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  • City of the Dead and Song of the Night

City of the Dead and Song of the Night

Gao Xingjian • Translated by Gilbert C. F. Fong and Mabel Lee

English , 2015/02 The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press

Tags: Literature

229 x 152 mm , 112pp ISBN : 978-962-996-650-8

  • US$24.00

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Presented in English for the first time in this book are two plays by Gao Xingjian originally written in Chinese: City of the Dead and Song of the Night. City of the Dead is the first of Gao Xingjian’s plays to focus fully on the male-female relationship. In this work, he transforms a wellknown ancient morality tale, “Zhuangzi Tests His Wife”, which had been used to caution women against being unfaithful to their husbands, into a modern play that is in keeping with his own sympathetic stance towards women in male-female relationships. In a certain sense, City of the Dead may be regarded as defining Gao’s fundamental view that men possess a flippant and cavalier attitude to their female sexual partner or partners, and that women who become involved in sexual relationships with men are therefore doomed to suffer.

Among Gao Xingjian’s theatrical portrayals of the female psyche, Song of the Night is his most ambitious and most detailed one. Gao’s articulation of the female psyche is embedded in a solid substratumbedrock of his autobiographical impulses. It is through female actors, and his range of ingenious theatrical innovations that Gao succeeds in convincingly portraying his personal view of the power dynamics generated in male-female sexual relationships, and how these are played out.


Together, these two plays advance Gao Xingjian’s innovative theatrical experiments in dramatic prose across linguistic and cultural boundaries. The English translations of City of the Dead and Song of the Night in the present volume will lead to significant English-language productions of these plays, and concomitantly a greater understanding of Gao’s plays.

Gao Xingjian was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000, being the first Chinese writer to receive the award. Best known for his critically acclaimed novels and plays, he is also a noted painter, poet, photographer, translator, stage director and literary theorist.


Gilbert C. F. Fong is the Provost and Dean of School of Translation of Hang Seng Management College. He graduated from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and received his M.A. and Ph.D. from York University (Canada) and the University of Toronto. He has taught at both institutions, and was Chairman of the Department of Translation at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. An acclaimed translator and literature scholar, Professor Fong translated into English many plays by Gao Xingjian, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature. They were published in The Other Shore, Snow in August, Cold Literature: Selected Works by Gao Xingjian (with Mabel Lee), Escape and The Man Who Questions Death, and Of Mountains and Seas.


Mabel Lee is Adjunct Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney, and is one of Australia’s leading authorities on Chinese cultural affairs. Her research deals with modern Chinese intellectual history and literature, and focuses on 2000 Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian and 1999 (Italian) Flaiano Poetry Prize winner Yang Lian. She has published translations of the major works of these two writers, as well as research that seeks to locate these two writers in  modern/contemporary Chinese literary and intellectual history. Her translation of Gao Xingjian: Aesthetics and Creation was published by Cambria Press in 2012.

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