Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian, translated by Mabel Lee (Flamingo, £7.99 in UK)


First published in Taiwan in 1990, this extraordinary personal and philosophical odyssey by last year's Nobel literature laureate emerges in the course of the narrator's physical journey into the heart of Central China's ancient forests. Soul Mountain, with its powerful themes of loneliness and of the individual as outsider, is a meditation on the randomness and inevitability of existence. Part travelogue, part tract, part confession, Gao's richly diverse narrative moves between the first, second and third person with deliberate abandon. It is profound, urgent and romantic. Gao can irritate and it is too long. Yet it is the story of an individual, any individual. It also presents a complex portrait of China uneasily caught between the ancient and the modern.