Part 2 of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

(1) At the bottom of page 46, there is a description of Four-Eyes working in a rice paddy with a water buffalo. Here is a picture of the kind of work he was doing:

(2) At the bottom of page 50, the two young men wonder about the books that Four-Eyes is hiding. Here are advertisements at the online bookstore for some of the Chinese books that they think Four-Eyes might have. They are famous works of Chinese literature that people were not allowed to own or read during the Cultural Revolution:

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms

The Dream of the Red Chamber

Jin Ping Mei: Chinese Version and English Translation

Another work that is mentioned, The Words of the Five Ancients, the teacher can’t find out very much about. Maybe someone in this class knows what the author is talking about here.

They also think Four-Eyes might be hiding books about famous traditional Chinese artists:

Shu Da


Dong Qichang

(3) On pages 50-51: Albania is European country, north of Greece. At the time this novel takes place, it was Mao’s only Communist ally in Europe.

The narrator mentions that the only European literature available in China at that time was the work of Albanian leader Enver Hoxha.

(4) On page 51, Luo tells about his aunt having owned a Chinese translation of a book called Don Quixote. This Spanish novel, written by Cervantes in the early 1600’s, is one of the very great works of European literature. Here is a short version of the famous story, made into a cartoon for children.

Here is complete movie based on the story:

(5) On page 53, the narrator says that Four-Eyes without his glasses had “the dull, dazed look of a Pekingese dog.” Pekingese are small Chinese lap-dogs. Here is a picture:

(6) The book that Four-Eyes gives his friends is Ursule Mirouet. It actually one of Balzac’s less famous works.  The heroine is an innocent young woman who inherits a lot of money from a relative, and the plots of others to get the money instead. You can read more about it here:

The story does not, in fact have any obvious connection with the lives of the characters in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress; Dai Sijie perhaps means to say that almost any novel would have had a powerful impact on the imaginations of these young people, given how little mental excitement their surroundings provided.

(7) On page 58, the narrator copies out a favorite passage from the novel, in which the heroine Ursule somnamblates. This means to see true events in dreams.

(8) At the top of page 60, Luo tells the narrator that he and the Little Seamstress have made love standing against a gingko tree. This is a tree that lives to great age, and has medicinal uses.

(9) Here is a Mao badge like the one Luo is wearing near the bottom of page 66.

(10) Here is an old-fashioned mill wheel like the one at the mill that the young men visit in order to collect traditional songs from the miller.

(10) In the middle of page 70, the miller brings a calabash filled with liquor.

(11) At the top of page 79, Four-Eyes re-writes the miller’s vulgar little song so that words sound like a good Communist song. He describes the lice as “bourgeois” (see the notes for Part 1) who will be described by the proletariat, which is a word that Communists use for the working people who should control the government.

(12) On page 99, there is a list of the famous Western authors whose books are found in the suitcase. They include–

Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables:

Dostoyevsky, author of Crime and Punishment:

Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights:

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s