****Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sijie
translated from the French by Ina Rilke
Reviewed February 1, 2003.
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2001. 197 pages.
This book isn’t like any other novel that I’ve read in a long time.
It tells the story of two Chinese youths sent out into the country for
re-education in the 1970s during the Cultural Revolution. The young
man gets to keep his violin after he tells the village headman that the
tune he is playing is “Mozart Is Thinking of Chairman Mao.” (Mozart’s
works were banned long before.)
The boys toil in the village, but soon meet a beautiful girl, the
daughter of a tailor. They also come across a forbidden book, a book
by Balzac. The book opens up new worlds to them, and also to the
little Chinese seamstress. This book captivates the reader quickly
and draws you into the story.
The author of this book himself went through re-education in China
and has been living in France since 1984. This is his first novel,
and he has created a memorable, fascinating story.
Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.
All rights reserved.
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