book review: the case for literature

I like Gao Xingjian’s work. His book of essays The Case for Literature isn’t a writing book like Reading Like a Writer was; it’s a book about his experience of literature and the importance it is to him and to language. He’s a writer who is trying to create art with language and I don’t know why his point of view was so much more resonant with me than Francine Prose’s. That’s not true. His was more interesting because he takes that view that there should be no schools of thought in art. No isms. He is doing his own thing. (Which reminds me of the Murakami speech about being on the side of the egg not the wall.)

The fact that a bunch of these essays are talking about translation make it even more interesting. I hate that so many of my favourite writers are only accessible to me through translation (which may be why I’m an “ideas” person instead of a “sentences” person in what I appreciate in writing, since it’s impossible to know how exact the words actually are in so many of my favourite books). But yes, Gao Xingjian talking about how Soul Mountain is about a shift in pronoun usage gave me chills, and I’m starting to go back and re-read that one now.

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