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The Chinese-born author Gao Xingjian received the 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature, for work "of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama." His achievement was all the more remarkable given the obstacles he was forced to overcome. During China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, all intellectuals were considered suspect. "To write, even in secret, was to risk one's life," Gao Xingjian says of those years. For his own safety, the young writer burned all his manuscripts. "It was only in this period," he says, that he learned the true value of literature: "Literature allows a person to preserve a human consciousness." The young writer was placed in a "re-education" camp, and was not permitted to publish or travel until 1979. After his "rehabilitation," he began publishing fiction, plays and controversial essays on modern literature. His plays created a sensation, but were soon condemned as "intellectual pollution." Fleeing government harassment, he set out on foot to explore remote areas of China where remnants of traditional culture survived, an experience he drew on in his masterpiece, the novel Soul Mountain. In 1987, Gao left China to live in France. After the publication of his play, The Fugitives (inspired by the Tiananmen Square massacre), all of his work was banned in China and he was declared persona non grata. He has since taken French citizenship. In accepting the 2000 Nobel Prize, he reaffirmed his belief in the value of a literature that "does not serve politics." "Literature," he says, "can only be the voice of the individual." This podcast was recorded at the 2002 International Achievement Summit. Speaking through an interpreter, Gao reads an excerpt from Soul Mountain, and discusses his experience of loneliness and the meaning of personal freedom.

Gao Xingjian Academy of Achievement

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The Chinese-born author Gao Xingjian received the 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature, for work "of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama." His achievement was all the more remarkable given the obstacles he was forced to overcome. During China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, all intellectuals were considered suspect. "To write, even in secret, was to risk one's life," Gao Xingjian says of those years. For his own safety, the young writer burned all his manuscripts. "It was only in this period," he says, that he learned the true value of literature: "Literature allows a person to preserve a human consciousness." The young writer was placed in a "re-education" camp, and was not permitted to publish or travel until 1979. After his "rehabilitation," he began publishing fiction, plays and controversial essays on modern literature. His plays created a sensation, but were soon condemned as "intellectual pollution." Fleeing government harassment, he set out on foot to explore remote areas of China where remnants of traditional culture survived, an experience he drew on in his masterpiece, the novel Soul Mountain. In 1987, Gao left China to live in France. After the publication of his play, The Fugitives (inspired by the Tiananmen Square massacre), all of his work was banned in China and he was declared persona non grata. He has since taken French citizenship. In accepting the 2000 Nobel Prize, he reaffirmed his belief in the value of a literature that "does not serve politics." "Literature," he says, "can only be the voice of the individual." This podcast was recorded at the 2002 International Achievement Summit. Speaking through an interpreter, Gao reads an excerpt from Soul Mountain, and discusses his experience of loneliness and the meaning of personal freedom.

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