Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: Summary and book reviews of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, plus links to an excerpt from Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress and a biography of Dai Sijie.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sijie
Hardcover: Sep 2001,
Paperback: Oct 2002,
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.
Chicago Tribune - Stephanie Hull
A wonderful novel . . . Dai Sijie demonstrates that, in a time when freedom is in short supply, lessons about liberty from another time or tradition . . . can be an inspiration to those who wish to escape . . . . If we look to the tradition of Balzac and his contemporaries, we are left with some hope that these young men and the Little Seamstress will reappear in some future novel . . . Even if they come back by some other name, as Balzac's characters sometimes do, we will recognize them by their simplicity and strength, and by their harmonious complexity, formed by detailed layering and exquisite craftsmanship, like a beautifully tailored garment.
The Washington Post Book World - Michael Dirda
I opened Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress expecting a book that would be at best earnest and well meaning; the tale of two city boys, sent to the provinces in 1971 during the Cultural Revolution, sounds like your standard-issue Chinese tract in fictive form. Yet make no mistake This is a funny, touching, sly and altogether delightful novel...ironic and wistful....Though salted with wit and slapstick humor, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is basically a romance, a novel about the power of art to enlarge our imaginations, no matter what the circumstances . . . If one novel about Mao's China can be as terrific as this one, there must be others as well.
Booklist - Elsa Gaztambide
Dai Sijie is himself a survivor of that fateful time in China's history, yet he incorporates delightful humor into sketching his innovative cast of characters.
This deceptively small novel has the power to bring down governments..... Dai Sijie, who was himself reeducated in early 1970s China before fleeing to France, wonderfully communicates the awesome power of literature of which his novel is proof. Highly recommended.
This moving, often wrenching short novel by a writer who was himself re-educated in the '70s tells how two young men weather years of banishment, emphasizing the power of literature to free the mind..... The warmth and humor of Sijie's prose and the clarity of Rilke's translation distinguish this slim first novel, a wonderfully human tale.
Times Literary Supplement - Justin Hill
A simple story, seductively told . . . What marks it out is the way it touches and lifts up the beauty of human experience far beyond the mountains of Western China in which the story is set.
A mesmerizing story, classic and new, fabulist and gritty in its realism, full of riches as in the best of tales. My imagination and heart were seized.
Anchee Min author of Red Azalea and Becoming Madame Mao
Few if any books that are mailed to me strike me as worth recommending. I recommend this book highly. I myself was also secretly introduced to Western culture through literature during the Cultural Revolution when I first read a hand copied Chinese translation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Dai Sijie does an excellent job showing this experience. Anyone who wants to understand how Western art and literature influences the Chinese mindset should read this book.
Recent Reader Reviews
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by yumyum i love it! This book rocks! I'm going to have to read it again, just to get the feel of it, but I really enjoyed reading it! I had to read it for a book report, but it was so worth it. There were some parts that kind of confused me though, so I'll definitely... Read More
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by Akumu Amazing That was probably the best book I've read in a while.
I love it and highly recommend it.
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by Sywe unbelievebull!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! wonderfull!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!i am out of words....................just beautiful.i read it many many times.
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