Following a health scare when he was misdiagnosed with lung cancer and under pressure from the 'oppose spiritual pollution' campaign at the time. 'he absconded to the remote forest regions of Sichuan province and then wandered along the Yangtze river from its source down to the coast'. a journey of 10 months and 15,000 kilometres.
'Soul Mountain' draws on this experience but is also about one man's quest for inner peace and freedom. The book is experimental in style and is made up of many levels of thought and speech which, whilst initially confusing, soon flow into a remarkable river of stories and feelings. Gao writes like a painter and also looks deep into the soul of human nature. Reading this book is a mesmeric journey into both magical landscapes and deep emotions. Harrowing and beautiful by turn, this profound work will touch your heart and inspire your imagination.
The book's protagonist Kien feels a burdensome debt as if he's 'carrying with him the history of his generation.' and he is forced to relive in flashbacks the horrors he witnessed, scribbling at night as if his life depended on it. The opening jungle chapter catapults you into a visceral, surreal world of darkness and danger - one of many vivid scenes of front-line conflict that pepper a story which also encompasses a intense and tragic love affair. To cut to the chase, this is as powerful, visceral and moving as Michael Herr's 'Dispatches'. It is an outstanding work that provides a valuable insight and perspective on the War from the North Vietnamese side – a much-needed corrective.