A Nobel defence

November 3, 2000

Why does Bill Jenner, professor of Chinese studies at Leeds, think readers will be more interested in his rubbishing of Gao Xingjian, this year's winner of the Nobel prize for literature, than in a presentation of a writer whom the British daily papers have signally failed to describe (Why I, THES , October 20)?

I first came across Gao in France, through his paintings. I was drawn by the mix of passion, despair and hope in his art. There is a darkness in his life: the slaughter of his family, his wife's betrayal and the barbaric re-education of a totalitarian Chinese regime. But in his novels, Gao transcends the horrors. The Mountain of the Soul is a 21st-century Pilgrim's Progress . It is a journey through the burlesque, the poetic, the everyday and the magic, in the search for personal peace.

I am awed by that. Was not the occasion of his prize an opportunity for an expert to tell us more?

Anne Corbett
London SW5

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