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Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather


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Gao Xingjian (whose name is pronounced gow shing-jen) is the first Chinese recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in 1940 in Jiangxi province in eastern China, he has lived in France since 1987. Gao Xingjian is an artistic innovator, in both the visual arts and literature. He is that rare multitalented artist who excels as novelist, playwright, essayist, director, and painter. In addition to Soul Mountain and One Man's Bible, a book of his plays, The Other Shore, and a volume of his paintings, Return to Painting, have been published in the United States.


Six stories, published in Chinese between 1983 and 1991, offer a sample of Nobel-winner Gao's sharp, poetic early work. In "The Temple," the unnamed narrator and his new bride alter their honeymoon plans to pause in a provincial town. Though the two are blissfully happy, they find the town's inhabitants and its Temple of Perfect Benevolence vaguely disquieting. A muted reference to the Cultural Revolution ("It all felt so different from the time when we were graduates sent to work in the countryside") may explain the unease. Gao (Soul Mountain; One Man's Bible) explores the simultaneous enormity and anonymity of death in "The Accident," when a man on a bicycle with an attached baby buggy rides, either carelessly or deliberately, into a bus. The man is killed, but his young son survives; a crowd forms, passing around rumors, while the cops take away the bus driver and the blood on the road congeals. The title story employs collages of memory and haunting daydreams to mourn the destruction of the narrator's grandfather's village. A "sparkling lake" has been paved over, and the river where the narrator and his grandfather used to fish is dry: "The sand murmurs that it wants to swallow everything. It has swallowed the riverbank and now wants to swallow the city along with your childhood memories and mine." Gao intends his stories to reveal "the actualization of language and not the imitation of reality"-storytelling, in other words, is not his goal. These spare, evocative pieces bear that out; often the lovely prose (nicely translated by Lee) is reward enough. (Feb. 6) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

A Nobel prize winner delivers six short stories. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Dreamlike ... the force of Gao's imagination is spellbinding."--San Jose Mercury News
"These spare, evocative pieces ... offer a sample of Nobel -winner Gao's sharp, poetic early work."--Publishers Weekly
"Precisely detailed and delicately suggestive: the best work of Gao's yet to appear in English translation."--Kirkus Reviews
"Beautiful."--Village Voice
"[Gao's] narrators walk as if in a dream through a private landscape of memory and sensation."--Boston Globe
"For all their elusiveness, these impressionistic sketches have an austere power"--New York Times Book Review

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