My Writing, Your Pain, and Her Trauma: Pronouns and
(Gendered) Subjectivity in Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain and One Man’s Bible

By Gang Gary Xu

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 14, no. 2, pp.99-129

Free switching of pronouns and narrative points of view is one of Gao Xingjian’s most consistent strategies of writing. It can cause readers’ confusions; but it has also fascinated critics, who locate its significance either in the collapsing of the distinction between the self and the other or in the transcendental act of “unsexing” and “ungendering” due to the interchangeability of characters represented by different pronouns. This article presents an opposite argument, which, on one the hand, finds Gao unable to transcend linguistic or gender constructedness in his self-reflexive struggle with language and, on the other hand, links Gao’s split of subjectivity into several characters named by different pronouns with Gao’s self-conscious representation of trauma and moral masochism. Cutting through the complexity of Gao’s works, this article attempts to answer these questions: What does Nature mean for Gao? How is Gao’s notion of nature related to his writings of “pure” stories? Why is Gao garrulous in telling of his sufferings? What do all of Gao’s female characters have in common? How are they related to Gao’s turbulent psyche?