9/3/2002: I have just finished reading several of Kurt Vonnegut
books. He's writing is unique, very easy to read, but, for example
in the book "Breakfast of Champions", it was *too* simple and childish.
May be that was the appeal of the book, the fact that he was stating
important issues in such simple sentences...
to the list of books
9/3/2002: I've read "Soul Mountain" a while back and just now I'm
trying to write down some comments about it. At first, I found the book
somewhat boring. My main reason for reading it in the first place was
because the author was a Nobel Price winner in literature:
"for an œuvre of universal validity, bitter insights
and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the
Chinese novel and drama".
After looking at the title of the book, I got the impression that it
might contain a story about exploration of human soul, psyche and what
have you. I kept on waiting for something to happen, for deep insights
into author's journey of life. I was left disappointed. The language in
the book was extremely impressive. I *loved* the descriptions of nature.
This book is full of folk stories which I didn't care for much. However,
it did paint a faint picture about life in China that I personally know
very little about. I was very interested in why the author was given
such a high award and searched the Internet for an explanation. Here is a
link a web site that talks about Gao Xingjian's accomplishments in
the field of literature. Here's a quote about
the book from the same site: "...
an odyssey in time and space through the Chinese countryside - he
enacts an individual's search for roots, inner peace and liberty... ".
And here's some more: "...
His great novel Soul Mountain is
one of those singular literary creations that seem impossible to compare
with anything but themselves. It is based on impressions from journeys
in remote districts in southern and southwestern China, where
shamanistic customs still linger on, where ballads and tall stories
about bandits are recounted as the truth and where it is possible to
come across exponents of age-old Daoist wisdom. The book is a tapestry
of narratives with several protagonists who reflect each other and may
represent aspects of one and the same ego. With his unrestrained use of
personal pronouns Gao creates lightning shifts of perspective and
compels the reader to question all confidences. This approach derives
from his dramas, which often require actors to assume a role and at the
same time describe it from the outside. I, you and he/she become the
names of fluctuating inner distances. Soul Mountain is a novel of a pilgrimage made by the
protagonist to himself and a journey along the reflective surface that
divides fiction from life, imagination from memory. The discussion of
the problem of knowledge increasingly takes the form of a rehearsal of
freedom from goals and meaning. Through its polyphony, its blend of
genres and the scrutiny that the act of writing subjects itself to, the
book recalls German Romanticism's magnificent concept of a universal
10/22/2003: I bought his new book "One man's bible". Why did
I buy it if I found his early work boring? I don't know. I have a
feeling that I'm just *not getting it*. After all, he was awarded a
Noble Prize! I'm not done reading it yet. I realize that I like his
style of writing: it's simple but yet powerful in its descriptiveness.
The book is filled with personal pain. I find it's too depressing at
11/02/2003: I finished "One man's bible". I find the author
fascinating. I can't make up my mind about what to feel for the
character (and I guess the author as well because the book is based on
his life): he weak but yet if I were in his shoes would I be any
stronger? I think his words resonate with my current state of mind:
struggle, looking for answers, understanding the questions. He
"... People inevitably seek
self-identification in books, the light from their eyes is refracted
the book to a person's heart."
So true, so true. Yet, I don't know what I'm getting
out of the book. Is it the suffering? One of the fascinations is that I
can't figure out what did this book did for me. I read fantasy sci-fi
books because they allow me to dream. This book made me want to _study_
the book. Is it a puzzle: something that I would understand if I get all
the pieces in just the right places? As a scientist, I'm drawn to
solving problems. I keep thinking about that I should look for something
I missed in the book. I feel it holds a key, a secret that I will get
only if I intensely look for. He ponders about many questions. Writing
this down, I open the book on a random page and find some interesting
passage that makes me want to stop and think about what he wrote and
what I think about it. I wish I had the luxury of keep going back to
the book and discover new passages that I either forgot or simply
dismissed on the first pass. However, a book like this makes me wonder
if I _should_ take time and not rush onto the next book. Should I stop
to enjoy how this fascination makes me feel? It has a certain mystique,
keeps me wonder...
I know nothing about China. This book makes me want
to learn more. I don't want to believe in his portrayal of life, it's
too depressing. He fled the country. In his writings, he denounces
connections to his country. He is Chinese and always will be. He's is
like an angry and pouty child who just doesn't want to deal with the
fact that life is hard. He identified where the boundaries of his freedom
lies but feels that he is entitled to more. Now that he broke free of
the chains and is roaming around, I wonder what he will write about. If
his next book is again about suffering and struggle of the human
spirit, would I want to read it? He says that now that he is free he
wants to explore the new world which he is curious about and "... don't want to be immersed in memories.
He has already become footprints, which you have left behind..."
It made me think about my own boundaries, personal boundaries not
external boundaries. Realizing who you want to be but can't because you
just don't have. Pushing boundaries. Preserving boundaries. Not stepping
He looks for love in all the wrong places. He says
that he is filled with lust, searches for it constantly. He lacks
self-restraint and thinks nothing but satisfying it. He married a girl
he met at a train station and had a one night stand with and who he
haven't seen for an extended period of time prior to this extremely
ridiculous decision. He corresponded with her and decided that he's in
love and she would be happy with him as his wife. He knows nothing of
love and never will find it. He tried to convince himself that he
can be happy with simple life: a wife and kids. You can right away see
that it would never work, that he is deluding himself.
What he gets is the suffering and human struggle to
"... the good times will soon be
here, no, for the time being they have been delayed, but they will come.
The good times are sure to come. Sooner or later, they will come... He
hurried away. The good times terrified him, and he would rather sneak
off before the good times had come..."
He writes about feelings that are real. He raises
the question about the value of fictional literature, more specifically
writings about something other than personal experience: "...pure
literary form, style, language, word games, linguistic structures and
patterns that follow their own course..."
He's writing is simple and seems effortless. It's
almost hard to believe that something could have been lost in the
translation. He says his writing is like talking to yourself. When I
read the book, I feel like I'm reading someone's diary rather than a
book written for an audience. From time to time, I write a diary.
Thinking back, I identify with the feeling of trying to achieve freedom
through writing. It provides a way to release disturbing feelings,
externalize them. It's a cooping mechanism! He
writes: ".. humans need to use lies
to conceal their own ugliness in order to seek a reason for living: to
articulate pain in order to alleviate pain seems to make pain
bearable..." To him, writing is addictive. I pray
to get addicted.
Will the memories of the hard life allow him to feel
I ended up buying all of his other books: a collection of plays and two
art books. I can't wait to see his drawings.
to the list of books
11/02/2003: My favorite quote from "Little Prince": "You become responsible forever for what
you have tamed."
to the list of books
A. Huxley, G. Orwell, and Y.
11/02/2003: I've read the "1984" a long time ago. Then somebody else
told me about the "Brave New World" and "We". So I went and read these
two books. Out of the three I think I like Orwell's book the best.
Maybe it's because it was the first and left a great impression. I had
something to compare to when I read the others. They were similar yet
different. I've just spent a good part of the day writing comments
about Xingjian's book, feeling the sadness of the book. A book about
personal struggle against an oppressive regime. Now, I'm commenting on
similar books. I wonder now, if that's why I liked this new book that
talks about real and not imaginary feelings of pain. Orwell's sad love
story was a true one, not like Gao's feelings of lust. The feeling of
connecting to another person to get through life in 1984 comes out with
a screaming intensity, captures and drags you down. All these books
speak out about dangers of political power and fragile human spirit.
to the list of books