کتاب بالزاک و خیاط کوچولوی چینی

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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 Chinas 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 secretly devour these banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

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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 graduated from high school were sent off. Math, physics and chemistry were dropped from the school curriculum and replaced by agricultural and industrial texts.

The work the boys do is brutal farm work, done by all the peasants in this village. They are human pack animals carrying buckets of human and animal excrement up hills to fertilize fields; plowing in mud behind water buffalo; working naked on their hands and knees in a coal mine. They are in an isolated village so lost in time that people are barefoot and there are no doctors or dentists;


But there is a gleam of hope. One boy has brought his violin and instead of it being destroyed, he entertains the villagers by playing “Mozart is Thinking of Chairman Mao.” His companion has a pocket watch that no one in the village has ever seen and he’s also a great storyteller, so much so that the headman sends the boys off to a distant village for two days a month to watch movies and come back to the village to relate the plots.

They encounter and steal a trove of forbidden western books – Balzac, Stendhal, Dumas, Flaubert, Rousseau, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Kipling, Bronte and Melville. The narrator thinks that Jean-Christophe by Romain Rolland was particularly life-changing for him.

There’s some romance when both boys fall in love with the tailor’s daughter, the seamstress. With the brutal lives of the peasants as background, the real theme is the enlightenment that comes from reading and how it can change lives.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
** spoiler alert ** Set during the early 1970’s, when Mao sent the intellectuals to the provinces to be re-educated to life as peasants, two young men are assigned to a small, remote village. One plays a violin. The other has a gift for telling stories. They endure the labors assigned by the opium growers who rule the area, and are desperate for any sort of intellectual stimulation. The local chief assigns them to travel two days to the nearest town in which films are shown, then report back to the town the entirety of the films. There is another reclamation project in the town, Four Eyes. He has a hidden trove of books, and when they do him a service he allows them to borrow a novel by Balzac. This is manna from heaven for them and they plan how they might acquire more books from Four Eyes. The Little Seamstress of the title is a beautiful young woman, who becomes lover to one of the young men (both are in their late teens). She is the uneducated daughter of a local tailor, a man of some status in this area. They share their tale of Balzac with her. Other characters enter the picture, a lice-ridden hermit, Four Eyes’ mother, and the town leader.

Spoiler alert here – do not read further if you want to learn plot details for yourself.
Little Seamstress becomes pregnant. While the responsible boy is away on town business the friend takes her to the nearest town to help her get an abortion. He would like nothing more than to woo her for himself, but, ultimately, his kindness goes unrewarded, as, having gotten a sense, even if at one remove, that there is a world beyond her little village, the Little Seamstress leaves to seek her fortune in the big city. The boys are left high and dry.

The final few chapters are told from alternating points of view, the Seamstress, the old miller, the younger lad. It is a bit jarring, if illuminating.

The story has a beauty to it that bears some close inspection. I am certain that I could dissect the many details of the story for symbolic payload. I have not done that. I get the feeling though that there is richness there beyond the surface simplicity of the tale. This is a quick and pretty read, and is heartily recommended.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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. I think that the problem is that this book gives great argument against the very thing that it lauds, only it does not seem to realize it. It is a book so enraptured in its cute story, its nice little package, that it fails to truly consider what it is saying.

Alas, the ending is something of a disappointment that tempers the enthusiastic praise I can otherwise heap on it. Dont expect much from this little book, despite its great efforts to convince you there is something to expect, and you shall enjoy it as you blaze through the pages. Set aside a few hours to read this one non-stop, and schedule something immediately afterward to wash the taste of the ending away.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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 away from their towns and then placed into primitive little villages with the sole purpose of reeducation. The main characters the two boys in this book find a surprising escape from their harsh daily activities when they stumble upon a suitcase full of forbidden works of western fiction and their whole world suddenly opens up.

I love the simplicity of this story and the quirky narrative with lots of traditional Chinese elements and traditions sprinkled in, that I felt instantly enchanted by it. Although the story is simple the message is a strong one, it shows the transformative power of books and literature and how it has the ability to change and provoke thoughts and thinking. I love how the ending ties the little Chinese seamstress to the main theme of the book and I adored the ending which left me feeling uplifted and joyous.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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 replaced with doctrines and laws and philosophies that you not only don’t believe, but know are to be untrue. In time, you have to make some difficult decisions: Accept this new way of life and re-enter society, or remain the stalwart believer and remain in this place indefinitely.

I would like to think that I would remain the believer, dreaming of what I once had.

BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS has a similar backdrop. The story is about Luo and an unnamed narrator who have been relocated to Phoenix Mountain where they are to be re-educated. The proletariat has deemed their parents as “class enemies.” While performing meaningless manual labor upon the mountain, the boys discover that another of their compatriots, Four Eyes, has somehow smuggled a suitcase of books into the encampment. Literature of any kind is seen as reactionary, so the two boys are instantly eager to read these novels. After they have stolen a book by Balzac, they are whisked away to a world of limitless possibilities. They want more novels. As a responsibility to their re-education, they have to travel to different villages, sharing stories of the Chairman, but, in fact, they are trying to live the life they have experienced in Balzac’s novel.

One of the few people they entrust with their secret of literature is a seamstress. From the onset, Luo and the seamstress begin a relationship. For the most part, this relationship is only rudimentary to the story, until Four Eyes has been seen fit as being re-educated. Four Eyes is now able to leave Phoenix Mountain. And with Four Eyes leaving, the books are certainly to leave with him. Luo and the narrator devise a plan to steal the rest of the books. When they succeed, the world of literature explodes upon them like a starburst fired into a pitch dark night, illuminating Dostoevsky, Hugo, Dickens, Kipling, Emily Bronte, Tolstoy, Gogol, Flaubert, Dumas, Stendhal, Romain Rolland, and Rousseau. They have the makings of a fine library and dedicate different volumes to each other during Christmas and festive celebrations. Soon, the narrator develops a penchant for his own storytelling and is able to intertwine stories from the novels with stories of his own. Life seems tolerable now.

Then Luo’s mother gets sick. He has to leave the mountain. And the narrator is left to protect the little Chinese seamstress from all the suitors that lurk around her tiny hut. (I will not say what happens here, as it would give away the ending of the novel.)

The author, Dai Sijie, has woven an intricate tale--some autobiographical elements--around the power and majesty of storytelling. Sometimes nothing happens in the story, but that is Sijie’s way of sharing with the reader the power and beauty of language. When the plot does liven up, it is told with a steady hand. Throughout the novel, I could not help but think: Could I go from a world full of books to one without? Would I be able to keep the treasure of novels secret?

In the end, these are personal questions that only the reader may answer. In what many other reviewers have seen as “quaint” or schmaltzy, I find endearing.

A great read for lovers of books and the feelings they get after reading a remarkable story.


مشاهده لینک اصلی
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