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.
©2001 Dai Sijie; (P)2002 Random House Inc., Random House Audio, a Division of Random House Inc.
"An unexpected miracle - a delicate, and often hilarious, tale." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"A funny, touching, sly and altogether delightful novel...about the power of art to enlarge our imaginations." (Washington Post Book World)
"Poetic and affecting...riveting." (New York Times Book Review)
An excellent tale of the Cultural Revolution and one boy's awakening to manhood. Stories that I've heard from my parents and the older generation found their echo in this story. A time period like the Cultural Revolution was so charged of emotional energy that I think it took this long for most chinese people to begin address what has happened since then.
A note about the ending, it is a chinese story after all. Every ending begets another beginning.
What a wonderfully enlightening (and slightly shocking) introduction to Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution in China during the 1970's. I had never studied nor read books about this historical period so this story turned out to be both entertaining and educational for me. The narrator was effective and the story flowed seamlessly to a somewhat quick conclusion. I listened to the book on a road trip and I was rather disappointed to see the book end when I still had many questions left unanswered. I recommend this story to the listener seeking cultural diversity and historical perspective.
Fine writing and a good authentic story.
I truly enjoyed this quality book and the excellent reading by the talented narrator. This audio book is a true treasure and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
This is a lovely story, with fantastic narration by B.D. Wong. I've listened to it several time, and enjoyed it again and again.
I have long heard good things about Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, and I really liked it.
I thought the choice of B. D. Wong as narrator was interesting as he's Chinese-American, but of course on an audiobook, you don't see the narrator so there's no reason to have found someone of the appropriate ethnicity (particularly as he doesn't have an accent, and presumably - although I haven't researched - English is his first language.) But I liked that detail as I did picture him as the main character.
Our hero and his friend Luo have been sent out to a rural village during the Chinese Cultural Revolution to learn how to appreciate the proletariat. They are subjected to demeaning, backbreaking work, but all the boredom and stress melts away when they discover the beautiful daughter of the region's tailor, and a stash of translated Western novels.
The novel was very evocative. I found myself physically recoiling at some very accurate imagery more than once, as I was out walking. I would make faces, clench up, and sometimes even try to move out of the way, as the descriptions were so visceral that they seemed real. B. D. Wong was good at giving the different characters different voices, and I never was confused about who was speaking. With the Chinese names, I was a little glad to have someone else pronouncing them instead of me guessing, although many of the characters didn't even have names, but nicknames, like "Four Eyes," the owner of the illegal novels.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress was a romantic, delicate story that opened my eyes to the Cultural Revolution (I had heard it referenced before but never understood what it was.) A fine gem, the book has moments of humor, fancy, danger, and passion.
A short story about two adolescent boys sent to the hinter lands for "reeducation" during China's cultural revolution. The story is interesting in terms of the insights it gives about China during this time and the impact reeducation had for these young boys when sent away from their families. You learn, for example, that boys are boys anywhere on earth (ditto for small town people). The story is very easy to listen to and well written. Ultimately, I compared it to cotton candy - sweet and fun, but leaving you hungry with not a lot of substance.
This is a great story set in an era when China was killing off its intellectuals and imprisioning their children. A story that reveals a whole new world to one character and gives hope for a future.
The narration for this story is excellent - BD Wong does a superior job. The story itself starts out a little shaky, but ends up being a fantastic story. It is the story of the "re-education" of youths during the 1970's under the rule of Mao Tse-tung. This book really shows the midset of the country at the time and the plot is truly a great one.
This is perfect book. The story is fascinating, the characters approachable, and the text is well crafted. Most of all it is a colorful, enchanting picture of life in China during the Cultural Revolution, an event that I knew formerly only through the dry faacts of history.
Two city boys are sent into the country for re-education. Set in China in 1970's when Mao was the ruler. I really enjoyed the narration.
"I adored this book"
I adored this book from start to finish. I am holding off listening to it a second time for now but I know I won't wait for long. A truelly wonderful story of forbidden beauty.
"A Romance Within The Cultural Revolution"
Given that the book is both a relationship story and also specific to a period in Chinese history I don't know of many friends who would find the book to their taste or interest. I think that the setting and the relationships are well told, so I like the book, but its not a genre novel; it isn't that easily categorized. The appeal might be that the book is somewhat unique. A personal rather than a historical view of being re-educated as part of China's cultural revolution is unusual. Being written by a Chinese author, but published first in French, indicates the unique nature of the novel. Its also a quietly humorous novel, which makes it appealing.
The stories of Eileen Chang might be compared to this novel. Both authors write relationship stories within a Chinese setting. They are Chinese authors, but write within a naturalistic style, that of the European novel. The stories take place at authentic moments in Chinese history, but are fictions, part-autobiography, part fiction. The reference to Balzac in the title links the book to the naturalist tradition in French literature of the 1800's, and this is the written style of the story: small scale characters within a larger historical setting. The characters in the book are individuals but they cannot live apart from their societies and their histories.
The book is an account of a personal experience, so an audio book gives the author a actual voice. I didn't really notice the reading of the audio book in terms of who was reading it. The voice just matched what I expected from the novel, so the audio seemed like a perfect fit for the narrator.
The book represents a meeting between cosmopolitan Chinese who have European tastes and communist Chinese villagers who understand this European influence as corrupt. The story of the violin shows this conflict and also how there is a shared humanity in the experience of music. What makes the book moving rather than simply a love story in an exotic setting is the fact that the 'Little Seamstress' in an insightful and intelligent person. This relates to Eileen Chang's representation of Chinese women: these are women who need to fulfill their social role, which can make them seem subservient and ornamental, but this simplistic view is is not the case if one considers these women's lives in depth and detail.
The novel is something of a contradiction which makes its a stimulating book. Its sensitive tone suggest that it takes a conciliatory approach to the cultural revolution, there are no evil villains. The book might also be understood as condescending towards the village-based Chinese as they are shown to be ignorant, so that the book represents a Western based superiority towards Chinese culture - hence its popularity in the West, perhaps. However, looking at the the story more closely, it also mocks the European educated men who are exiled in the village, and the Little Seamstress might be seen as a woman who has to make her own path within Chinese society where there are two opposing and conflicted cultural and political forces: Modern China shifting towards a European social and cultural model, and authentic Chinese life with its long standing and complex history. The story of the Little Seamstress is an account of a woman living within a specific social setting where European ideas and culture are an intrusion and not necessarily a solution.
Id looked at getting this book all year but always went for something a little more bulky to fill my day but eventually gave in to its pretty little cover and title and im glad I did. While the cover is pretty the book is beautiful. Iv bought a couple paperbacks for gifts this christmas.
"The age still to come....."
A generation of Chinese writers, artists and film-makers are growing up and finding a home in the minds, sensitivities and subsidies of the French cultural machine. Dai Sijie's novel must be read as essentially the screenplay to his 2002 film 'Xiao cai feng.' Where the film gives us the stunning landscapes of Northern China, it falls someway short of the book in developing the characters of Ma and Luo.
Still a mile behind Ha Jin and Won Kar Wei - we wait to see the next output of Dai Sijie and hope that it comes quickly to audio.
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