Friday, July 29, 2011
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
I wasn't as taken with Dai Sijie's Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress as I thought I would be. It was a little heavy on the grim reality of life in 1970s China and not so much on the discovery of classic literature as promised in the summary. My disappointment might just be me being selfish, though, wanting only the good parts. What this book did do, however, was remind me just how fortunate I am to live with free access to a variety of literature at all. Perhaps today's powers-that-be should read this book before deciding to close libraries. I'm just saying.
Then I was seized with an idea: I would copy out my favorite passages from Ursule Mirouet, word for word. It was the first time in my life that I had felt any desire to copy sentences from a book. I ransacked the room for paper, but all I could find was a few sheets of notepaper intended for letters to our parents. pg58
We crept up to the staircase. It was tied with a thick rope of plaited straw, knotted crosswise. We removed the rope and raised the lid in silence. Inside, piles of books shone in the light of our torch: a company of great Western writers welcomed us with open arms. On top was our old friend Balzac, with five or six novels, then came Victor Hugo, Stendahl, Dumas, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Romain Roland, Rosseau, Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, and some English writers, too: Dickens, Kipling, Emily Bronte . . . pg99
During the whole month of September following our successful burglary we were seduced, overwhelmed, spellbound by the mystery of the outside world, especially the world of women, love and sex as revealed to us by these Western writers day after day, page after page, book after book. pg109
The flirtation turned into a grand passion. Even the excessively emphatic style occasionally indulged in by the author did not detract form the beauty of this astonishing work of art. 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. pg111