Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Dai Sijie
translated from the French by Ina Rilke
(Knopf, New York City: 2002)

First published 2001

READ: January 2006

A delightful tale. I read this book in about two days flat. It compelled me to keep going, just a little further, just a little more. The ending is a bit abrupt and unsatisfying - I think that's partially it's style - not everything can always be wrapped up into a nice, tidy package at the end.

The story is set in 1970s Communist China. It tells of two city boys who are exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China's Cultural Revolution. While the work is hard and the hopes of returning to their families are slim, they become friends with the daughter of the local tailor. They also discover a hidden stash of Western literature - philosophy, novels, etc. - in Chinese translation. The book explores how this discovery changes their lives in small but important ways.

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