Uit: Soul Mountain (Vertaald door Mabel Lee)
“In the North, it is already late autumn. Here, however, the summer heat hasn’t completely subsided. Before sunset, it is still quite hot in the sun and sweat starts running down your back. You leave the station to look around. There’s nothing nearby except for the little inn across the road. It’s an old style building with a wooden shopfront and an upstairs. Upstairs the floorboards creak badly but worse still is the grime on the pillow and sleeping mat. To wash, you’d have to wait till it was dark to strip off and pour water over yourself in the damp narrow courtyard. This is a stopover for the village peddlers and craftsmen.
It’s well before dark, so there’s plenty of time to find somewhere clean. You walk down the road with your backpack to look over the little town, hoping to find some indication, a billboard or a poster, or just the name “Lingshan” to tell you you’re on the right track and haven’t been tricked into making this long excursion. You look everywhere but don’t find anything. There were no tourists like you amongst the other passengers who got off the bus. Of course you’re not that sort of tourist, it’s just what you’re wearing: strong sensible sports shoes and a backpack with shoulder straps, no-one else is dressed like you. Of course, this isn’t one of the tourist spots frequented by newlyweds and retirees. Those places have been transformed by tourism, coaches are parked everywhere and tourist maps are on sale. Tourist hats, tourist T-shirts, tourist singlets and tourist handkerchiefs bearing the name of the place are in all the little shops and stalls, and the name of the place is used in the trade names of all the “foreign exchange currency only” hotels for foreigners, the “locals with references only” hostels and sanatoriums, and of course the small private hotels competing for customers. You haven’t come to enjoy yourself in one of those places on the sunny side of a mountain where people congregate just to look at and jostle one another, and to add to the litter of melon rind, fruit peel, soft drink bottles, cans, cartons, sandwich wrappings and cigarette butts. Sooner or later this place will also boom but you’re here before they put up the gaudy pavilions and terraces, before the reporters come with their cameras, and before the celebrities come to put up plaques with their calligraphy. You can’t help feeling rather pleased with yourself yet you’re anxious. There’s no sign of anything here for tourists, have you made a blunder? You’re only going by the map on the cigarette box in your shirt pocket, what if the expert amateur you met on the train had only heard about the place on his travels?“
Gao Xingjian (Ganzhou, 4 januari 1940)