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On the Margins of Modernity

A Comparative Study of Gao Xingjian and Ōe Kenzaburō
Sebastian Veg


Gao Xingjian and Ōe Kenzaburō share an interest in margins that was the basis for a conversation between them in 2006. A closer comparison of Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain ( Lingshan, 1982-1989) and Ōe Kenzaburō’s The Silent Cry ( Man’en gannen no futtobōru, 1967) also reveals a shared distrust of modernity, and a more precise preference for the margins of local culture. This cultural critique of modernity can be documented in their essays. However, although their respective doubts about modernity and central culture translate into similar formulations of an individual ethics, Ōe does not share Gao’s vision of a detached writer of “cold literature,” but rather continues to explore the political implications of his ethical stance. It is argued that their respective definitions of literature can be viewed as explorations of an alternative form of modernity.

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Electronic reference

Sebastian Veg, « On the Margins of Modernity », China Perspectives [Online], 2010/2 | 2010, Online since 01 June 2013, connection on 12 December 2017. URL :

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