Persephone Abbott's Reviews > Soul Mountain

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian
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Mar 19, 2012

it was amazing
Read from March 19 to April 07, 2012

One can argue that Gao Xingjian wrote this novel for a Chinese speaking public, and a specific public who is versed in Classical Chinese Literature forms. To quote Wikipedia “Whether it works or not, it (Soul Mountain) is a rich fictional language filled with vernacular speeches and elegant 文言 (classical) formulations as well as dialects, thus constituting a "heteroglossic" tapestry of sounds and rhythms that can indeed be read aloud (as Gao himself has done in his public readings).” Leo Lee Ou-fan, writer. The comments on the structure of the book and the variation between the first, second and third person are well noted --- among in the English reviews. Gao sweeps away the first person plural in chapter 52 when he says, “There is nothing more false than this we.” A reference to the reforms and conglomeration of the masses in Chinese history, but also in my view the view of “we” the readers. Although this book has been translated into English and given a Noble Prize, it is not a book about “we”. It is a book about the soul, and at that a monstrous undertaking to find and capture the soul, through traditional methods of soul seeking: travel, childhood nostalgia, fables and love or in many of the scenes sex.
The clue to this book, in my view, was in chapter 72 when Gao discusses the organization of his work that you are reading. “It isn’t a novel!” and “A novel must have a complete story.” And then if you read the last paragraph of chapter 72 – Gao says it all no stops and then leads the way to the cold shadows in the following chapters to grapple with the body and soul separating, or not. Soul Mountain.
There were times when Gao really presented wonderful images and ideas, and I did so enjoy those moments but there were many pages where I was bored with the sequences of seemingly aimless travel. And then it wound up to be an inspirational and impressive read after all.

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03/21 marked as: read

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