Thinking Makes It So: Does something happen after the middle?

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By Kelly LeVan

One hundred-forty pages into Gao Xingjian’s “Soul Mountain,” I realized I wasn’t getting it. I understood the basics: The narrator wants to go to Lingshan, translated as “Soul Mountain.” At least, one of the narrators wants to go. At least, I think there’s more than one narrator.That’s my problem: I can’t count.Sources about the book suggest the alternating voices, one speaking in the first-person and one in the second-person, give the single protagonist a way out of his own loneliness.This sounds a little too clever but still reasonable, right?However, neither of them seems that lonely to me.One has a beguiling girlfriend with dramatic patience for the narrator’s lengthy, mostly invented history lessons. The other, less of a showboat, travels alone, but makes friends just with the sound of his voice. Nearly everyone he meets gives him some kind of special treatment: dinner in a family’s private home, for instance, or access to museum holdings that aren’t displayed to the public.Anyhow, I decided I had given the novel, a Nobel prizewinner, enough of my free time.

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