Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Sijie, Dai. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. New York: Random House, 2002.

This is the story of two Chinese teenage boys exiled to a remote mountain village for “re-education” during the 1970s; during the Cultural Revolution. In Part I in between bouts of grueling hard labor in the mines they meet the beautiful daughter of the local tailor. She is “the little Chinese seamstress” of the title. In Part II Luo and the unnamed narrator have a friend they call Four-Eyes. A myopic boy who has a mysteriously suitcase full of banned books. When Four-Eyes begrudgingly gives them a decrepit copy of Balzac the boys are hooked. Luo takes the forbidden story to the Little Chinese Seamstress and woos her with words. In Part III the boys grow careless with their knowledge of the forbidden books, the little Chinese seamstress becomes pregnant and life for all three changes.

Quotes that grabbed me, “The flirtation turned into a grand passion” (p 110), “After all, how could I die now, without having known love or sex, without having taken free individual action against the whole world…?” (p 114) and “The medical intervention was a success” (p 173).

Reason read: According to a bunch of travel sites September in China is beautiful. In honor of beautiful China in September…

Author fact: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is Dai Sijie’s first book.

Book trivia: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress became a national bestseller and in 2002 it was adapted into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “China Voices” (p 54).

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