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Some decisions made by Dai Sijie in the writing of this book was rather strange, imo. While every part that DID deal with the Cultural Revolution was well-penned and I want more of it, and the little nuances of the ka, especially early on, were endearing, this was in the end a disappointment.
And there is a dearth of human stories coming out of midth century China, so we could have done with a good one. I loved the premise. Two teenaged boys are sent to the mountains during the Cultural Revolution to be “re-educated,” meaning “turned into peasants,” because their parents are well-educated and considered balzacc elite.
Balzac y la joven costurera china by Dai Sijie (2 star ratings)
Want to Read saving…. You can argue now, that he is trying to improve the seamstress’ life by helping her get a better education. It fits in well with the revelation, from “The History of Surrealism”, that many surrealists such as Dali transitioned into full-fledged fascists. He grew up working in his fathers tailor shop. Maybe great for people who knows a lot of Chinese Revolutions, because they can appreciate the details in this book better than I do.
This is kind of a mild Shakespeare tragedy, Chinese-style. He wants a better version of her, one that he creates.
The re-education consists of hard manual work: They are still growing up while living there and discover all sorts of new feelings: There, h Dai Sijie was born in China in Having nothing else to do, I finished this book while waiting for a bus to leave some famous beach resort.
And here I’ve finally gotten to it because it’s short and I’m disappointed.
To me it was the ultimate book: First off, the characters are wooden, and hard to identify with. It is not exactly a tragedy, since the characters are no worse off at the end than at the beginning, but there is no way for the reader to predict, at all, what will finally become of them. The historical nugget of “re-education” during the Cultural Revolution of China intrigues, but unfortunately the characters are flat and virtually emotionless.
The story is told from the perspective of one of the boys, Ma, and is about his relationship with his friend Luo and their preoccupation with a young seamstress in a nearby village. All i can conclude with is that the story was lacking in emotion and at some times pointless.
Secondly, the politics feel distant and abstract in the novel. After his return, he was able to complete high school and university, where he studied art history.
The stuff about villagers’ clothes suddenly being made in the 19th century French style was unbelievable I can’t remember anything so detailed in the “Count of Monte Cristo”. This was in fact just one-third of the book. I wasn’t sorry about it, just surprised, like “oh, really, that’s it? The story principally deals with the cultural universality of great literature and its redeeming power. See all 9 questions about Balzac y la joven costurera china…. Luo decides that the seamstress is too uncultured and uneducated for him and he is determined to educate her and make her more sophisticated so that they can be together.
But i had to skim the parts about The Count of Monte Cristo because i’m planning on reading it later on and it almost ruined it for me. Trivia About Balzac and the Li Nalzacpages. He doesn’t care about her education, he doesn’t want to turn her into a better, brighter version of herself.
Which I guess makes me realize that Sijie seemed so concerned with showing off his erudition that he got too lazy to flesh out the characters or plot. They hide their treasure, the forbidden books, together, they steal them together or work in the fields together. Everyone came to consult the clock, as though our house on stilts were a temple. It is superficial, reactionary, unintentionally surreal, and probably owes both its totemic content and popularity to Dai Sijie’s previous life as a film maker.
The villagers spoke pretty poetic language, and not exactly the kind that common, uneducated people would use because there are many kinds of poetry in the world. Near the end there was a sudden shift balac perspectives — most of the tale had narrated by Ma, but suddenly there was a section by Lou, the seamstress, and a random village person, for no discernable reason. View all 4 comments. Nevertheless, I would be lying, if I didn’t say I was hoping for the narrator to “get the girl” in the end.
In the end, the plan works but she ends up becoming too cultured for him and longs for the life of the city. They only gain costurwra kind of false value as “found objects” in the surrealist style, mundane objects which are given significance and quickly forgotten because they were temporarily confusing. He just loves her. I should have loved this.
Balzac y la joven costurera china
I really wish the author had found a way to tie the story together and written an ending that fit the majority of the book.
The narrator on the other hand, keeping his distance out of respect for his best friend’s relationship with the seamstress, loves her for who she is. This novel has all the ingredients to be a cgina love story, but fails to deliver when it matters most.
Even near the end, when it seems she might actually be inhabiting an identity separate from the two boys who want her, it is evidence only through the changing of her appearance, which makes her only more sexually appealing.
There, he acquired a passion for movies and became a director. The ending which does seems believable, is filled with woes that are hard to look past in the grand scheme of the book. It retold an old tale without bringing much that was new to the story. There’s not much to really say, except that it’s about these two teen friends who have to be “reeducated” but the reeducation doesn’t seem serious as they can travel around to other villages, steal forbidden books and read, as well as go to movies to become the village storytellers.
Perhaps I would have enjoyed the plot to rely more heavily on the whereabouts and historical context! Sometimes a story has such an unsatisfying ending that I would rather have not read it at all.