Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Dai Sijie

Two boys are sent to the back of beyond for 're-education', but end up re-educating themselves through finding a secret store of Western novels. This book is a joy to read, full of unexpected delights; often funny, though the subject matter is serious.

Extract

The village headman, a man of about fifty, sat cross-legged in the centre of the room, close to the coals burning in the hearth that was hollowed out of the floor; he was inspecting my violin. Among the possessions brought to this mountain village by the two 'city youths' - which was how they saw Luo and me - it was the sole item that exuded an air of foreignness, of civilisation, and therefore aroused suspicion ....

'It's a toy,' said the headman solemnly ... 'a bourgeois toy.'
'Comrade, it's a musical instrument,' Luo said as casually as he could, 'and my friend here's a fine musician. Truly ... what you are about to hear, comrade, is a Mozart sonata.'

At that instant the glint of the vigilant Communist reappeared in the headman's eyes, and his voice turned hostile.
'What's the name of this song of yours?'
'Mozart' I muttered.
'Mozart what?'
'Mozart is Thinking of Chairman Mao,' Luo broke in.

Parallels
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • Wild Swans by Jung Chang
  • The Middle Kingdom by Andrea Barrett

Books with similar mood

The Well of Trapped Words

Sema Kaygusuz

The Man With the Compound Eyes

Wu Ming-Yi

Death and the Penguin

Andrey Kurkov

Murmur

Will Eaves

After Me Comes the Flood

Sarah Perry

Weatherman

Anthony Cropper

My Phantom Husband

Marie Darrieussecq

Tail of the Blue Bird

Nii Ayikwei Parkes

The Big Music

Kirsty Gunn

By Battersea Bridge

Janet Davey

Greenfly

Tom Lee

Fugitive Pieces

Anne Michaels

Disquiet

Julia Leigh

Chewing Gum

Mansour Bushnaf

Sightlines

Kathleen Jamie

Revenge

Yoko Ogawa

The Age of Miracles

Karen Thompson Walker

The Beautifully Worthless

Ali Liebegott

Totes Meer

Dai Vaughan

The Cave

Jose Saramago

Pobby and Dingan

Ben Rice

A Lone Walk

Gul Y Davis

The Testament of Yves Gundron

Emily Barton

The Island

R J Price

Last Fling

Sue Gee

My Father's Notebook

Kader Abdolah

Wild Dogs

Helen Humphreys

Say Something Back

Denise Riley

Every Single Minute

Hugo Hamilton

Heads We Win

Amy Gdala

The Book of Chameleons

Jose Eduardo Agualusa

Clara

Janice Galloway

Hotel World

Ali Smith

The Loudest Sound and Nothing

Clare Wigfall

The Visible World

Mark Slouka

The Tango Singer

Tomas Eloy Martinez

The Tidings of the Trees

Wolfgang Hilbig

We That Are Young

Preti Taneja

Red Doc

Anne Carson

Rook

Jane Rusbridge

South of Centre

Andrea Carter

Alva & Irva

Edward Carey

Double Fault

Lionel Shriver

Non-return

Dai Vaughan

Cain

Luke Kennard

The Visiting Angel

Paul Wilson

Blackmoor

Edward Hogan

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

Janna Levin

One More for the Road

Ray Bradbury