Sunday, August 02, 2009

I souled the mountain

NOW FINISHED: Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian

Well, 'X' is in the can. Despite what you may have heard, Soul Mountain is not particularly hard or arduous or even really that long -- it's 500 pages, but a quick moving, breathy dialogue, spaced-out printing 500 pages. There are some languorous passages as he travels through the mountain and river villages but they aren't long and they flow nicely. However, there is something undeniably literary about the book, for whatever that is worth.

I have been scrolling through the reviews on Goodreads, and they all seem to fall into one of two categories, either Wow-this-is-breathtaking-I've-never-read-anything-like-it-dreamlike-narration-identity-beauty or "Wtf, Nobel Prize committee? I'd rather be mass marketing." One reviewer commented on there that this book is good for "anyone tired of anti-Chinese rhetoric." I could get behind that. It opens one's eyes to the normalcy that exists everywhere, even places that "we" think are so exotic. It makes me think how much we all have in common, while also showing how two people can never really understand each other because they are so different. It also talks about various peoples of different cultures that many in the West lump together as one "Chinese" population.

The book is nothing if not a voyage of self-discovery for the author, the narrator(s), the constructed identities of those persons which may or may not be different identities, and possibly even the reader. It also makes me want to go hang out in some of these villages in search of the mystical (mythical?) Lingshan, even if there are nasty snakes hanging around there.

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