Soul Mountain - an extract

March 16, 2001

Above the branches of the two spreading elms, one leaning to the left and the other to the right, there was originally a stretch of shining white water, like snow which had fallen on a flat cement surface, the water must have been frozen. The mounds of earth which are neither sandbars, islets or peninsulas have become black shadows.

If one didn't know they were mounds of earth one wouldn't know why they are black shadows. Even if one knew they were mounds of earth one would still not understand why snow hasn't piled on them. Further off, the bushes are still bushes which are still grey-brown. Above the bushes there appears to be the hint of a road, but it can't be seen clearly. In the upper part of the outstretched branches of the little tree is a winding white line crawling upwards, the cart must have been pushed up the slope there. At this moment, there is no cart on the road and no one walking on it. If there were people walking on the snowy road they would be quite distinct. The rock under the willow, or the couple of clumps of earth which look like a rock, has vanished. The snow has covered all the small details but the tracks which have been walked on after the snow look like veins. An inconsequential snow scene like this creates images in my mind, induces in me a desire to enter it. By entering the snow scene I would become the back of someone. This back of course would not have any particular meaning if I were not at this window looking at it. Gloomy sky, snow-covered ground brighter than the sky, no mynas and sparrows. Snow absorbing thought and meaning.

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian, published by Flamingo, £9.99.

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