Category Archives: translation

Thanks for reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress with Me

Thanks for joining me in May for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress! I thought this was a charming book, a fable-like story that was still effective in revealing what life was like during China’s Cultural Revolution.

What will you most remember about this book?

Is this a book you’d recommend to a friend?

Watch this space for our June book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith…


It all depends on your point of view

What was the purpose of switching POV in the pool scene, with the miller, Luo and the seamstress all retelling their part of the story? Is it a turning point? If so, how?

Okay, if you haven’t finished reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, be forewarned that there are some spoilers here…

Why does Luo burn the books?

How have Luo and the narrator changed?

Do you need to know what happens to the narrator and Luo after the book closes? Based on what you’ve read, what’s your guess? What does point of view does the conclusion support?

What do you think happens to the Little Chinese Seamstress after she leaves the village?

Lost in translation?

Reading books that were originally written in other languages always leaves me wondering what I’m missing. This isn’t meant in any way to knock the abilities of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress’ translator Ina Rilke, or any other translator for that matter. I just wonder how much of the translation is like a game of telephone. I know the text is very close in meaning but it’s still not the same words with the same nuances chosen by the original author.

How much do you wonder what you might be missing by not reading a story in the language of the original telling? Do you think it even matters?

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress was also adapted by the author for a 2002 film. If you’ve seen it, what is your opinion of it? How true to the book is it? What scenes from the book would you really like to see on the big screen?

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

I hope by now you’ve had a chance to read Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, or at least get most of the way through the book. What are your impressions so far?

How does Sijie balance the seriousness of China’s Cultural Revolution while maintaining a lighter hand in the narrative?

How come the narrator talks of the characters and not the books themselves when Luo sets them aflame?

What parallels are there between the re-education of the narrator and Luo and Luo’s efforts to educate the Little Chinese Seamstress? Are there any parallels in the results?

Read with me in May: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Join me during the month of May for Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. I can tell you I started this book on my 15-minute break today and raced through the first 20 pages — I’m hooked.

The teenaged narrator and his best friend Luo,  sons of doctors, have been sent from their city homes to a rural mountain-top village for “re-education” during China’s Cultural Revolution, where they become utterly enchanted by a well-known tailor’s daughter…

Click here to read an excerpt from the first chapter or reserve your copy for pick-up today.