Oscar's Reviews > Soul Mountain

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian
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Nov 02, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction

This was a difficult book to read. Not because I found Xingjian's writing style too disjointed or because I thought it was too dense, but because his gaze never seemed to swerve far away from his own navel. In the beginning the book seemed very promising but as I continued it read more and more like the recounting of a long and stupid dream.

Xingjian's preoccupation with himself reaches the point that when one character has the temerity to impose on his splendid isolation with a story of her own suffering it makes him physically ill. In another chapter he abandons a child by the road. Allegory or not, it is very telling of the kind of character that the I, he, you of the book is. There were interesting parts in the book, yes, but they all seemed to be used solely as backdrops to his endless self-adoration.

I realise the book is meant to be a meditation on the self and that is well and good but the impression it leaves me with is a man so enraptured by himself that he thinks every slightest creative whim of his own and every particular about his life has immediate significance and importance to the reader.

His treatment of women is also off somehow. They are invariably portrayed as cluelessly drifting along until snatched up by some willful male. For example, there are countless references to horrible crimes against women, including a lot of rape, that do not seem to do much in the way of raising the ire of the author but are instead presented as some immutable law of the universe.

That said, there were times when the book offered an engrossing window into the country and people there but without any overarching vision to tie those solitary gems together they remain unpolished diamonds buried in a soulless mountain of dung.
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05/03 marked as: read

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