One Man's Bible Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In One Man’s Bible, Gao Xingjian juxtaposes two time periods. In the recent past, there are the memories of the unnamed protagonist during mainland China’s disastrous Cultural Revolution. In the present, the narrator experiences a love affair with Margarethe, a German-Jewish woman with whom he visits Hong Kong in 1996 to stage one of his experimental plays.

Drawing on the author’s personal experiences, One Man’s Bible also showcases Gao’s formal literary experiments in the vein of modernism. Most strikingly, whenever the protagonist remembers his past, he uses the third person singular, “he,” to refer to himself. Relating his present experiences, he switches to “you” when talking about himself. This literary technique is intended to indicate the fragmentary nature of the modern human self.

As the protagonist and Margarethe indulge in their love affair, his memories bubble to the surface in a string of fragmentary episodes highlighting the tremendous amount of suffering as Mao Zedong and his wife Jiang Qing unleashed the Cultural Revolution on their Communist subjects from 1966 until Mao’s death in 1976. One Man’s Bible reveals a nightmare world where children spied on and denounced their parents, playmates, and teachers. Then neighbor was forced to speak against neighbor; physical harm, banishment, or death lurked around every corner.

At the same time he is relating past events, the narrator also...

(The entire section is 528 words.)