Photo © Jacques Sassier © Gallimard EditionsBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sajie ( 戴思杰 )
Novel, International Fiction
published in 2000
During China's Cultural Revolution, books were banned, children of well-off parents were sent off alone to work in the rural communities, and the government held a fear of anything that did not blatantly support the movement. It was a time of darkness throughout the country, and where regulations and impediments became more important than all else. This is the time period of which Dai Sajie writes in his novel, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. A story of love, of jealousy, and of children becoming men and women in this critical time frame in China's government.
In this novel, two city boys are sent to work in the fields in the country. While there they meet and fall for the tailor's daughter, who proves to be the jewel to be had. This little seamstress, who is more beautiful than any of the other girls (at least in the opinion of her suitors).All three of them, the seamstress, Luo and Ma (the narrator) become so obsessed with reading these forbidden books that they are willing to risk it all, for they could be severely punished for their attempts at obtaining any book which is not governmental propaganda.
The longer I waited to review Balzac and the Little Seamstress, the more it sunk in, the more I just really did love it. I really did. I bought this a year ago, mostly because the cover completely captivated me and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. It was actually even better that I expected, and you had better believe that I had height expectations. The simple and yet stout style of Dai Sijie is perfect for the book. He has written a superb gem here, the inside of the book is even better than the outside! I loved the main characters, the writing was just right and the story/plot couldn't have been any better. Seriously, it was just so good. Plus, it was about another country, and I love to read abroad!
If it could possibly get any better, it does. For all of us who are obsessed with books, it has a hidden special element of attraction. Can you even imagine if all books that were not written to glorify the current government were banned? What would become of us? I became completely entranced. This gets a full five chickens from me peeps, no doubt. So stop drooling over that beautiful cover and start drooling over the inside!
What would you do if books were banned? Can we even comprehend that here with all the freedoms we have?