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Fri, Feb 02, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Gao Xingjian gets warm Taipei welcome

NOBEL LAUREATE The exiled Chinese writer, who arrived in Taipei from Hong Kong, declined to answer questions on politics in China but said he felt `at home' in Taiwan

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Nobel Literature Laureate Gao Xingjian (高行健) yesterday expressed his amicability toward Taiwan upon his arrival in Taipei. Invited as a resident writer by Taipei City's Cultural Affairs Bureau (文化局), Gao said that Taipei "feels like home" and "there is no taboo."

But the exiled Chinese writer still declined to answer any questions involving Chinese politics or Chinese literature, and especially on China's official response to the awarding of Gao's literature prize as being "highly political."

"There is no need to talk much about their reactions," he said. Gao also avoided questions concerning his family members living in China.

As the first Chinese writer awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, Gao was even more warmly received than on his previous seven visits.

He was welcomed by Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), director of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs of the Taipei City Government, who is also an old friend of his. Gao's girlfriend, Yang Fang-fang (楊芳芳), also a writer, joined Gao for his two-week trip to Taiwan.

During the hour-long press conference, the modernist writer, painter and playwright expressed his views on freedom of expression and his emphasis on individuality, reiterating themes from his "The Case of Literature" lecture, delivered at the Nobel Prize award ceremony.

He said freedom is a basic necessity for artistic creation. That means an objective environment of political freedom and social freedom. "Some might say [being] under pressure can also be a source of creation. But for me, I have [already] tried to keep writing secretly during the Cultural Revolution. I would not want to have the experience again."

He later said that is why he feels more at ease and carefree being in Taiwan. "Because Taiwan is not like Hong Kong, under the so-called one country/two systems," he said.

When asked about where he finds his cultural roots, Gao said the question of identity is a false and unnecessary one. "The most valuable thing about a writer is that he or she has something to say. And identity is usually a heavy and redundant burden," he said.

Gao also quoted exiled Polish writer Witold Gombrowic's famous words, "Poland is in me, I am Poland" to express himself, saying, "My cultural roots are in me. Chinese culture is inside me, and under my pen."

Gao said he saw China's negative comments following his Nobel win as a natural response, but he felt any further comment was unnecessary.

"I did not even really read those reports and comments," he said.

After he was awarded the Nobel Prize last October, the Chinese Writers' Association in Beijing claimed that the Nobel committee had revealed its ignorance of Chinese literature in giving Gao, a virtual unknown, the prize.

The group also claimed that there were at least 200 Chinese writers with superior literary achievements.

Gao's response regarding Chinese literature was also evasive. He said he has been reading many recent works of mainland Chinese writers. "But I do hope more and more Chinese writers write better works than mine," he said.

Facing constant questions concerning his "China relations," Gao showed slight impatience.

"China is a remote memory to me, but today, right now, here in Taipei, is more interesting than nostalgia," he said.

"People have asked me if I want to recollect my old manuscripts that I was forced to burn during the Cultural Revolution," he said. "But for me, those burnt are long gone. I think writing is a constant process of saying good-bye to the past. Finding a writing impulse in the moment is most important."

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