Rated of 5
Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamtress, like so many novels written from abroad by Chinese authors, reflects an ambiguity towards Western culture. While the idealist praise of the narrator extolls -sometimes overly so- the power of literature to revolutionize the mind, Dai Sijie's fairytale narration and surprising ending seems to suggest that Western culture, too, has its pitfalls and should not be seen as the panacea to social problems. Thus, the reader must decide who is the reliable speaker: the zealous narrator, or the more subtly critical author.
Balzac is rich in imagery, and it might even be said that the narration is too explanatory, leaving too little room for the reader to extrapolate and, ironically, use his imagination. Overall, however, the book is a worthwhile read, especially if one is interested in seeing Chinese cultural history evaluated retrospectively, through the eyes of an author who has lived on both sides of the fence.