Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Dai Sijie Anchor 2001 PB 184pp
“The village headman, a man of about fifty, sat cross-legged in the centre of the room, close to the coals burning in a hearth that was hollowed out of the floor: he was inspecting my violin.”
I went home from work early again last Friday with a bad headache – but not so bad that I didn’t stop off at my tiny local op-shop. It has only been open a couple of months and have only recently begun stocking books. Although it was a mistake to try to deal with the noise of the little shopping centre it is located in, I did pick up this little gem for 20c – the cover is so beautiful, I would love a print of it on my wall.
I had just enough time for a bath before I would had to pick up the kids and at a slim 184pages, I was able to read all this in my window of opportunity as well.
2 boys, sons of intellectuals are sent to the country side of China to be ‘re-educated’ during the Cultural Revolution. There they discover – no secret from the book’s title - a hidden cache of forbidden Western classics and the beautiful seamstress. It is told in a series of vignettes and is so fine and light that I imagine the recently made movie must involve a lot of beautiful scenery and music and close ups of the lovely Xun Zhou.
It is very sweet but it just ends without any real resolution. I presume this is a comment on life and its pesky way of not providing closure, but I did feel I came down to earth with a bit of bump.
Also a word of warning from this little experience – if you are sick and sooky do not try - through any kind of mistaken thriftiness - to put half of a bath bomb into your bath. Not only will a third of it end up in fragments all over the room, your hair and your toothbrush, but you will only have to get back out of the bath again to put the other half in, when you finally realise that it smells so lovely and you are sick and sooky and so what are these things for if not to make you happy on days like that.