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One Man's Bible Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 3, 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 28 ratings

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Editorial Reviews Review

In the same circling, ruminative vein as his Nobel Prize-winning debut novel Soul Mountain, Chinese expatriate Gao Xingjian's fictionalized memoir of his youth, One Man's Bible, is an attempt to capture the Kafkaesque anxieties of the Cultural Revolution. As a budding writer, and the son of a white-collar worker, the unnamed narrator soon realizes that, no matter what useful friends he makes at school, he is vulnerable to investigation by the restless, politically unstable Red Guard: "Enemies had to be found; without enemies, how could the political authorities sustain their dictatorship?" Punishment for real or imagined "mistakes" of thought and behavior would have been death, imprisonment, or banishment to a labor farm. The only answer, he came to believe, was to blend in with the masses and to construct a mask of bland agreement with whoever appeared to be in charge at the time.

The bulk of Xingjian's absorbing narrative takes place in this bleak world of exposure, hysteria, and reprisals, and from an appropriately distant third-person point of view. But the act of recollection is spurred by a four-day-long affair with a near-stranger in the mid-1990s. The narrator, long exiled from China, has been brought to Hong Kong to help stage one of his plays. Here he runs into a German-Jewish woman, Margarethe, whom he knew slightly from his final years in China. For Margarethe, survival hinges on memory. It is she who persuades the narrator to let his painful, rigorously suppressed memories begin to thaw, and if not to drop his mask, at least to remember that he is wearing one. --Regina Marler

From Publishers Weekly

In his second novel to be translated into English, Gao combines the form of the Chinese travel journal with a novelistic technique that Milan Kundera (a kindred spirit) once labeled "novelistic counterpoint" a cadenced movement between the modes of essay, vision and story. The heart of the novel is a fragmented sequence of memories lifted from the Cultural Revolution, anchored by an unnamed "he" approximately Gao himself. The narrative often jumps forward to the present, exploring the narrator's relationships with two women: Margarethe, a German Jew fluent in Chinese, and Sylvie, an apolitical French artist. Mao's China, according to Gao, was a Hobbesian world of revenges, lynchings and millennial fervor. To be human, in that epoch, was to denounce. To be inhuman was to be denounced. The narrator/protagonist is a university-educated intellectual. He engages in an affair with Lin, a beautiful woman married to a high-ranking military official and becomes, briefly, the leader of a Red Army faction. He investigates an almost fatal blot on his files his father once owned and sold a gun and is "reformed" at a cadre "school," or labor camp. Finally, he escapes certain death in Beijing by getting transferred to a rural village. Gao, like Kundera, detects the totalitarian impulse in the politicization of everyday life, which is so easily summed up in the '70s slogan, "the personal is the political": "You want to expunge the pervasive politics that penetrated every pore, clung to daily life, became fused in speech and action, and from which no one at that time could escape." For Gao, even under the glaze of sexuality, the denunciatory animal is always lurking. When Gao won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000, he was unknown in this country. This novel should justify his prize to doubters. (Sept. 6)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper; 1st edition (September 3, 2002)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 464 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0066211328
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0066211329
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.7 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.13 x 1.41 x 9 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.5 out of 5 stars 28 ratings

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