Gao Xingjian

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Gao Xingjian
Gao Xingjian Galerie Simoncini Luxembourg.jpg
Born (1940-01-04) January 4, 1940 (age 74)
Ganzhou, Jiangxi, China
Occupation novelist, playwright, critic, translator, screenwriter, director, painter
Language Chinese1
Citizenship China (1940–1998)
France (since 1998)
Alma mater Beijing Foreign Studies University
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature
2000
Gao Xingjian
Chinese 高行健

Gao Xingjian (Chinese: 高行健; Mandarin: [káu ɕĭŋ tɕiɛ̂n]; born January 4, 1940) is a Chinese2 émigré novelist, playwright, and critic who in 2000 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for an oeuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity.”1 He is also a noted translator (particularly of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco), screenwriter, stage director, and a celebrated painter. In 1998, Gao was granted French citizenship.

Gao's drama is considered to be fundamentally absurdist in nature and avant-garde in his native China. His prose works tend to be less celebrated in China but are highly regarded elsewhere in Europe and the West.

Early life

Gao's original home town is Taizhou, Jiangsu. Born in Ganzhou, Jiangxi, China in 1940, Gao has been a French citizen since 1998. In 1992 he was awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.

Early years in Jiangxi and Jiangsu

Gao's father was a clerk in the Bank of China, and his mother was a member of the Young Men's Christian Association. His mother was once a playactress of Anti-Japanese Theatre during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Under his mother's influence, Gao enjoyed painting, writing and theatre very much when he was a little boy. During his middle school years, he read lots of literature translated from the West, and he studied sketching, ink and wash painting, oil painting and clay sculpture under the guidance of painter Yun Zongying (simplified Chinese: 郓宗嬴; traditional Chinese: 鄆宗嬴; pinyin: Yùn Zōngyíng).

In 1950, his family moved to Nanjing. In 1952, Gao entered the Nanjing Number 10 Middle School (later renamed Jinling High School) which was the Middle School attached to Nanjing University.

Years in Beijing and Anhui

In 1957 Gao graduated, and, following his mother's advice, chose Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) instead of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, although he was thought to be talented in art.

In 1962 Gao graduated from the Department of French, BFSU, and then he worked for the Chinese International Bookstore (中國國際書店). During the 1970s, because of the Down to the Countryside Movement, he went to and stayed in the countryside and did farm labour in Anhui Province. He taught as a Chinese teacher in Gangkou Middle School, Ningguo county, Anhui Province for a short time. In 1975, he was allowed to go back to Beijing and became the group leader of French translation for the magazine Construction in China (《中國建設》).

In 1977 Gao worked for the Committee of Foreign Relationship, Chinese Association of Writers. In May 1979, he visited Paris with a group of Chinese writers including Ba Jin. In 1980, Gao became a screenwriter and playwright for the Beijing People's Art Theatre.

Gao is known as a pioneer of absurdist drama in China, where Signal Alarm (《絕對信號》, 1982) and Bus Stop (《車站》, 1983) were produced during his term as resident playwright at the Beijing People's Art Theatre from 1981 to 1987. Influenced by European theatrical models, it gained him a reputation as an avant-garde writer. His other plays, The Primitive (1985) and The Other Shore (《彼岸》, 1986), all openly criticised the government's state policies.

In 1986 Gao was misdiagnosed with lung cancer, and he began a 10-month trek along the Yangtze, which resulted in his novel Soul Mountain (《靈山》). The part-memoir, part-novel, first published in Taipei in 1990 and in English in 2000 by HarperCollins Australia, mixes literary genres and utilizes shifting narrative voices. It has been specially cited by the Swedish Nobel committee as "one of those singular literary creations that seem impossible to compare with anything but themselves." The book details his travels from Sichuan province to the coast, and life among Chinese minorities such as the Qiang, Miao, and Yi peoples on the fringes of Han Chinese civilization.

Years in Europe and Paris

By the late 1980s, Gao had shifted to Bagnolet, a city adjacent to Paris, France. The political Fugitives (1989), which makes reference to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, resulted in all his works being banned from performance in China.

Works

Selected works:

Dramas and performances

Gao Xingjian in 2008
  • 《絕對信號》 (Signal Alarm, 1982)
  • 《車站》 (Bus Stop, 1983)
  • 《野人》 (Wild Men, "Savages", 1985)
  • 《彼岸》 (The Other Shore, 1986)
  • 《躲雨》 (Shelter the Rain)
    • 1981, in Sweden
  • 《冥城》 (Dark City)
    • 1988, in Hong Kong
  • 《聲聲慢變奏》 (Transition of Sheng-Sheng-Man)
    • 1989, in United States
  • 《逃亡》 (Escape)
    • 1990, published in magazine Today (《今天》)
    • 1990, in Sweden
    • 1992, in Germany, Poland
    • 1994, in France
    • 1997, in Japan, Africa
  • 《生死界》 (Death Sector / Between Life and Death)
    • 1991, published in magazine Today (《今天》)
    • 1992, in France
    • 1994, in Sydney, Italy
    • 1996, in Poland
    • 1996, in US
  • 《山海經傳》 (A Tale of Shan Hai Jing)
    • 1992, published by Hong Kong Cosmos Books Ltd. (香港天地圖書公司)
    • 2008, published by The Chinese University Press as Of Mountains and Seas: A Tragicomedy of the Gods in Three Acts
  • 《對話與反詰》 (Dialogue & Rhetorical / Dialogue and Rebuttal)
    • 1992, published in magazine Today (《今天》)
    • 1992, in Vienna
    • 1995, 1999, in Paris
  • 《週末四重奏》 (Weekends Quartet / Weekend Quartet)
    • 1999, published by Hong Kong New Century Press (香港新世纪出版社)
  • 《夜游神》 (Nighthawk / Nocturnal Wanderer)
    • 1999, in France
  • 《八月雪》 (Snow in August)
    • 2000, published by Taiwan Lianjing Press (台湾联经出版社)
    • Dec 19, 2002, in Taipei
  • 《高行健戲劇集》 (Collection)
  • 《高行健喜劇六種》 (Collection, 1995, published by Taiwan Dijiao Press (台湾帝教出版社))
  • 《行路難》 (Xinglunan)
  • 《喀巴拉山》 (Mountain Kebala)
  • 《獨白》 (Soliloquy)

Fiction

  • 《寒夜的星辰》 ("Constellation in a Cold Night", 1979)
  • 《有隻鴿子叫紅唇兒》 ("Such a Pigeon called Red Lips", 1984) – a collection of novellas
  • 《給我老爺買魚竿》 (Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather, 1986–1990) – a short story collection
  • 《靈山》 (Soul Mountain, 1989)
  • 《一個人的聖經》 (One Man's Bible, 1998)

Poem

While being forced to work as a peasant – a form of 'education' under the Cultural Revolution – in the 1970s, Gao Xingjian produced many plays, short stories, poems and critical pieces that he had to eventually burn to avoid the consequences of his dissident literature being discovered.3 Of the work he produced subsequently, he published no collections of poetry, being known more widely for his drama, fiction and essays. However, one short poem exists that represents a distinctively modern style akin to his other writings:

天葬臺
宰了 / 割了 / 爛搗碎了 / 燃一柱香 / 打一聲呼哨 / 來了 / 就去了 / 來去都乾乾淨淨
Sky Burial
Cut / Scalped / Pounded into pieces / Light an incense / Blow the whistle / Come / Gone / Out and out

(April 13, 1986, Beijing)4

Other texts

  • 《巴金在巴黎》 (Ba Jin in Paris, 1979, essay)
  • 《現代小說技巧初探》 ("A Preliminary Examination of Modern Fictional Techniques", 1981)
  • 《談小說觀和小說技巧》 (1983)
  • 《沒有主義》 (Without -isms, translated by W. Lau, D. Sauviat & M. Williams // Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia. Vols 27 & 28, 1995–96
  • 《對一種現代戲劇的追求》 (1988, published by China Drama Press) (中国戏剧出版社))
  • 《高行健·2000年文庫——當代中國文庫精讀》 (1999, published by Hong Kong Mingpao Press) (香港明报出版社)

Paintings

Gao is a renowned painter, especially for his ink and wash painting. His exhibitions have included:

  • Le goût de l'encre, Paris, Hazan 2002
  • Return to Painting, New York, Perennial 2002
  • “無我之境·有我之境”, Singapore, Nov 17, 2005 – Feb 7, 2006
  • The End of the World, Germany, Mar 29, – May 27, 2007

Works translated in English

Reception

Response from Zhu Rongji

The Premier Zhu Rongji delivered a congratulatory message to Gao when interviewed by the Hong Kong newspaper East Daily (《东方日报》):

  • Q.: What's your comment on Gao's winning Nobel Prize ?
  • A.: I am very happy that works written in Chinese can win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Chinese characters have a history of several thousand years, and Chinese language has an infinite charm, (I) believe that there will be Chinese works winning Nobel Prizes again in the future. Although it's a pity that the winner this time is a French citizen instead of a Chinese citizen, I still would like to send my congratulations both to the winner and the French Department of Culture. (Original words: 我很高兴用汉语写作的文学作品获诺贝尔文学奖。汉字有几千年的历史,汉语有无穷的魅力,相信今后还会有汉语或华语作品获奖。很遗憾这次获奖的是法国人不是中国人,但我还是要向获奖者和法国文化部表示祝贺。)

Comments from Chinese writers

Gao's work has led to fierce discussion among Chinese writers, both positive and negative.

Many Chinese writerswho? comment that Gao's "Chinoiserie", or translatable works, have opened a new approach for Chinese modern literature to the Swedish Academy, and that his winning the Nobel Prize in its 100th anniversary year is a happy occasion for Chinese literature.

In his article on Gao in the June 2008 issue of Muse, a now-defunct Hong Kong magazine, Leo Lee Ou-fan (李歐梵) praises the use of Chinese language in Soul Mountain: 'Whether it works or not, it is a rich fictional language filled with vernacular speeches and elegant 文言 (classical) formulations as well as dialects, thus constituting a "heteroglossic" tapestry of sounds and rhythms that can indeed be read aloud (as Gao himself has done in his public readings).'5

Before 2000, a dozen Chinese writers and scholars already predicted Gao's winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, including Hu Yaoheng (Chinese: 胡耀恒)6 Pan Jun (潘军)7 as early as 1999.

Honors

Trivia

  • Gao Xingjian's Swedish translator Göran Malmqvist, is a member of the Swedish Academy and was responsible for the translation to Swedish for Nobel Prize consideration. Ten days before the award decision was made public, Gao Xingjian changed his Swedish publisher (from Forum to Atlantis), but Göran Malmqvist has denied leaking information about the award.8
  • Gao is the second of the three laureates to give Nobel lecture in Chinese (the other two are Samuel C. C. Ting in 1976 and Mo Yan in 2012).

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2000". Nobelprize. October 7, 2010. Retrieved October 7, 2010. 
  2. ^ "The Nobel Prize for Literature 2000". Nobelprize.org. "The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2000 goes to the Chinese writer Gao Xingjian "for an œuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama"." 
  3. ^ Mabel Lee, 'Nobel Laureate 2000 Gao Xingjian and his Novel Soul Mountain' in CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture: A WWWeb Journal, September, 2000
  4. ^ Published on the website Ba Huang's Art Studio
  5. ^ Lee, Leo Ou-fan (June 2008). "The happy exile". Muse Magazine (17): 93. 
  6. ^ http://culture.163.com/edit/001013/001013_42352.html
  7. ^ http://news.21cn.com/today/2006/09/14/2973393.shtml
  8. ^ http://www.literaturseiten.de/xingjian.htm

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