Gao Xingjian, the author of Soul Mountain won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000. I finished reading this book months ago, but my book club heard me talking about it and they chose that as a book to read. I did not blog about this as I wanted to get others reactions to the book. This is a book that is a BIG book, it is over 500 pages and not a light read for after work. You have to sit down, concentrate and read it. No distractions, no “help” from small children or pets. This is one book that took time to write and it needs time to be read.
This book is a non-linear look into the life of one man. He jumps from topic to conversation to story to history to religion. For me as a logical linear person I had a hard time following it. I also had chapters that were my favorites and ones that I just slogged through.
The ones that I liked and enjoyed the most were the ones that focused on the history, myths, and stories of China. We here in the western world are taught little about the history of China, and it was just a small tiny glimpse in a country that is one of the oldest in the world. I do mean a tiny one. How can someone put 2000 years of history into 500 pages, can’t do it.
Then there were the more modern chapters were he was traveling, looking for an untouched wilderness. That was a bit like being lost, and looking for a found place that no longer exists. It was sad to read the descriptions of the forests that are being destroyed. The lakes, and rivers that are drying up.
The third part of the book was the one that got the most discussion at the book club. It was about He and She. Most of us agreed that she was his feminine side, the one that men are taught to hide.
There are two things about this book that has stuck with me and both show my ignorance. One is that there are many different dialects in China, I do not know why I have never thought of this. I mean we have all kinds of accents in American, and there are some I can’t understand. The other is not religion I kind of know about Dao, and I kind of know about Buddha, but what I did not realize was that each town had its own little gods.
“Today you can’t know what traumas tomorrow will bring.”
“Of course no-one will listen to an old man like me, but when people assault nature like this nature inevitably takes revenge.”
“People’s relationships with one another are really frightening.”
“Such is the stupidity of human beings.”
“When you think about it, life in fact doesn’t have what may be called ultimate goals.”
“History is ghosts banging on walls.”
“The true traveler is without goal, it is the absence of goals which creates the ultimate traveler.”