I have just listened to a guest lecture “Literature and Ideology” at the Nordic Institute for Asian Studies (NIAS) given by the Nobel Prize in Literature winner (2000), Gao Xingjian, a renowned novelist, playwright, critic and painter. I have not read any of his work, neither do I know very much about him apart from what I learned during his lecture.
Listening to his speech (which was read out by his translator as a time-saving measure) inspired me to pick up my pen, so to speak, and write a new post for the blog after some months of silence. The chief reason for the lack of posts has been my preoccupation with a book chapter I have been working on that is forthcoming in 2011 for a publication from the Institute of Migration edited by my colleagues Saara Koikkalainen and Elli Heikkilä, New Forms of Migration – Finns Abroad.
My needs from this project are satisfied through the process of thinking and writing and cooking and eating. My desire to share knowledge and debate is what has made this platform public and it is of course a wonderful added bonus if other people enjoy it too …. which they seem to … when I write! Apologies for the silence.
One of the main messages of Gao Xingjian’s lecture was that in order for literature to survive, writers must carefully scrutinize their own position and have a clear understanding of themselves. I would agree and add that this is the case for any kind of writing – it is certainly the case for academic writing and sometimes not an easy task: to be objective about one’s own subjectivity and, furthermore, write about it.
Another idea promoted was that there is currently spiritual deprivation and this state of affairs is crippling literary thought and creativity. I wanted to ask Gao Xingjian if he thought having some level of spiritual consciousness was a necessary condition for imaginative and creative thought, but didn’t. It is something I am still pondering, as is Gau Xingjian’s view that we (in the visible world) have stupidly replaced religion with ideology, and ethics with political correctness. My immediate thoughts are: Isn’t religion ideologically grounded? And, it is possible that these very strong statements only take into consideration the positive sides to religion and ethics and fail to acknowledge the subjective nature of ethics and also the atrocities that have been and continue to be carried out in the name of religion. Spirituality and religion as I understand them are oceans apart, but maybe they too are subjective phenomena.
Goa Xingjian relayed his thoughts on the influence of politics on literature, which for him is the same as party politics. He believes its influence and impact has created a big dilemma for literature. He believes that literature that serves politics loses something. I understand what he means. On the other hand different forms of artistic expression have historically been used to express political views, whether it be through painting, photography, literature, music, sculpture or other forms, and so it should. Should art not be a channel for different forms of expression, not just spiritual or simply the pursuit of pleasure,the creation beauty or simply self-indulgence?
In short, I really enjoyed listening to Gao Xingjian’s thoughts and ideas. I empathized with much of what was read out, and was also provoked by other parts. Listening to inspiring and thought-provoking speakers is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this stage in my career path, and it doesn’t go amiss in my private life either.
Here are some links you may find interesting:
- About Gao Xingjian: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2000/gao-bio.html
- An argument for the inseparability of religion and spirituality: http://atheism.about.com/od/religionnonreligion/a/spirituality_2.htm
- A blog by an American scholar: http://www.religiousscholar.com/religion-vs-spirituality-terms/
- Asia Literary Review (journal): http://www.asialiteraryreview.com/web/en/magazine/currentIssue?&localeId=en
- NIAS library services: http://www.asiaportal.info/
And about the food … well I guess it is Chinese tomorrow night! I often cook my version of Chinese food, which I and others quite enjoy, but I actually do not have a Chinese cookbook surprisingly enough. I need to get one. So for now you will have to make do with one of my, let's say, Chinese inspired dishes!