Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian
Soul Mountain is a Nobel Prize, award-winning novel written by Gao Xingjian in 1989. Xingjian is a talented Chinese playwright, critic, writer and an artist who is also educated and well-versed in French. His written works and contribution in literature primarily focused on philosophy (nature of man towards life, love, life, and sex). However, this paper intends to focus on discussing the possible consequences of engaging in abnormal and unnecessary sex as it was emphasized in the novel, Soul Mountain.
Xingjian’s Soul Mountain, implicitly discusses the importance of moderation in action, particularly in engaging in sex to maintain balance in nature and balance in oneself. In Xingjian’s novel, he showed through his unnamed main character that frequent engaging in sex (prevalent in our society nowadays) promotes animalistic behavior which leads to distort one’s essence in life and beliefs of cultivating respect for women; moreover, it increases the likelihood of losing one’s self by becoming a self-centered, and senseless, megalomaniac.
Further, while Xingjian was preparing himself in the midst of dying from lung cancer, he decided to spend his remaining days in search for his purpose in life and to attain a sense of meaning in this world. Through writing and expressing his views on casual sex (proliferating in the society nowadays) in the Soul Mountain, he was able to open the awareness and consciousness of every reader who often treats sex not as love-making but as a senseless wish to gain pleasure and reduce tension.
Meanwhile, even if Xingjian faced a lot of challenges toward his journey in search of his sought after “Soul Mountain,” or his “ideal self” he did not regret his voyage where he understood the people, identified with them, known himself, others, and God in his introspection in the Soul Mountain. Xingjian, is the projection of the unnamed main character of the Soul Mountain. He was able to take a break from the sickening routine of a daily typical life by searching for himself and experiencing freedom in God’s nature and writing his self-introspecting novel (Paradise Publishers Inc).
The Soul Mountain’s theme: (Form Content and Social Effect) The Soul Mountain’s form content is written by Xingjian using the second person active discourse as if he was talking to the reader—it was designed in such a way that the text evokes a social effect of awareness among its readers; and also, for the purpose of objectivity and avoidance of pinpointing the “blame” to any specific individual or group of people in the who are accustomed to behave according to internal and external driven reinforcements.
Moreover, the Nable’s approach in reflecting on Xingjian’s Soul Mountain brought about his internalization of the message of the reality of mankind’s primary pleasure principle which is to reduce tension and to increase pleasure. Internally, the main character described by Xingjian may be motivated to search for himself due to his inner struggle to reduce his tension resulting from a restless routine-based life leading and directing people to senseless and temporary pleasures (work, eating, driving, and work again) (Nagle).
Upon reading Xingjian’s Soul Mountain, Korson’s approach includes her reflection on Xingjian’s implicit emphasis on discussing the consequences of abnormal engagement in sexual behavior. According to her, Xingjian presented the issue (sexual behavior) in his novel in an objective way, written in a carefree and natural manner as if the deed (sex) is not directly regarded as a prohibited behavior yet it results to abnormality in nature and in man or woman’s behavior when it is not done moderately.
In a way, Korson’s approach in commenting on Xingjian’s work is a positive commentary on Xingjian’s part in which the latter used allegorical euphemisms and symbolic metaphors in the entire novel to hide the underlying goal of attacking the illnesses of every individuals in all social statuses: the poor and uneducated, the average and middle class citizens, and those prominent individuals or groups rich in power consisting of the affluent and educated government officials, businessmen and the like (Korson). The Soul Mountain was regarded by Gascoigne as: “a story depicting Xingjian’s life journey (Korson).
” A journey filled with the daily components of a typical, realistic life: sexual affairs, women, conversation with neighbors and new acquaintances, historical accounts of people and their cultural norms, beliefs, and attitudes with the projection of Xingjian’s fear of going nowhere. It was as if Xingjian was continuously driving without a map; although at worst, Xingjian’s work could appear somewhat formless and undefined direction towards ending, Xingjian willingly shows the readers that the character in the soul Mountain did not knows what he was really looking for, he was not even sure if it exists or if it is really there.
However, Xingjian managed to continue searching for that Soul Mountain which is connoted as his “own sense of meaning” and purpose in this life. For Xingjian, his life was just a spec of dust wherein whatever he does do not even count in the vague and big universe of God’s creation. In connection to man’s real life, they did not really know where they are going even if they know where they came from; they are not even sure where they are at present that is why.
So for Xingjian, it is better to live at present and cherish the moment with the people you love, you like and you learn from; for it is from other people that individuals learn through contemplation and application/sharing of such knowledge and skills learned in the journey of a beautiful, purposeful, and sensible life (Gascoigne). Critique on the Soul Mountain in Respect to Culture and Beliefs With respect to culture and beliefs, the Soul Mountain story was able to show that there is a mistake or sort of imbalance with man’s behavior cultivated or dictated by the cultural norms and beliefs created by men.
Citing the main character as the best example, his portrayal of typical attitudes of men symbolizes their carelessness of engaging into unnecessary wantonness of self-satisfying, greed of power, pleasure seeking activities like sexual affairs, womanizing, and enjoyment of freedom—without thinking first if such actions are worthwhile, if such actions are justifiable, and if such actions are for the good of many but oneself. In so doing extreme self-centeredness and egoism, the essence of man becomes obscure and meaningless.
Due to easy access to pleasure and desires, there is no sacrifice offered to reach the transcendental goal and purpose of man: for there is no true attainment of happiness compared in reaching one’s nirvana and essence of real happiness, through liberation, actualization of potentialities, and enlightenment. In brief, Xingjian should have directly addressed the imbalance in macrosociety is easily seen by critical men but that imbalance in controlling oneself in pleasure-seeking desires are mostly unaccepted or denied to protect oneself from deprecation of the society and self-contempt as well.
Such internal and external imbalance in ecology destroys the very nature of man and environment as integrated universe or realm of knowledge. So, it is better to refrain oneself from seeking the mistakes of others rather, it is more productive to focus in oneself and initiate goodness through responsible, moderate actions deviating from the extremes (Nagle). Remarkable statements and Quotations from the Novel In the Soul Mountain, Xingjian’s character depicted a role of easygoing and happy-go-luck traveler who does not mind the consequences of his actions.
Whether he breaks a heart or faith of a woman, he do not plan of stopping the lifestyle by settling down with anyone and rather, he wants to continue enjoying his freedom and take naive, innocent, powerless women for granted by taking their virginity and leaving them after taking the sensual pleasure he wants from them. According to the character he says, “How should I change this life for which I had just won a reprieve (Xingjian 41)? ” Moreover, for Xingjian’s character, he justifies his action by saying: “I would rather drift here and there without leaving traces.
There are so many people in this big wide world and so many places to visit but there is nowhere for me to put down roots, to have a small refuge, to live a simple life. I always encounter the same sort of neighbors, say the same sort of things, good morning or hello and once again am embroiled in endless daily trivia. Even before this becomes solidly entrenched, I will already have tired of it all. I know there is no cure for me (Xingjian 172). ” Upon saying this, the characters attitude reflects his inner painstaking misery.
For him, he is hopeless when it comes to controlling his pleasure principle. He was unable to control his impulses which always lead him to hurt other people’s feelings and lose their fate (see what happened to the girl who fell in love with the unnamed character in Xingjian’s story and attempted to jump in the river after having a heart break from the character). Some critics suggest that the novel has the tendency to lose its track and direction.
Although, it is to be put into account that Xingjian designed the story in such a way to give a metaphoric touch to the readers that the life of every individual could be somewhat boring, no direction, and meaningless; yet, its message is to provoke the readers to search for their meaning in life amidst the stressing noise and routine expectations to man in their daily lives through their work, education, relationships, and in other preoccupations in life (Korson). The character presented the two sides of living this life: both the advantages and the disadvantages.
At the end of the story, Xingjian implied that living a life of happiness if depriving oneself to excessive pleasures because subjecting oneself in too much pleasure is the root of evil which comes from the self (Korson). Further, Xingjian, as the author of the Soul Mountain, has written the novel projecting how he feels towards the condescending material world filled with deception and offering of temporary source of happiness which is derived from all kind of pleasurable activities.
Gao Xingjian was creative enough to use his different techniques of hiding his underlying message through the use o metaphors and euphemisms as explained through the preceding paragraphs. Further Xingjian emphasized that through his Soul Mountain, he was able to address the wrong cultural beliefs of the Communist Party of China without directly pinpointing them in the novel and without even needing to obviously impute them of such wrong and unjustified actions. He says, “I’m not involved in politics, but that does not prevent me from criticizing the policies of Communist China.
I say what I want to say. If I have chosen to live in exile, it is to be able to express myself freely without constraints (Xingjian 7). ” Moreover, Xingjian in the unnamed character in the story portrayed a character of collecting historical accounts from different people—China’s traditions which are passed on from generation to another generation—and that which opens the door for the readers to analyze the cultural beliefs which proliferated in China during the old times, and influenced how the people live their lives today.
Xingjian also imparts to the readers that every activities in the present is important for it accounts to the history of the coming generations. Meaning, every minute should be lived well and sensibly dedicated for the purpose of sharing whatever knowledge and skills an individual has. Considering daily tasks and responsibilities, (either you consider it a routine or not), life should be lived at the fullest and every tasks should be completed with a motivation to enjoy living your life for others and not for yourself alone (Xingjian 44).
Furthermore, the character’s journey also implied to its readers that there are several options and possibilities in this life; In life there shall always be oppositions and prosecutors present to hinder you to attain and achieve your goal, but the challenge lies on the individual’s driving perseverance, fortitude, and temperance inspite of obstacles encountered. The goal remains intact and clear in one’s mind although there is a current delay existing to carry on with the plans and achieve your goal.
What matters is how the individual handle the situation, without using others weaknesses for one’s expense. Otherwise, one’s good intentions of reaching one’s goal for the good of the many would not be justified for the wrong means. It is like the saying that: “The end does not justify the means. ” On the contrary, analyzing the characters in the story showed a great impact on the overall moral lesson of the novel.
Mostly, it could be observed that the characters met by the main, unnamed character were driven and motivated by several instances: the fact that they have gone and continuously rehearsing an emotional and mental baggage in their minds, they have gone through a failed relationship, or they have lost a significant other or a loved one. In addition, the characters or acquaintances met and acquainted to the main character easily vanish. Why? Because the author, Xingjian wants to imply that people in our lives naturally come and go.
Friends, loved ones, professors, classmates could leave or die any moment for nothing in this world is permanent but change. So, what matters most in this life is not engaging one’s physical body into the endless and unnecessary pleasures; rather, it is every individual’s privilege to collect knowledge, information, skills and enrich one’s potentialities in physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the personality to reach the ideal state of the person which is transcendental nature, nirvana, or the state of enlightenment (Korson).
Conclusion In conclusion, reading the Soul Mountain is a very essential task to every reader in attempt to know oneself better amidst the busy lifestyle in the deceiving, material world. The Soul Mountain is a magnificent creation of Gao Xingjian which substantially informs the readers to avoid the extreme (pleasure seeking activities like sex) to attain good life and happiness. Thus, it is remarkable eye opener to the readers as it successfully attained its goal of imparting its message to inform its audience.
Xingjian symbolically represented the common mistakes of rebelling man who goes against the natural flow and natural order of the world and the universe to falsely believe that they are God, finite, powerful, and limitless. But such who deviate from the natural balance of nature are those who experience difficulty, sadness, and directionless/meaningless lives motivated by deceiving materialism and temporary pleasures of the world in reality. Overall, Xingjian in this novel, promoted the necessary change in the lifestyle of self-centered, and egoistic men for living a sensible, meaningful life (Xiangjian 1).
Korson, Betty J. “Soul Mountain Gao Xingjian Book Review. ” Allreaders. com. 20 March 2009 <http://www. allreaders. com/Topics/Info_5170. asp> Nagle, Robert. September 2002. Gao Xingjian and “Soul Mountain”: Ambivalent Storytelling. Retrieved 20 March 2009 <http://www. imaginaryplanet. net/essays/literary/soulmountain. php> “Soul Mountain by Nobel Prize Winner Gao Xingjian Kicks Off Global E-book Program. ” 2006. Paradise Publishers Inc. 20 March 2009 <http://www. ebookbroadcast. com/epublishing/soul_mountain. html> Xingjian, Gao. Soul Mountain. Australia: HarperCollins Perennial Publishers, 2001.Sample Essay of BuyEssay.org