Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Book - 2001
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Random House, Inc.
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.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER “An unexpected miracle—a delicate, and often hilarious tale.” —LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress , Dai Sijie’s poignant tale of love, literature, and reeducation in the harsh world of Chairman Mao’s China.

Baker & Taylor
At the height of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, two young boys are sent to the country for "reeducation" at a remote mountain village, where their lives take an unexpected turn when they meet the beautiful daughter of a local tailor and stumble upon a forbidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translations. A first novel. 25,000 first printing.

Blackwell North Amer
In 1971 Mao's campaign against the intellectuals is at its height. Our narrator and his best friend, Luo, distinctly unintellectual but guilty of being the sons of doctors, have been sent to a remote mountain village to be 're-educated'. The kind of education that takes place among the peasants of Phoenix Mountain involves carting buckets of excrement up and down preciptous, foggy paths, but the two seventeen-year-olds have a violin and their sense of humour to keep them going. Further distraction is provided by the attractive daughter of the local tailor, possessor of a particularly fine pair of feet.
Their true re-education starts, however, when they discover a comrade's hidden stash of classics of great nineteenth-century Western literature - Balzac, Dickens, Dumas, Tolstoy and others, in Chinese translation. They need all their ingenuity to get their hands on the forbidden books, but when they do their lives are turned upside down. And not only their lives; after listening to their dangerously seductive retellings of Balzac, the Little Seamstress will never be the same again.

Baker
& Taylor

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, two boys are sent to the country for reeducation, where their lives take an unexpected turn when they meet the beautiful daughter of a local tailor and stumble upon a forbidden stash of Western literature.

Publisher: New York : Knopf, 2001
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780375413094
037541309X
Branch Call Number: Fiction Dai
Characteristics: 197 p. ; 20 cm
Additional Contributors: Rilke, Ina

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s
SCL_AdultPicks
Oct 24, 2017

Our library's Art Lovers Book Club gave this an overall rating of 7 out of 10.
It had an ending that you either loved or hated!

m
miinas
Aug 04, 2016

SPL Summer Book Bingo: translated from another language

v
vcc
Sep 03, 2015

An interesting look into China's Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a man who lived it. Very nice writing, indented with subtle symbolism.

Reviewed: 6 Aug 2005

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 23, 2014

Two boys, both sons of doctors, are exiled to a remote Chinese village for re-education during the Cultural Revolution. Their salvation is a violin, a Balzac novel, and the beautiful daughter of a peasant tailor. Full of surprising twists, turns, and original characters, this magical novel would be a good choice for book groups.

l
lynpow
May 06, 2014

great book for a look at China during the cultural revolution and life in the countryside, especially young people's lives.

i
i_am
Apr 25, 2014

'Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress' is a story of two young men sent from city to the Chinese countryside for 're-education' by Red Guards during Mao's infamous Cultural Revolution as their intellectual activities and foreign influences are perceived to be a threat to the communist regime. In their exile, they perform menial work and live in squalor however life is not too hard on them as they find repose in the stunningly beautiful surroundings of the Phoenix Mountain and take delight in teaching French literature to a local lass simply known as the little seamstress while trying to win her favours. The magic of books delivers a sense of freedom to the little seamstress as well as her grandfather in ways they had never thought possible.

d
Doffner
Jun 07, 2013

This book was delightful

i
Iluv2read
Nov 20, 2012

Interesting tale of two teenage boys during the cultural revolution in China when they are sent out of the city into the mountains to learn how the peasants live.

a
Amalia777
Apr 17, 2012

Six words: I will never read that again.

brianreynolds Jun 11, 2011

This certainly is a "likable" little tale. It seems to stutter quite a bit, trying to decide what exactly it's trying to say. It might be a complaint against authoritarian regimes, but it can't decide whether the characters are free to do whatever they want whenever they want or whether they are hard done by prisoners of a totalitarian dictator. It might be a touching story of first love or a train wreck of misjudged affection and misplaced trust. It might be about sophistication triumphing over ignorance or art over provincialism, but it just as easily could be trying to say that fancy underwear and a better accent can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. Mercifully, it was short.

What made it less than memorable for me was the sparseness of the prose. Not mincing words can add incredible power to significant plot lines. I usually appreciate that a great deal. Not giving the reader enough information to fall in love with the characters, however, is a recipe for the reader not being engaged in the story. I had a hard time staying awake.

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v
violet_owl_156
Jun 24, 2013

violet_owl_156 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

s
Seraph
Jan 23, 2010

Seraph thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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m
miinas
Aug 04, 2016

Interesting story about 2 boys in the 1970s in China who are exiled to the countryside for "re-education". They both fall in love with the prettiest girl on the mountain, the Little Seamstress. The boys are both quite fond of reading.

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