The villagers and headman are enchanted. Luo has a talent for story-telling that makes him popular among the villagers. The boys meet the Little Seamstress , the beautiful daughter of a tailor from the neighboring village. Luo is particularly taken with her, although he initially insists that she is not civilized enough for him. As part of their re-education, the narrator and Luo are required to do backbreaking work in the local coal mine. From the work, Luo contracts malaria.
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The villagers and headman are enchanted. Luo has a talent for story-telling that makes him popular among the villagers. The boys meet the Little Seamstress , the beautiful daughter of a tailor from the neighboring village. Luo is particularly taken with her, although he initially insists that she is not civilized enough for him.
As part of their re-education, the narrator and Luo are required to do backbreaking work in the local coal mine. From the work, Luo contracts malaria. Luo is determined to go. The Seamstress makes him an herbal poultice and hires some sorceresses to scare away the evil spirits causing the disease.
That night, the narrator sees her furtively kiss Luo. In his hut, they notice a heavy locked suitcase, and speculate that it contains banned books, since his parents are both writers. Four-Eyes, who is obsessed with escaping the mountain and returning home, refuses to acknowledge that the suitcase exists.
However, after he loses his glasses, Four-Eyes needs help with his chores. After reading the novel, Luo retells the story to the Seamstress, and they have sex for the first time. The narrator feels jealous of their blooming relationship, and copies some passages from the novel into the inside of his jacket to feel better.
Unfortunately, Four-Eyes refuses to lend the narrator and Luo any more books. However, he has been given an opportunity to work for a literary journal in the city if he can compile some mountain folk songs that the journal can publish. He confesses that he has had trouble finding songs, even after he visited an elderly miller famed for his singing. When he tells the narrator and Luo how he accidentally offended the miller, they promise to collect songs from him in exchange for more books.
Dressed as revolutionary officials from Beijing, they visit the miller and collect songs. However, when they return, Four-Eyes is angry that the songs are too lewd to print.
He decides to adapt them to revolutionary purposes, which offends the narrator, who then attacks Four-Eyes. The narrator, Luo, and the Seamstress travel to Yong Jing to see another film. The narrator tricks her into admitting that Four-Eyes has illegal books. Shortly after the theft, the village headman spends a month in Yong Jing for a Party conference, during which time the narrator and Luo skip work to devote all their time to reading.
Luo, meanwhile, spends most of his time reading Balzac to the Seamstress. When he returns from Yong Jing, the village headman complains of a toothache, which has been exacerbated by some bad dental work.
He tries to convince Luo to fill the tooth, reasoning that he must have learned the trade from his dentist father. However, Luo avoids the assignment by noting that they do not have the necessary drill.
During his stay, the narrator tells him the story of The Count of Monte Cristo. The tailor is delighted by the story. However, the village headman overhears, and threatens to take the narrator to the Public Security Office for questioning if Luo does not fill his tooth. The narrator pumps the treadle slowly to cause the headman more pain.
The next three chapters are brief interludes told by the miller, Luo, and the Little Seamstress. Not long after that, Luo is summoned home for a month because his mother is ill. While Luo is gone, the narrator falls in love with the Seamstress, and is beaten one day by her suitors. Soon afterwards, the Seamstress reveals to the narrator that she is pregnant. This is a bad situation because she is not allowed to marry Luo until they are both 25, and abortion is also illegal.
The narrator travels to Yong Jing to see if he can find someone to perform an illegal abortion for the Seamstress. He speaks to a disgraced police officer and Christian preacher, neither of whom are able to help. In the case of the preacher , Luo walks in while the man is on his deathbed. The narrator eventually approaches the gynaecologist directly. The gynaecologist initially refuses to help, but agrees when the narrator offers him a Balzac novel in exchange for the service.
The next week, the Seamstress comes to Yong Jing. The abortion goes smoothly, and the narrator gives the gynaecologist his copy of Jean-Christophe in addition to the Balzac novel. Luo returns, and continues his attempts to civilize the Seamstress. She gradually becomes better at affecting a city accent, and she changes her hair and clothes to match the urban styles. One day, she disappears. The tailor sadly explains that she has left for the city.
Luo and the narrator chase after her, and find her in the graveyard, paying respects to her ancestors. She departs. That night, Luo burns all of the books out of grief.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Mar 07, Emilie rated it liked it On its surface, this book has all the ingredients for a really interesting read: a fascinating historical period, potentially interesting characters, and the frequently quite compelling topic of the use or function of literature within literature. Unfortunately, I felt like Sijie failed to live up to the greatness of his own project. The Cultural Revolution is supposedly the force that propels this story forward. It is, after all, the reason for which the main character and his best friend Luo On its surface, this book has all the ingredients for a really interesting read: a fascinating historical period, potentially interesting characters, and the frequently quite compelling topic of the use or function of literature within literature. It is, after all, the reason for which the main character and his best friend Luo are sent to the countryside for their re-education; however, I get the feeling that none of this could actually have happened during the Cultural Revolution, which presents an interesting dilemma and calls the entire book into question. The Revolution, the Communist Party and their respective trappings are sometimes present, but often conspicuously absent from the story, giving the characters a convenient freedom when it is needed and the story a sort of lamely suspenseful tone when things seem to be lagging a bit.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Summary
Plot summary[ edit ] The novel, written by Dai Sijie, is about two teenage boys during the Chinese Cultural Revolution , Luo, described as having "a genius for storytelling",  and the unnamed narrator, "a fine musician". Residents of the small farming village are delighted by the stories the two teenagers retell from classic literature and movies that they have seen. They are even excused from work for a few days to see films at a nearby town and later retell the story to the townspeople, through a process known as "oral cinema". Luo and the narrator meet Four-Eyes, the son of a poet, who is also being re-educated.