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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

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3.63  ·  Rating details ·  46,451 Ratings  ·  3,818 Reviews
In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for reeducation during China's infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secr ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published October 29th 2002 by Anchor Books (first published 2000)
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heidi "think it is appropriate" for whom? high schooler on up. nothing inappropriate, just has a literary sophistication that is above a middle schooler's…more"think it is appropriate" for whom? high schooler on up. nothing inappropriate, just has a literary sophistication that is above a middle schooler's level, i think.(less)
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Jim Fonseca
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Two urban Chinese boys, 17 and 18 when the story starts, are sent to a farming village to do rural work as part of their “re-education” under Mao’s cultural revolution. Their terms are indefinite because their parents, doctors and dentists, were considered bourgeois enemies of the people.

The author was himself “re-educated” in China between 1971 and 1974 and has lived in France since 1984. (The book is translated from the French.) All the universities were closed and all boys and girls who had
...more
Will Byrnes
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J.I.
Oct 27, 2008 added it
Shelves: read-2008
A charming book, written with astute quickness, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is both erudite and approachable. It is full of details that absolutely make the scenes pop with vividness, but it does not dawdle over what is not necessary. It is a story with a point.

Which is where this book falls apart. Despite its captivation of the reader, its quick pace, its interesting plot, this short novel begins to come apart when perspectives are suddenly shifted (why?) and then again at the end
...more
mai ahmd

لا أعرف ماذا تعني إعادة تأهيل ولكنه مصطلح يشعرك بالإهانة .. وكأن هؤلاء البشر غير مؤهلين للحياة ويتم إعادة تربيتهم من جديد عموما هذا النهج الذي إرتآه الزعيم ماو فوضع سياسة إعادة تأهيل الشباب المتعلم فأرسلهم للقرى على أساس أن الريف هي المعلم وهناك يجب أن يتعلم الإنسان كيف تكون هي الحياة .. وهكذا يذهب بطلا الرواية لو ورفيقه الراوي إلى القرية الواقعة قرب جبل طيور فينق السماء وتشاء الصدف أن آباءهم من الأطباء الذين اعتبرا من أعداء الشعب وفي مفارقة ساخرة والد ليو هو طبيب أسنان وقد سبق أن عالج الزعيم ا
...more
Vanessa
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sweet charming story with a fable quality. The story revolves around a part of history that I feel somewhat ignorant about, the story takes place during the Chinese cultural revolution a time in history where communism was a means to suppress and take away individuality. Life is controlled under the regime of Mao Zedong chairman of the Chinese communist party and restrictions take place, where revolutionary literature is forbidden and higher learning is discouraged, a time when boys where taken ...more
TK421
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
Imagine for a moment that all the books you own are taken from you, pulped or set ablaze, labeled as libelous, unworthy to what your new home now thinks and practices. What would you do? How would this make you feel? Then, as if the act of destruction upon your books was not enough, you, too, are taken to a place where you can be re-educated. All the mysteries or romances or science fiction or literary fiction that you one vigorously pumped into your brain was now going to be methodically replac ...more
Emilie
Mar 07, 2008 rated it liked it
On its surface, this book has all the ingredients for a really interesting read: a fascinating historical period, potentially interesting characters, and the frequently quite compelling topic of the use or function of literature within literature. Unfortunately, I felt like Sijie failed to live up to the greatness of his own project.

The Cultural Revolution is supposedly the force that propels this story forward. It is, after all, the reason for which the main character and his best friend Luo a
...more
Petra X
Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
This is a gentle, magical book, quite unlike any other I have ever read. The author really gets into the minds of the two boys and the seamstress and the tiny, colourful life they create together despite the poverty of mountain village and the oppression of the Cultural Revolution. The ending is just perfect too.
Raya راية
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"كانت الروايات التي يقرأها "لو" عليّ تخلق فيّ الرغبة للارتماء بمياه السيل الطازجة. لماذا؟ لأنني كنت أتحرر من قيودي دفعةً واحدة! كما يحدث حين تنتاب المرء رغبةً لا يقوى على كبحها للإفصاح عمّا في قلبه."


تحذير: في المراجعة حرق لأحداث الرواية..

عندما بدأت بقراءة هذه الرواية لأول مرة، لم أكن أعلم شيئاً عن تاريخ الصين ولا أملك أدنى معلومة عن ذلك، وكانت أيضاً أول رواية آسيوية أقرؤها. لمّا ذكر كاتب الرواية بأن أحداثها تدور في نهاية ستينات القرن العشرين وبداية السبعينات. كنت أظن بأن ماو تسي تونغ رجل خيال
...more
Lars Jerlach
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an enchanting tale about the mysteries of love and the eternal wonders of literature. Two teenage boys get exiled for re-education to a remote mountainous village during China's infamous cultural revolution. There they get to know the young daughter of a local tailor and stumble across a suitcase filled with banned western literature. While they find solace in the forbidden words of western literature they open a new world of opportunity to the seamstress and find an emotive escape from ...more
Shelley
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
This story is cute, kind of odd, and without much plot or character development. Dai Sijie's first novel tells the story about two teenage boys sent to the mountains in China for "re-education" under the Maoist regime. Sijie himself was re-educated from 1971 to 1974, which is when this novel takes place. While Sijie builds tension very well he never really delivers. Towards the end the perspective changes for what feels like absolutely no reason and I found myself saying, "what?!" in my head and ...more
عبدالله ناصر

الحقيقة أن قراءة رواية بهذا القدر من الجمال تدفعنا إلى التغنّي بالمقولة المبالغ فيها : " ما من حزن لا يستطيع الكتاب تخفيفه ". الكتاب الذي سيجعل من المحكوم عليهم بإعادة التأهيل قادرين على الصمود في ذلك الخراء - و إعادة التأهيل إحدى حماقات ماو التدميرية - و الذي كان قد تعرض لها الكاتب نفسه كما هو الحال للعديد من النشء المتعلم آنذاك - الشاعر الصيني الشهير يانغ ليان على سبيل المثال لا الحصر عمل حفاراً للقبور أثناء إعادة تأهيله - و بلزاك الذي يتقدم العنوان بكبرياء نابليوني لا يرمز لشيء باعتقادي سوى ا
...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
One of the reasons why I join bookclubs is to encourage myself to read books I wouldn't normally read, to get me out of my comfort zone. And one of the hopes of any bookclub I think, for me at least, is to find a gem, a book that you had never wanted to read but, having read through coercion, have been spellbound by. This is that book. Descriptions of it that I'd read when it was first released had turned me off - it sounded boring - but with such low expectations I was so into this story that I ...more
Liz Janet
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
“I was carried away, swept along by the mighty stream of words pouring from the hundreds of pages. To me it was the ultimate book: once you had read it, neither your own life nor the world you lived in would ever look the same.”

I heard about this book via a classmate that said it was his favourite book. Blindly I said I would give it a shot, and when I saw it at a thrift store for very cheap I bought it, two days later I decided to read it and then died. I am so angry and glad at this book, I
...more
Cornelia
3.45*
طَيْف
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
description

"يا لها من فتنة!!أحسست بنفسي أغيب في ضباب الثمالة!!"

هذا ما حدث لي تماما بعد الانتهاء من هذه الرواية، كالمتعة التي عبر عنها البطلان لحظة التقاء عيونهما بالكتب، في واحد من أجمل مشاهد الرواية...مشهد سرقة الكتب!!!0


هذه رواية يعجزني الحديث عنها...فمن أين أبدأ؟؟

من التقنية الروائية السينمائية التي أبدع فيها "داي سيجي"؟؟أم من الترجمة الجميلة التي حظيت بها؟؟أم من توزيع دور البطولة بمهارة فائقة على الشخوص فيها؟؟أم من النهاية ذات الدلالات التي تليق بتلخيص رؤية الكاتب؟؟أم من الفكرة التي نهضت من قلب تاريخ محد
...more
Quang Khuê
Balzac thật lợi hại. Đọc bao nhiêu năm mới thấy có ai đó cua được gái bằng tiểu thuyết. Balzac muôn năm, Balzac vô địch :))

Cập nhật ý kiến ý cò về cuốn này: Cuốn sách là một hồi chuông cảnh tỉnh cho bất cứ người đàn ông nào muốn bạn gái mình thông minh hơn, hiểu biết hơn này nọ. Đặc biệt là ước muốn bạn gái đọc nhiều sách là điều cấm kị, tuyệt đối cấm kị, cực lực cấm kị. Hậu quả sẽ rất khó lường. Ahihi
Jeanette
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding exercise in more than just the pals' re-education and awakening to adulthood. It deserves 5 stars in the skill to expose the different ironic dichotomies. And not only in this Chinese period. A stilted way to say that it makes both political and personal counter-revolutions. This is truly a think piece.

The more you know about the Red Guard, Cultural Revolution and subsequent civil liberties and personal choices of rural peasant or relocated for purpose Chinese- beyond the
...more
Heather
Feb 12, 2008 rated it did not like it
I thought this would be great (well, the cover was beautiful and it did have Balzac in it) but I was really unimpressed by it. It was a story and nothing more. I can't figure out why it's selling like hot cakes. Oh well.
Carol
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Beautifully written story about youth during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Kavita
Dec 11, 2016 rated it liked it
This novel is short, but it manages to cram in a lot of stuff about the daily life during the Cultural Revolution. Two bourgeois boys, Luo and the unnamed narrator, are sent to the countryside for their re-education. There, they toil in the fields and in the mines, and hope against hope that they would be the one of the three in a thousand to be sent back to the city despite their parents being 'enemies of the people'.

The story is not a linear one, and the narrative reads like excerpts from a bi
...more
Richard Derus
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

This novel is a deep peer into the dark and turgid pool that the Cultural Revolution made of China for far, far too long.

Of course, I've moved my review to my blog so the Reavers can't get at it.
Fatema Hassan , bahrain
( عند اجتيازنا لصالة الطعام ، تناول ( لو ) حقيبة الكتب ، بعد ساعة من الركض المجنون على الطريق ، وبعد أن قررنا أخيراً أن نستريح ، فتحها .
كان ذيل الثور بنهايته المشعرة و الملطخة ببقع الدم الداكنة يستلقي على أكوام الكتب ، كان طويلاً بشكل استثنائي ، انه ذلك الذيل الذي اوقع نظارات ( بينوكلار ) بلا شك ) ص ١١١

استرعى انتباهي في هذه السطور رغم قِلّتها امتصاصها لروح الحدث وتلخيصها له و اشتمالها على الفعل وردات الفعل التي تراوحت بين الغائب المؤثر في سير الأحداث و الحاضر الحركي الديناميكي لذلك قررت العبور م
...more
Salma
Sep 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
تحديث: كنت أقلب مواضيعا قديمة، فمررت على موضوع كنت كتبته قبل عامين عن هذه الرواية
أتحدث فيه عن فكرة الفن و الجمال و عن معناه، بما أن الرواية تعالج فكرة الجمال و الفن في وسط الشقاء
كان من السهل علي حينها الحديث عن هذا الموضوع و بمثل هذه الطريقة حين كنت فايقة و رايقة
لكن المفارقة التي ليست مضحكة إطلاقا
أني الآن و بعد عامين من معايشة كل هذا الظلم و المجازر و التوحش
أتساءل إن كان ما كتبته عن المعنى من الجمال، حقا له معنى
على كل المقال جميل فعلا، و إن كنتَ من المحظوظين الذين ما زالوا يستشعرون الجمال فاستمت
...more
Nari
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2008
I chose this excerpt from the book because it seems to sum up the changes seen in the characters:

“Picture if you will, a boy of nineteen still slumbering in the limbo of adolescence, having heard nothing but revolutionary blather about patriotism, Communism, and ideology and propaganda all his life, falling headlong into a story of awakening desire, passion, impulsive action, love, of all the subjects that had, until then, been hidden from me”

There is a series of revolutions taking place through
...more
Paul
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: general-novels
A charming, brief novel set in China during the cultural revolution. Two teenage boys are sent to a peasant village for re-education because of what their parents do. They have the sort of adventures teenage boys have; with an edge because of their situation. They also discover western literature through another boy being re-educated. Balzac, Dumas, Flaubert, Gogol; all nineteenth century authors. They also discover teenage love and obsession. There is a feeling of closeness to the earth and the ...more
رانيا محيو الخليلي
بلزاك والخياطة الصينية الصغيرة، الرواية الأولى للكاتب الصيني ديه سيجي.
الرواية تشبه بسردها القصص التي ترويها عادة الجدات ، تلك القصص الرومانسية التي تعبق بالمخاطر والتي يحاول الحبيبين بمشقة تحقيقها.
لكن ما جعل هذه الرواية تتميز بطابع خاص نقلها من الحكاية إلى الرواية، كان تدخّل بلزاك وغيره من كتاب عصره لتحديد مصير قصة الحب هذه.

قد يتساءل من يقرأ العنوان عن شأن بلزاك في حياة خياطة صينية صغيرة. لكنتشف بأن الرابط هو الكبت الذي

أحكمته "الديكتاتورية البروليتارية" في حق شعبها ليس فقط من ناحية حرية العيش
...more
سُعود
أن تكون السبب في تغير أحد ما ،، شعور مذهل وقاتل في الوقت نفسه

مذهل حينما ترى نتائج أفعالك وقد تبينت ملامحها في قسمات ذلك الشخص

عندما تراه يتبدل في كل شيء ،، ملبسه ،، لسانه ،، بل وثقافته

عندما تكسوه الحضارة والتعلم ،، بفضل سعيك المتواصل لإبرازه بهذا الشكل

وهذا ما تمناه صديقنا المتمرد (لو) ورفيق دربه صآحب الكمنجة في أن يحدث لأميرتهم "الخياطة الصغيرة"..!
تلك الفاتنة الصغيرة
من كانت عزائهم الوحيد في ذلك الاقليم المضجر !!

***

هذان الشابان ،، المنفيان من المدينة إلى أعالي الجبال

تم نفيهم لأنهم إبناء لطبق
...more
Bach Tran Quang
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Cuốn sách mỏng này có sức mạnh kinh người. Vì dẫu trong hoàn cảnh có khó khăn đến mấy, người ta vẫn có thể thắp lên hy vọng nhỏ nhoi nào đó: bằng âm nhạc, bằng kiến thức, bằng tình yêu, và bằng những cuốn sách.

Tôi luôn nghĩ về nền văn học Trung Quốc đơn giản thế này: Từ trước khi có Cách Mạng Văn Hóa và sau khi có Cách Mạng Văn Hóa. Những tác phẩm sau này nói về thời kỳ ấy, vừa chua chát, vừa cay độc, vừa hằn thù lại vừa ám ảnh. Những "Huynh Đệ" "Lửa Thiêu Rừng Hạnh" "Chốn Xưa" "Trông lên rất đẹ
...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
This was such a beautiful book. The writing is amazing, the story educated me about the re-education that took place in China after the Cultural Revolution, which I think is amazing in a novel that is all about education.

Reading and the things we learn from books and how important books are for our intellect and life in general is at the center of this novel. We see how the two main characters are longing for books and how they want to share the stories they read and also see on the big screen.
...more
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Dai Sijie was born in China in 1954. He grew up working in his fathers tailor shop. He himself became a skilled tailor. The Maoist government sent him to a reeducation camp in rural Sichuan from 1971 to 1974, during the Cultural Revolution. After his return, he was able to complete high school and university, where he studied art history.

In 1984, he left China for France on a scholarship. There, h
...more
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“I was carried away, swept along by the mighty stream of words pouring from the hundreds of pages. To me it was the ultimate book: once you had read it, neither your own life nor the world you lived in would ever look the same.” 69 likes
“It would evidently take more than a political regime, more than dire poverty to stop a woman from wanting to be well-dressed: it was a desire as old as the world, as old as the desire for children.” 20 likes
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