August Books 6) Soul Mountain / 灵山, by Gao Xingjian

Gao Xingjian won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2000, which was the year this, his best known novel, was published in English; most of his work had been available in Swedish since the early 1990s, which may explain why the Nobel committee got to him before much of the English-speaking world did.

Soul Mountain is a story of an unnamed narrator exploring China, in search of the mythical mountain of the title, also telling himself the story of a pair of lovers (“you” and “she”) on a similar journey. It rather lacks a plot; it’s a series of vignettes of encounters with the legacies of the Cultural Revolution, Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and other aspects of Chinese historical experience, with a sense that the storyteller is trying to reintegrate a shattered sense of self from the debris of China’s traumas.

Because of the lack of structure, and the style of writing, I found it tough going (though I’ve seen the translation criticised for not conveying Gao’s meaning properly). I got much more out of Wild Swans.

One thought on “August Books 6) Soul Mountain / 灵山, by Gao Xingjian

  1. I find the question about the absence of foreign Protestant suitors an interesting one – I think I have most of a plausible answer to it, but some points in the answer involve quite a bit of background comparison or explanation.

    The short answer is that, according to Wikipedia, Frederick II of Denmark was also a suitor at one point – but that otherwise there were almost no unquestionably eligible foreign Protestants. I admit that this last statement needs a lot of unpacking (including looking at and arguing through some apparent possibilities), and would even then be open to disagreement – I may try it sometime on my own LJ, but will have to leave it for now. The one point I can add here is that Elizabeth’s room for manoeuvre on this will have been limited by her dubious legitimacy – a more secure monarch could have risked a slightly questionable marriage, but Elizabeth probably could not.

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