Asian studies in Lithuania

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Original language: (Lietuvių) Prancūzų k.
Translated from: (Lietuvių) Prancūzų k.
Authors: (Lietuvių) Dai Sijie
Translated by: (Lietuvių) Agnė Ranonytė
Full translated source bibliographical description:

Versta iš Dai Sijie, Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse chinoise, leid. Paris: Gallimard, 2000

Published in: (Lietuvių) Paris, Gallimard
Published on: (Lietuvių) 2000
Publisher: (Lietuvių) Baltos lankos

Dai Sijie (born 1954) is a famous chinese-french author and director. During the Cultural Revolution he was sent to a reeducation camp. After his return, he finished his studies and got a degree in art history. After some time, he exchanged China to France. Ever since, he lived and created art in France, where he discovered his passion for filmmaking and writing in the first place. He wrote his first novel „Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress“ he wrote in France, but its action took place in rural place in China, called Sichuan, where he, as a young man was sent to reeducate himself. Without these similarities between his life and novel‘s plot, there‘s a fact, that we was a tailor, that leads to believe that he was very influenced by his own life writing his first piece.

Novel “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress“ is a story full of youthful enthusiasm. Here comes a story about two intelectual fellows, that are sent to Sichuan to reeducate themselves and to get as many communist spirit as possible. In the village friends will have lots of experiences, starting with a routine of tiring work, finishing with a friendship later growing into love for a local girl – chinese Seamstress.

After a day of hard manual work, the boys want to descover something, that would help them get through a rough period of their lives. Then suddenly they learn a secret of another same-destined boy – he is hidding a luggage full of forbbiden western books. Their lives change completely, after descovering this treasure. They rethink their view of life and descover all new kind of art. Boys want to be like the main characters of the books, want to relive their lifes and adventures, after reading all the books. They also share this new experience with a little Seamstress by retelling her the plot. These creations change the chinese girl even more. She is becoming a modern woman that no longer wants to live her boring life out of an ignorant countrygirl.

Dai Sijie wants to infect people with reading. All the main characters of the book ( the narrator, Luo and the Seamstress) are addicted to reading. As soon as they finish one book, they instantly grab another one. This is one of the reasons why you can easily detect the change of their personalities, the perception to art and once admired communist art, becomes boring to them.

The style of the novel is solid and consistent. There are no „jumpping“ thoughts, the plot is simple and the very book is easily read. There is a good illustration of the environment: you can almost feel that you live in that lonely scene together with the heroes of the book. Chinese traditions are also quite a big part of the novel, who helps empathize to a different kind of life, an eastern kind of life. One more interesting fact about this book is that the narrator never gives up his name. The whole purpose of it might be to create more mysterious surrounding, that would help readers interprate more easily. This book is also special for its harmonious connection between eastern and western civilizations. You can tell it by the name only \”Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress“.

Initiators of the project: Japan foundation VDU