Soul Mountain

Soul Mountain

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Overview

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian, Mabel Lee

In 1983, Chinese playwright, critic, fiction writer, and painter Gao Xingjian was diagnosed with lung cancer and faced imminent death.But six weeks later, a second examination revealed there was no cancer—he had won "a second reprieve from death." Faced with a repressive cultural environment and the threat of a spell in a prison farm, Gao fled Beijing and began a journey of 15,000 kilometers into the remote mountains and ancient forests of Sichuan in southwest China. The result of this epic voyage of discovery is Soul Mountain.

Bold, lyrical, and prodigious, Soul Moutain probes the human soul with an uncommon directness and candor and delights in the freedom of the imagination to expand the notion of the individual self.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060936235
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/28/2001
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 584,100
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.18(d)

About the Author

Gao Xingjian (whose name is pronounced gow shing-jen) is the first Chinese recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in 1940 in Jiangxi province in eastern China, he has lived in France since 1987. Gao Xingjian is an artistic innovator, in both the visual arts and literature. He is that rare multitalented artist who excels as novelist, playwright, essayist, director, and painter. In addition to Soul Mountain and One Man's Bible, a book of his plays, The Other Shore, and a volume of his paintings, Return to Painting, have been published in the United States.

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Soul Mountain 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I finished 'Soul Mountain' today. It is hard to describe. It may well be his travelling memoirs and is not a novel in that sense. He hints at some of his anxiety and unsettledness about his life throughout the 500 pages, but he is more focused in the last 10 or so chapters. The author peppers his memories and accounts through other people with sarcasm and hatred of what happened politically. He got more creative and less duty bound to writing rules as he moved along. His descriptions of nature and landscapes might easily have been the written form of his painting. The images of this ancient culture shine with fantastic ghosts, totems, animals, human violence and brutality. Would I recommend it? I enjoyed the folk tales, mythology, history, but I didn't think his writing was always sensational. Perhaps, it was the translation, but the translator did a good job to make it flow. Some of his discussions of ego and I and separateness have been better dealt with by other thinkers, but this was a personal journey and not an academic treatise on consciousness or existentialism. I enjoyed his jaunts into the wilderness and isolated areas of his country.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing! I don't understand why it gets such low reviews. It's deep and incredibly artistic. The dialogue is absolutely amazing. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written, somehow stitched together with folklore and Chinese imagery. I originally read it two years ago and I will read it again this winter. The journey was long and somewhat precarious, however this text was like a drink of water to a parched soul.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Our bookclub thought this sounded like a great novel until we actually started reading it. We called an emergency meeting and decided we had to choose something else. We determined that either something got lost in the translation or we just weren't "zen" enough to follow Gao Xingjian's thought process. Pardon the cliches, but while I admire Gao Xingjian perseverence in the face of adversity,I think that maybe some of his deeper thoughts were better left unsaid. I'll sum it up by quoting a passage found on page 114 "...no existence,no non-existence, no existence and no non-existence; non-existence exists so there is non-existence of existence; non-existence of existence exists so there is non-existence of non-existence..." I think Mr. Xingjian might want to consider a career in writing those over the top novels we were all assigned in college.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a bizarre book. I would not call it a novel but streams of consciousness loosely strung together. The book lacks plot and character development so it does not meet the definition of novel. Some profound points are made but it is too difficult getting through the mysticism to find the meaning of life in this book. It is enjoyable but boring and just too odd to really get lost in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Without any published manifesto, something seems to have been developing at the end of the 20th century that looks awfully good for the life of the spirit. Writers with little else to connect them have been emerging from the underworld of Post-World-War-II despair and sense of disappointment with life and the meaningless of human experience. Brilliant as they have been, the carnival mazes constructed by novelists to divert us from the wasteland outside their fictional fairgrounds seem to be packing up. Serious fiction, without nostalgia or pollyanna optimism is suddenly looking up and asking, 'O.K. What now?' Without any denial of the difficulties of being human, the pain and uncertainty of our cosmic status and without illusions about our ability to transcend the limitations of our own flawed humanity, Jose Saramago in Blindness, Matt Ash in Islands, Islands, Islands, and now Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian have set their protagonists on painful journeys. In Blindness a man sitting in his car at a stoplight in Lisbon goes suddenly blind and is left to make his way through the streets of a city in which all around him are also going blind. In Islands, the protagonist is dumped by his wife and fired from his job in the first two pages and is set on a journey around the world in search of some meaning to his wandering. The line between author and narrator/character is as blurred in Soul Mountain as it is in both other novels: Gao himself was diagnosed with lung cancer, only to learn six weeks later that the diagnosis was false. Having smelled death so close, and feeling the heat from communist authorities in Beijing, Gao fled into the mountains and forest of Sichuan. Saramago's narrator is, like Saramago himself, blind; the protagonist of Ash's Islands is the pseudo-autobiographical Matt Ash. Each of these Homeric journeys begins with damaged and shipwrecked people, and each novel has an episodic quality, as free of predictable form as any hike up an unexplored path in the mountains. And each character, so much alone, encounters strange, exotic, sometimes mad and dangerous but often playful, joyous and magically real human beings. These are never 'guides' or mystical 'wisemen' in the tradition of medieval quest stories. They are simply human and very much alive and real. If these are characters in search of an 'answer', none of the three ever finds that ultimate solution--and neither does the reader. Gao's narrator never finds the secret of soul mountain, but what he does discover is the very tactile magic of the real, of the human beings and lives and stories that they have to tell him. Their truth is that it is the searching itself that matters and that all of us are wanderers together. While Saramago, Ash and Gao begin with isolated and lonely men seeking only survival in a dangerous and painful land, all three of their heroes seem almost to stumble upon the loveliness of the moment and the immediate experience of those individuals they encounter and of the joy of the 'community' that each has fled or been exiled from. And that is exactly the experience that the reader will have while reading Soul Mountain or Blindness or Islands: the fascination with the immediate place, person, or story on the page at that moment. Not every reader will be comfortable with novels centered on such flawed and damaged characters as these, or with books that raise unanswerable questions--then choose to leave them unresolved, nor with stories so circular and endless that the only thing you are left with at the end is the experience itself of what Kurt Vonnegut's Tralfamadorians tell Billy Pilgrim are 'the many marvellous moments' encountered along the way. One could argue about the meaning of 'Humanism'--Classical, Secular, New or Newer--but what Gao, Ash and Saramago offer us (perhaps learned from Gabriel Garcia Marquez) seems to me to constitute a resurgence of Humanism for the 21st Century. At first glance, t
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is one heck of a novel where there is no plot,chacracter development or anything else you would find in an ordinary novel. It is like chunks of information that is put together.I Wouldn't recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok, so I had to read this book for school and at first I thought it wouldn't be too bad. But it was so confusing. I mean I understood that every other chapter 'you' were the main character, but he literally started in one chapter saying how he got lost on a mountain and leaves you hanging on how he got off and the next chapter after the 'you' he tells of how he literally got stuck in the mud while deciding whether or not to steal a boat. He even writes 'well, what should I talk about now?' and blabbers on and on about things that don't tie in with anything. I was so fed up with it and wanted to rip it to shreds. Not a good read for anyone in my opinion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This wonderfully written novel explores the evils of the cultural revolution, the beauty of China, it's culture, and people, and the existential conflict of individuality and community. Although this story does not have a plot, it is still an engaging and beautiful read. Mabel Lee deserves many accolades for her wonderful translation. I have to admit, that the first time I attempted to read this book, two years ago, I couldn't get into it. For some reason it resonates much stronger with me now. I recommend reading Mabel Lee's introduction. I also think that finishing a difficult novel, especially one so rich in spirituality, is very rewarding.