Technically speaking, authors don’t win the Nobel for individual books but rather for their ouevre. So maybe his other works are more accessible. I haven’t read anything other than Soul Mountain, which I liked, so I won’t venture an opinion.
Here’s what the Swedish Academy had to say about its choice:
But sometimes there’s no accounting for taste. And, anyway, the Nobel committee doesn’t comprise the world’s finest writers but eighteen people in the Swedish Academy.
Here’s the unusual part of the 2000 prize: One of those eighteen happens to be Gao’s translator. This understandably raised questions of conflict of interest.
The Taipei Times published an interesting interview with the translator. The interviewer is someone who called Soul Mountain “by no means a novel, let alone a good one.” So you’re hardly alone in thinking the book isn’t worthy of a Nobelist.
You can find a pan of the book here: