Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress


The whole reason for the speculations encapsulated in the Triune integrity post were the problems presented by the end of this book by Dai Sijie.

The novel is about two young men who are sent away for reeducation at the height of the Cultural Revolution in China. The crimes of their parents--one boy's father was Mao's Dentist, the other boy had two doctors--"intellectuals"--as parents. These young men are sent away to a remote village where there is not even electricity.

From time to time the village master sends the men into a nearby town where they view films and retell the story for the amusement of the village. There is an itinerant tailor whose daughter is the seamstress of the title and with whom one of the young men falls in love.

To say more would be to give away many of the interesting plot twists and turns. I don't know if this should be read as symbolic tale, allegory, satire, or simply a short tale well-told. However, the ending is problematic to me. And, at first, I was angry at the book and ready to reject it because of the end. However, thinking about it more, it seems that the chronicler merely made clear the horns of the dilemma posed by the law in China.

A short, quick read--fascinating and far more readable than Ha Jin's interminable Waiting or some other recent works out of China. The author himself underwent "reeducation" during the cultural revolution, so he knows whereof he speaks.

Recommended, with some reservations, for those with interest in the modern history of China.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 23, 2006 9:18 PM.

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