An enchanting literary debut---already an international best-seller.
At the height of Mao's infamous Cultural Revolution, two boys are among hundreds of thousands exiled to the countryside for "re-education." The narrator and his best friend, Luo, guilty of being the sons of doctors, find themselves in a remote village where, among the peasants of Phoenix mountain, they are made to cart buckets of excrement up and down precipitous winding paths. Their meager distractions include a violin---as well as, before long, the beautiful daughter of the local tailor.
But it is when the two discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation that their re-education takes its most surprising turn. While ingeniously concealing their forbidden treasure, the boys find transit to worlds they had thought lost forever. And after listening to their dangerously seductive retellings of Balzac, even the Little Seamstress will be forever transformed.
From within the hopelessness and terror of one of the darkest passages in human history, Dai Sijie has fashioned a beguiling and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit, the wonder of romantic awakening and the magical power of storytelling.
The village headman, a man of about fifty, sat cross-legged in the centre of the room, close to the coals burning in a hearth that was hollowed out of the floor; he was inspecting my violin. Among the possessions brought to this mountain village by the two "city youths"--which was how they saw Luo and me--it was the sole item that exuded an air of foreignness, of civilisation, and therefore aroused suspicion.
One of the peasants came forward with an oil lamp to facilitate identification of the strange object. The headman held the violin upright and peered into the black interior of the body, like an officious customs officer searching for drugs. I noticed three blood spots in his left eye, one large and two small, all the same shade of bright red.
Raising the violin to eye level, he shook it, as though convinced something would drop out of the sound holes. His investigation was so enthusiastic I was afraid the strings would break.
Just about everyone in the village...
If you liked Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, try these:
A bestseller in China, recently short-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and a winner of Frances Prix Courrier International, Brothers is an epic and wildly unhinged black comedy of modern Chinese society running amok.
The true story of how a small, terrified, lonely boy, plucked from his life in rural China, became one of the greatest ballet dancers in the world. One part Falling Leaves, one part Billy Eliot, this is an unforgettable memoir of hope and courage.
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