Dai Sijie – Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2000)

BalzacIts been said in other reviews, but I’ll say it again, this book is a charming read. It is so astute and so beautifully written; I was caught of guard by how enthralled I was in this seemingly short and simple tale.

The story takes place in the Chinese countryside and follows two city youths, the unnamed narrator and his best friend Luo, being “reeducated” in a mountain village. It is here that the two boys meet the Little Seamstress, daughter of the renowned and highly regarded Tailor. When visiting Four Eyes, another boy sent to the countryside to be reeducated, the two boys stumble upon a suitcase hiding forbidden Western literature. After stealing the suitcase Luo uses the forbidden literature to “culture” the little seamstress and wins her over with his storytelling ability.

The narrative flows so well and provides a unique snapshot of a really interesting time. While reading Wild Swans by Jung Chang introduced me to the process of reeducation and the Cultural Revolution, Sijie made it the propelling force of his story. I loved, what I saw at the underlying message in this tale, that no matter what the consequences the desire and love of a good book is something that cannot be sated. My only complaint is that it was too short.

Rating: 4.5/5

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