Gao Xingjian in Barcelona

The Kosmopolis 08 festival opened last night here in Barcelona with an interview/ talk with Gao Xingjian (novelist, playwright, film director & painter) the first Chinese Nobel prize for literature, who is now a French citizen — and who answered the Spanish-languaged questions in French, the language in which he is also now writing his plays. I would have loved to ask him a question concerning translation and writing in another language than the mother tongue, but the 500-strong audience only got 2 questions in during the very brief question time and mine was not among them.

As is want in Europe, the interviewer went mostly at the question of politics and art, and Gao Xingjian was adamant, saying: “The writer’s brief is to speak to that of which the politicians don’t speak, to be a witness of the human condition, of the difficulties of existence, to give voice to consciousness in order to find out where we really are and what are the conditions of actual life, of full human existence. In order to do this we read the Greek tragedies, Shakespeare or Don Quijote — and note that no one has recorded the speeches of the politicians of their times.” And again: “The artist’s brief is to awaken consciousness, to send out alarm signals concerning the dangers humanity is in, climate change and the exhaustion of sources of energy resulting from the over-exploitation of our natural resources.” Which to me, despite Gao’s denial, sounds very much like concerns that are inseparable from a profoundly political stance.
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