Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2000. Part travel diary, part philosophy, part love story, ‘Soul Mountain’ is an elegant, unforgettable novel that journeys deep into the heart of modern-day China.
In 1982 Chinese playwright, novelist and artist Gao Xingjian was diagnosed with lung cancer, the very disease that had killed his father. For six weeks Gao inhabited a transcendental state of imminent death, treating himself to the finest foods he could afford while spending time reading in an old graveyard in the Beijing suburbs. But a secondary examination revealed there was no cancer – he had won a ‘reprieve from death’ and had been thrown back into the world of the living.
Faced with a repressive cultural environment and the threat of a spell in a prison farm, Gao fled Beijing. He travelled first to the ancient forests of central China and from there to the east coast, passing through eight provinces and seven nature reserves, a journey of fifteen thousand kilometres over a period of five months. The result of this epic voyage of discovery is ‘Soul Mountain’.
Interwoven into this picaresque journey are myriad stories and countless memorable characters – from venerable Daoist masters and Buddhist monks and nuns to mythical Wild Men; deadly Qichun snakes to farting buses. Conventions are challenged, preconceptions are thwarted and the human condition, with all its foibles and triumphs, is laid bare.