Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

  • by Dai Sijie
  • Narrated by B.D. Wong
  • 4 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

At the height of Mao's infamous Cultural Revolution, two boys are among hundreds of thousands exiled to the countryside for "re-education." The narrator and his best friend, Luo, guilty of being the sons of doctors, find themselves in a remote village where, among the peasants of the Phoenix mountains, they are made to cart buckets of excrement up and down the precipitous winding paths. Their meager distractions include a violin - and, before long, the beautiful daughter of the local tailor.But it is when the two discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation that their re-education takes its most surprising turn. While ingeniously concealing their forbidden treasure, the boys find transit to worlds they had thought lost forever. And after listening to their dangerously seductive retellings of Balzac, even the Little Seamstress will be forever transformed.From within the hopelessness and terror of one of the darkest passages in human history, Dai Sijie has fashioned a beguiling and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit, the wonder of romantic awakening, and the magical power of storytelling.


What the Critics Say

Book Sense Book of the Year Award Finalist, Paperback, 2003
"An unexpected miracle - a delicate, and often hilarious, tale." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"A funny, touching, sly and altogether delightful novel...about the power of art to enlarge our imaginations." (Washington Post Book World)
"Poetic and affecting...riveting." (New York Times Book Review)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Culture Shock

What a wonderfully enlightening (and slightly shocking) introduction to Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution in China during the 1970's. I had never studied nor read books about this historical period so this story turned out to be both entertaining and educational for me. The narrator was effective and the story flowed seamlessly to a somewhat quick conclusion. I listened to the book on a road trip and I was rather disappointed to see the book end when I still had many questions left unanswered. I recommend this story to the listener seeking cultural diversity and historical perspective.
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- Kelli


An excellent tale of the Cultural Revolution and one boy's awakening to manhood. Stories that I've heard from my parents and the older generation found their echo in this story. A time period like the Cultural Revolution was so charged of emotional energy that I think it took this long for most chinese people to begin address what has happened since then.

A note about the ending, it is a chinese story after all. Every ending begets another beginning.
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- Yicheng

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-01-2002
  • Publisher: Random House Audio