Sunday, April 19

Book Review: Soul Mountain

Title: Soul Mountain

Author: Gao Xingjian

Pages: 506

Summary: A bold lyrical, prodigious novel, Soul Mountain probes the human soul with an uncommon directness and candor. Interwoven with a myriad od stories and countless memorable characters- from the venerable Daoist masters and Buddhist nuns to mythical Wild Men, deadly Qichun snakes, and farting buses- is the narrator’s poignant inner journey and the search for freedom.

Fleeing the social conformity required by the Communist government, he wanders deep into the regions of Qiang, Miao and Yi peoples located on the fringes of Han Chinese civilization and discovers a plethora of different traditions, history, legends, songs, and landscapes. Slowly, with the help of memory, imagination, and sensory experience, he reconstructs part of his past. He laments the impact of the Cultural Revolution on the ecology-both human and physical-of China. And in a polyphony of narrating selves- the narrator’s “I” spawns a “you,” a “she” and a “he,” each with distinct perspectives and voice-the novel delights in the freedom of the imagination to expand the notion of individual self.

Storytelling saves the narrator from a deep loneliness that is part of the human condition. He Searches for meaning-in life, in the journey--turns up the possibility that there may be no meaning. The elusive Lingshn (“Soul Mountain”), which becomes the object of his quest, never yields its secrets, but the journey is a rich, strange, provocative and rewarding one. Soul Mountain is a novel of immense wisdom and profound beauty.
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: What a wonderful book, lyrical, mythical and full of folk lore, a story where the narrator is on a journey to find his self and meaning to life, and his soul. The story addresses the aspects of the self and the human psyche by exploring different aspects of the self and human experience, for example user a certain narrative when the narrator wished to express loneliness’ and creating companions to prevent this loneliness. The entire story is filled with unique and interesting characters, helping create a glimpse of a very different culture and way of life, as the reading is taken into different villages and is able to experience the different peoples with the narrator, learning folk songs, traditions of monks and Daiots.

The book fascinated me. It’s slow moving, but I didn’t care about that, because there was so much to read, to learn from the pages, and so much waiting on the next pages. Not to mention, being able to glimpse at a variety of aspects of one character, by being able to experience their experiences through different narratives and how each part of the mind thinks and acts was very different and unique, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read.

The book constantly jumps from narrative to narrative. One chapter it’s “I” the next “you” then sometimes it’s a chapter of point form quotes or meanings. One chapter at the end of the chapter, the narrator explains to the reading, that reading the chapter is optional.

Filled with insights, mythical beings, folk lore, and a imaginative look on the culture, humans, and other aspects that make up the narrators world, his storey telling is something that pulls you in, and is hard to escape from it’s grasps.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend the book to read. It’s a very different and unique read, poetic, lyrical and a very different method of writing a story, but I think a lot would be frustrated with the narrative moving around from first person, to second person, third person etc. At least give it a chance, you will get use to it after a while, and it’s what you get from the story after you read what counts.

What to read next: I have no clue, so here are some other Nobel Prize Winner's For Literature: Snow by Orhan Pamuk, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Blindness by Jose Saramago and The Golden Note Book by Doris Lessing

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge, A - Z Challenge
New Author Challenge


  1. This sounds like a book Steve would absolutely love!

  2. It's a great book to read. Not to mention, it helps with that pesky "X" for the A - Z Challenge.

  3. Sounds like a beautiful book. And I was looking for an X author.