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The Humanities Conference 2003

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The Language of Exile Gao Xingjian's Soul Mountain and One Man's Bible

Dr Shao-Pin Luo.

"You're a stranger, destined to be a stranger for ever, you have no hometown, no country, no attachments..." Gao Xingjian, Weekend Quartet
In his Nobel Lecture "The Case for Literature," the Chinese-French writer Gao Xingjian, awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature "for an oeuvre of universal validity, bitter insight, and linguistic ingenuity," explains the plight of an intellectual in China: "If the writer sought to win intellectual freedom, the choice was either to fall silent or to flee" (595). Gao places himself in the company of exiled writers such as Dante, Joyce, Thomas Mann, Solzhenitsyn, and the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan. Gao claims that he has been "fleeing" even since he was born and advocates a "Cold Literature" of alienation and detachment that is without nostalgia and ideology.
Gao's work continues to be banned in China, but it has survived the violence and inhumanity of authoritarianism and oppression. His is a language, rendered through translation and theatricality, that writes against authenticity and nationalism. Gao tirelessly searches for a language that transcends national and cultural boundaries; his new play, Snow in August, has Taiwanese Peking Opera singers perform to Western orchestral music with the Marseilles Symphony. His experimentation with language makes a significant contribution to a "diasporic consciousness" in the contemporary postcolonial world of displacement and migration.


Dr Shao-Pin Luo

  • Exile
  • Language
Person as Subject
  • Gao Xingjian

(30 min Conference Paper, English)