Gao Xingjian, “Soul Mountain.” English translation published by Perennial (Harper Collins) New York, 2001
You finally complete the 500 pages and you wonder why it is written mostly in second person. You wonder why it won the Nobel Prize. You assume it may be because the Nobel judges are eager to encourage dissent in China. You wonder if it might have been more poetry than prose. You wonder if it would have worked out if you had been able to read it aloud to the woman.
She said she didn’t want to hear it read aloud. She thinks it would be pretentious. You wonder if you only wanted to read it aloud because you are pretentious. Or is the book itself pretentious? Is it pretentious to think about being pretentious?
You say that she would have enjoyed it as a romantic experience. She says you have no idea what women might enjoy. Men only exploit women and never care what they want.
You say that women are not that different from men. She says they are different and that you are chauvinistic to say there is no difference. You challenge her to define chauvinism. She says she does not need to define it because you are before her and you are the finest example of chauvinism.
You say she is acting silly. You try to embrace her.
She warms a little. She says maybe you aren’t chauvinistic. Maybe you are only patronizing.
You say that you have wondered all over China and investigated many ancient cultural ideas. You say that you discover a great deal of Chinese culture and that it is in this book.
She says it only shows what a hopeless idealist you are. You aren’t even slightly interested in the real world, she says.
What is real, you ask her.