. Interwoven into this picaresque journey are myriad stories and countless memorable characters - from venerable Daoist masters and Buddhist monks and nuns to mythical Wild Men; deadly Qichun snakes to farting buses. Conventions are challenged, preconceptions are thwarted and the human condition, with all its foibles and triumphs, is laid bare.
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'Chinese literature of the nineties will have to contend with the creative energy and the daring of Gao Xingjian.' Le Monde 'An original voice unlike any contemporary writing available in English... an extraordinary product of an imagination infused with European and Chinese cultures; an exploration of individual identity in a society that exalts the collective; and a daring play with voice that plunders ancient Chinese myths, philosophy, history, folk songs and memory.' Weekend Australian 'Gao's search is a wonderful realisation of the multiplicity of Chinese cultures and the persistence of a sense of the divine in the face of so much official hostility. Soul Mountain is part autobiography, part sexual rhapsody, part cynical rave at the meaninglessness of life. Gao has divided this mass into chapters, many of which can be read as self-contained episodes. Most are brilliant miniatures, exercises in style composed with an instinctive understanding of the way words work. Despite the deliberate disconnectedness, the book hangs together by dint of its linguistic energy and exuberant storytelling.' Courier Mail
About Xingjian Gao
Gao Xingjian was born on 4 January 1940, in war-torn China. During the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote a number of works of prose, plays and poems, aware that what he wrote could not be published, since they failed to comply with the government's strict guidelines. He was finally able to publish a substantial number of works during the 1980s, but when a ban was imposed on the performance of his play Bus Stop in 1983, Gao Xingjian finally fled Beijing and began the long journey as a political refugee which forms the autobiographical basis of Soul Mountain. He now lives in Paris, where he continues to write and paint, and is a French citizen.
Soul Mountain by Xingjian Gao
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