– Gao XingJian, “Sonambule”
“In those contaminated surroundings I was taught that life was the source of literature, that literature had to be faithful to life, faithful to real life. My mistake was that I had alienated myself from life and ended up turning my back on real life. Life is not the same as manifestations of life. Real life, or in other words the basic substance of life, should be the former and not the latter. I had gone against real life because I was simply stringing together life’s manifestations, so of course I wasn’t able to accurately portray life and in the end only succeeded in distorting reality.”
– Gao XingJian, Soul Mountain
Gao XingJian was the first person to win a Nobel Prize for literature written in the Chinese language, in 2000. Soul Mountain was a book that my grandfather bought for me when I was about 13, an autobiographical collection of works by the author who, while fleeing the Communist Party, wrote an account of his 10-month wanderings along the Yangtze River. My grandpa bought two copies, one in Chinese and one translated into English. I found my copy again this summer on my bookshelf, with the bookmark three-quarters of the way in, not remembering a single thing from the book. I don’t even remember particularly enjoying it; I was on my Anne Rice vampires kick at this point. I’ve begun to read it again, and am starting to really like it; I think after having matured 10 years it’s something that a more settled and patient spirit can appreciate.