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14 Works 8,026 Members 270 Reviews 4 Favorited

About the Author

Dai Sijie is a Chinese-born filmmaker and novelist who has lived and worked in France since 1984
Image credit: Jacques Sassier, Gallimard Editions

Works by Dai Sijie

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Common Knowledge

Legal name
戴思杰
Other names
Дай Сы-цзе
Birthdate
1954-03-02
Gender
male
Nationality
China (birth)
France
Country (for map)
China
Birthplace
Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Places of residence
Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Paris, France
Education
Sichuan University
Occupations
screenwriter
director
novelist
Short biography
Born in China in 1954 of an educated middle-class family. The Maoist government sent him to a reeducation camp in rural Sichuan from 1971 to 1974, during the Cultural Revolution. Following his return, he completed high school and university, where he studied art history. In 1984, he left China for France on a scholarship to study Western art. There, he developed a passion for movies and became a director of three critically-acclaimed feature-length films: China, My Sorrow (1989) (original title: Chine, ma douleur), Le mangeur de lune and Tang, le onzième. None of his movies were popular. Dai turned to writing fiction. He wrote and directed an adaptation of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, released in 2002. He lives in Paris and writes in French because China has banned his books and films.

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Reviews

A simple story, charmingly told. Despite its light tone, it did much to bring home the reality of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and its effect on the lives of two young boys from educated homes, sent to live as peasants as part of Chairman Mao's re-education programme. The book reveals the magical pull of story-telling and its power to change lives. A delightful tale.
 
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Margaret09 | 234 other reviews | Apr 15, 2024 |
Back in the 1950s, the Chinese Communist party began shipping "counter-revolutionaries" (basically, anyone with money or an education) off into the Chinese countryside to be "re-educated" - aka develop an appreciation for such rural virtues as poverty, ignorance, and grueling labor. This short, episodic novel recounts the adventures of two BFFs sent off to be re-educated not because they themselves are intellectuals (neither of them come off as being particularly bright), but for the crime of being the sons of educated parents.

Exiled to a rural village on the side of a steep mountain, the boys settle into their new lives with little resistance. Eventually one of our protagonists falls for a beautiful young seamstress from another village, and their intellectual boredom is for a while dissipated by the acquisition of a suitcase full of forbidden western books, but that's about all there is in the way of plot. The rest of the novel is a series of more or less piquant episodes - "The time we tried to collect authentic folks songs from the village eccentric," "The time we went into town to see a movie," "The time the headmaster made us pull his rotten tooth," "The time we had to cross a scary crevasse" - told in prose that is almost childlike in its simplicity and repetition.

Yes, there's a bit of gentle irony at the end when the boys' brief flirtation with forbidden erudition results in disappointment and disillusionment - an outcome the Communist party would surely have approved - but that's about as deep as this gets when it comes to themes or meaning.

Enjoyed learning more about this period in history, and the invitation to reflect on storytelling's ability to ignite curiosity, empathy, and human potential. But the biggest question I have at the end of this has to do with Dai Sijie's storytelling rather than the story itself. Being entirely unfamiliar with Chinese fiction, I'm can't be sure whether this novel's simplistic storytelling, passive characters, and unsatisfying resolution are flaws, deliberate narrative choices, or merely represent authentic Chinese storytelling tropes and traditions? Perhaps this is one of those books that can't be critiqued using western literary conventions as a norm.
… (more)
½
 
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Dorritt | 234 other reviews | Jan 12, 2024 |

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Ina Rilke Translator
Helmut Schneider Interviewer
Marta Marfany Translator
Annikki Suni Translator
Rudolf Mottinger Contributor
Adriana Hunter Translator

Statistics

Works
14
Members
8,026
Popularity
#3,020
Rating
½ 3.5
Reviews
270
ISBNs
148
Languages
23
Favorited
4

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