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Gao Xingjian

novel english character china

(Chinese, 1940– )

Although this dissident writer was virtually unknown in the English-speaking world before 2000, he was certainly notorious in his native China, in part because his views (modernist in art, radical in politics) were usually violently at odds with those of the authorities. Eventually he left for Europe, carrying with him the manuscript of his novel Soul Mountain, which was published first in Taiwan in 1990 (as Lingshan) and then in Paris (where he had settled) in 1995. It was only with the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000 that it finally appeared in English, and not before time; it is an extraordinary and beautiful semi-autobiographical novel, though it is as much travel book or history as it is fiction. The setting (rural China) is stunning, vast, and kaleidoscopic, and inhabited by a main character who travels through it on a sort of quest, covering huge amounts of (real and conceptual) ground. And this character alternates between ‘I’ and ‘you’, implicating the reader, and inviting—obliging—us to travel with him.

Amy Tan, W. G. Sebald  DHa

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