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One Man's Bible

Gao, Xingjian; translated by Mabel Lee

847 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0066211328 / ISBN 13: 9780066211329
Published by Harpercollins, 2002
Condition: Fine Hardcover
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First American Edition, first printing. Fine/fine. Gold hardboards with black spine; gold printing; corners sharp. Textblock clean, tight, square, unmarked. Unclipped glossy pictorial dj; original price on dj flap; flawless. Protected in clear archival Brodart wrapper. Packaged with care and shipped in a box to arrive in best condition. Complete satisfaction guarantee. Bookseller Inventory # 062806-2

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Bibliographic Details

Title: One Man's Bible

Publisher: Harpercollins

Publication Date: 2002

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


One Man's Bible is the second novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Gao Xingjian to appear in English. Following on the heels of his highly praised Soul Mountain, this later work is as candid as the first, and written with the same grace and beauty.

In a Hong Kong hotel room in 1996, Gao Xingjian's lover, Marguerite, stirs up his memories of childhood and early adult life under the shadow of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution. Gao has been living in self-imposed exile in France and has traveled to this Western-influenced Chinese city-state, so close to his homeland, for the staging of one of his plays.

What follows is a fictionalized account of Gao Xingjian's life under the Communist regime. Whether in "beehive" offices in Beijing or in isolated rural towns, daily life is riddled with paranoia and fear, as revolutionaries, counterrevolutionaries, reactionaries, counterreactionaries, and government propaganda turn citizens against one another. It is a place where a single sentence spoken ten years earlier can make one an enemy of the state. Gao evokes the spiritual torture of political and intellectual repression in graphic detail, including the heartbreaking betrayals he suffers in his relationships with women and men alike.

One Man's Bible is a profound meditation on the essence of writing, on exile, on the effects of political oppression on the human spirit, and on how the human spirit can triumph.


In the same circling, ruminative vein as his Nobel Prize-winning debut novel Soul Mountain, Chinese expatriate Gao Xingjian's fictionalized memoir of his youth, One Man's Bible, is an attempt to capture the Kafkaesque anxieties of the Cultural Revolution. As a budding writer, and the son of a white-collar worker, the unnamed narrator soon realizes that, no matter what useful friends he makes at school, he is vulnerable to investigation by the restless, politically unstable Red Guard: "Enemies had to be found; without enemies, how could the political authorities sustain their dictatorship?" Punishment for real or imagined "mistakes" of thought and behavior would have been death, imprisonment, or banishment to a labor farm. The only answer, he came to believe, was to blend in with the masses and to construct a mask of bland agreement with whoever appeared to be in charge at the time.

The bulk of Xingjian's absorbing narrative takes place in this bleak world of exposure, hysteria, and reprisals, and from an appropriately distant third-person point of view. But the act of recollection is spurred by a four-day-long affair with a near-stranger in the mid-1990s. The narrator, long exiled from China, has been brought to Hong Kong to help stage one of his plays. Here he runs into a German-Jewish woman, Margarethe, whom he knew slightly from his final years in China. For Margarethe, survival hinges on memory. It is she who persuades the narrator to let his painful, rigorously suppressed memories begin to thaw, and if not to drop his mask, at least to remember that he is wearing one. --Regina Marler

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