Each month I eagerly search publishers' catalogues and web sites for new and interesting titles. This month I have found a new novel from the first Chinese winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (Gao Xingjian 'One Man's Bible' Flamingo Press HarperCollins pp 412, $29.95 softcover).
On the religious front from the Lutheran publisher Fortress Press, comes a new Facet series of very Short Introductions, a genre that has become popular in recent times, as they intend to convey the urgency of their subjects without wasting time on discourse. (Brevard S. Childs 'Biblical Theology: a Proposal' Facets Series, Fortress Press pp 90, $11.95 softcover)
My first writer, Gao Xingjian, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000, 'for an oeuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama' He is now an established novelist, playwright, literary critic and painter.
Born in 1940 in Jianxi province of eastern China, after state school he read French at Beijing University, embarking then on a life of letters and the arts.
During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) he was sent to a re-education camp and felt it necessary to burn a suitcase full of manuscripts. Not until 1979 could he publish his work and travel abroad, to France and Italy. After the Tiananmen Square 1989 massacre he joined a dissident group, and is now a French citizen, living in Paris.
'One Man's Bible' is autobiographical. It has been written for himself, as 'you are your own god and follower'. (p 183) What distinguishes man from animals is that the latter 'do not tell lies but exist in the world no matter how it is …whereas humans need to use lies to adorn this forest of humanity' (p 181)
A massive autobiography full of strange events and happenings - even a strange philosophy . There are at least two people in this writer, so Xingjian emerges as an only twin, and writes energetically, a painter with words.
The 'Facet' series offers brief treatment on aspects of life and faith at an affordable price. There are currently twelve titles available, on biblical, theological and moral issues, with Brevard Childs on 'Biblical Theology', N.T. Wright on 'Contemporary Quest for Jesus', and reprints from Bonhoeffer like his 'Who is Christ for us'. It is an excellent series.
Childs looks to the canon of scripture for defining the processes and final form of both testaments, and the theological questions raised by having a canon. The repeated reshaping of Israel's traditions is emphasised as well as the theological functions of great revelatory events.
For those who have not studied theology since their days at theological college, the 'Facet Series is a 'must buy' - great updates that require serious reflection.