Set youth free to explore arts, visiting Nobel laureate pleads

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 May, 2008, 12:00am

Nobel Prize-winning author Gao Xingjian issued a plea yesterday for young people to be given freedom to develop their interest in the arts.

In a sharing session with about 80 students at Chinese University, he recalled his early interest in literature.

'When I was a 12-year-old secondary student, I liked reading lots and lots of books. Since I was well acquainted with a librarian, I could borrow six books at one time, while other people were allowed to borrow one.'

Dr Gao said that for young people to develop in the arts, they should be given freedom to test their talents.

'For history and language subjects at school, I usually read the textbooks one time. That was fine. I used my spare time for reading the novels I was interested in,' he said.

'What I advocate here is that teachers should give students the chance to explore freely.'

He also gave them tips on brushing up on their language and writing skills. He said his extensive exposure to various forms of arts in his early years laid the foundation for his writing career.

The Paris-based painter and novelist said that in his teens he began to develop an interest in not only literature but Chinese opera, music and drama, all of which enriched his aesthetic senses.

Dr Gao said his fondness for Chinese opera was inspired by his mother, who was a lover of the ancient art, while his father contributed to his knowledge of classical Chinese literature and philosophy with his home library of Buddhist scripts.

He moved to Paris in the late 1980s and has lived there ever since. His works are banned on the mainland since he made reference to the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989 in his work Fugitives.

Dr Gao said the China in his mind was still the one before he left, and he had been too busy since to keep up with news of the country's development.

'But I would say I have kept myself in constant contact with the Chinese-speaking world, the broader China in a cultural sense,' he said.

In a lecture last night, Dr Gao said that to explore creative freedom, an artist must acknowledge his or her limitations, and that all art forms were 'confined to a finite set of limitations', but it was the artist's responsibility to 'explore to the infinite freedom of expression within them'.