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[33] One Man’s Bible – Gao Xingjian

One Man’s Bible is a profound meditation on the excruciating effects of sordid political oppression on human spirit. The sobriety of writing bespeaks a dignity, which is an awareness of existence, and it is in this existence that the power of the frail individual lies. In a laudably detached voice, Gao Xinjian stipples a vivid picture of human frailty, repression and suffering under the totalitarian regime that exists only in memory, like a hidden spring of spring gushing forth a deluge of feelings that are difficult to articulate.

The book, unlike many of the contemporaries that expose austerity of life under Red Horror, is shockingly realistic and yet not a tale of suffering, at least that is not what Gao intends it to be. The delineation is so genuine and faithful to the reckless truth and excruciatingly painful purging that only men in Gao’s generation can identify with. The reality is almost too heartrending to bear, even in words: the acrimonious politics, the class struggles, and a society that is riddled with paranoia and fear under such taut repression and miasma.

Gao reflected on his childhood and adolescence, cudgeled his memory of China’s most obstreperous times, and yet found an incredulously detached voice as if he is an outsider to all the horror. His narrative in the book is almost a form of joy without any connotations of morality. He is indeed like an outsider who narrates transparently the events, who scrapes off the thick residue of resentment and anger deep in his heart and articulates his thoughts and impression with amazing equanimity, and audacity.

The result is a brand new voice in modern Chinese literature, a genre that deviates from post-modernism. It is a pure form of narration in which he contrives to describe in simple language the terrible contamination of life by politics, the tragic infringement of human rights, and at the same time manages to expunge the pervasive politics that penetrates every pore and sense. One can realize that Gao has carefully excised the insights that he possesses at the instant and in the place, as well as shoving aside his present thoughts.

The meaning of the title is at total loggerhead to any preoccupied speculation that readers might possess prior to reading the book. Gao contrives not to write about politics though he means to accent his memories during the dark period. The outcome is a stunning account of man person’s fate is being miraculously and calumnously determined with surpassing accuracy than the prophecies of the bible, attributing to the policies and regulations that fluctuate so frequently, according to the bitter contention of Party members.

As accurate as it claims to be, the dossier, which exists for each individual, is generally inaccessible to the general public, does not necessarily reflect the truth (including mentality, thoughts, political stance, and affiliations) of individuals. People learn to wear a mask, to extinguish their voices, to hide their true feelings deep at the bottom of their heart in the midst of paranoia. Everyone seizes the opportunity to put on an act to score some good points for himself. Nobody dares to look one another in the eyes for fear of betraying any allegedly reactionary or counter-revolutionary thoughts.

The sense of time is warped as Margarethe, Gao Xinjian’s Jewish lover, stirs up his memories of the embittered childhood under the shadow of Mao in a hotel room during pre-handover Hong Kong. Though a fictionalized account, Gao has engaged in a dialogue that produces a state of mind that allows him to endure the pain of articulating the painful events. To him the country doesn’t exist but exists only in memory that the country is possessed by him alone, and is thus a one man’s account. The book is an epistle of freedom that is obtainable only through seizing the moments in life and capturing instant-to-instant transformations.

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