Not Resting on His Laureate

Slouching behind his desk, director, playwright and Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian watches the rehearsal in dismay. The actors are tentative and uncertain, as if they don't quite know where they are going. The problem, in Gao's mind, is that they are complicating what should be simple. "Speak as you speak, listen as you listen," he orders. "Give me your true voice."

As a writer who has endured China's spasms of oppression, it's a lesson Gao has learned through bitter experience. When Chinese authorities tried to squelch his voice in the early 1980s, he fled his home in Beijing,...

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