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there, but his own waywardness, the avarice of others and the looming presence of death obscure that image and befuddle him. The seven stories of boyhood and youth, all told in thtid person, are background for the adult concerns of the novella, "Coley's War." Told in the first person, the long story tracks four seniors in coUege who are drawn into a Latin American revolution. If there is any disappointment in this collection, it is only that the novella is so very good that it begs to appear in a collection with other noveUas of the same length and quality. While the stories inform our notion of who Kelvin is and what he is becoming in "Coley's War," the novella leaves us desiring more and eager to see what's next from Wiltiams. (SY) One Man's Bible by Gao Xingjian translated from the Chinese by Mabel Lee HarperCoUins, 2002, 450 pp., $26.95 Nobel Prize winner Gao's key metaphor in his latest novel is announced by the protagonist's lover, Margarethe , a German Jew who confides to the protagonist that she was raped when she was young. The narrator, a version of the author himself, responds, "You say that you [also] have experienced the feeling of being raped, of being raped by the political authorities, and ithas clogged up your heart." There is an uneasy recognition in this novel ofthe victim's compUcity in both personal and poUtical rape. Near the end of the story, the metaphor is again articulated when the author observes, "A person can be raped, woman or man, physicaUy or by poUtical force, but a person cannot be totaUy possessed: one's sptiit remains one's own, and it is this that is preserved in the mind." In this view, the personal and the poUtical are tragicaUy conjoined. Though the story is presented as a memoir, the novel's narrator never uses the "I" pronoun, and in fact meditates on the construction of a seU that can be called an authentic "I" amid the collective chaos of the Cultural Revolution, m which individuality itself is seen as a form of poUtical corruption. The chapters are divided into "you" and "he" viewpoints , representing a painful spUt between the "you" of the author's mind and the "he" of his body, the historical self who is ruthlessly and microscopically examined. Gao resists offering history lessons in this book, even though he recognizes that there is to date no adequate and objectiveChinesehistoryofMao's Cultural Revolution, that the history books constantly change to accommodate the regime in power. Gao's main interests here are art and the "I" who is never mentioned in print. The self becomes the starting and ending point of history. It is by way of this odd, disjointed historical testimony that we can most precisely comprehend a frightening era, a time in which the creators of China's history eradicated the individual "I" in favor of a collective citizenry lacking independent thought. The novel's central conceit is a curious Margarethe dredging up memories that the narrator would rather suppress. Britain is about to hand over Hong Kong to China. A sexual fling leaves the narrator with the regrets, hopes and fears that have made him 186 · The Missouri Review who he is. Margarethe returns to her homeland, and the exüed protagonist is left to meditate on the horrendous epoch he has managed to survive. The author's reconstructed self, conjured from memory, becomes the story. This is Gao's second novel to appear in EngUsh, and the second seamless translation from Mabel Lee. As in Soul Mountain, which introduced Gao to the American pubUc, the author works within the framework of a twisting, fractured narrative . The novel can't quite be caUed plotless; throughout it there are a number of sustained affatis, sexual and poUtical. There are recurring characters and settings, but death, isolation or insanity seem the only possible resolutions for citizens existing under the Communist regime. The fates of these characters expose the OrweUian machinery of revolution and counterrevolution, an endless cycle of purges and confessions. Gao's resistance to building a sustained plot may turn off American...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 186-187
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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