Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Parts I & II discussion for RBC (SPOILERS)

Here are my thoughts on the first half of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. I’m reading this for a book club discussion, hosted at Rory’s Book Club (RBC) (click here to see the discussion threads).

I’ve found this book to be very interesting so far. I haven’t really spent a lot of time in communist China in books before, so it is very interesting to read about that time. My book’s blurb about the author says that he was re-educated between 1971-1974. And I think that makes me more intrigued by the story–the fact that it’s semi-autobiographical. Or at least that mountain villages and people are somewhat accurate in representation, since he experienced them first-hand.

I, of course, enjoy the fact that much of the story centers on Luo and the narrator (I don’t recall his name being mentioned yet) attaining forbidden books. One has to wonder, would they want to read them if they were allowed to? Or, given the chance, would they read Eastern classics over Western ones? Personally, I’ve never read anything by any of these authors except Dumas. (Authors mentioned were Balzac, Hugo, Stendhal, Dumas, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Romain Rolland, Rousseau, Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Kipling and E Bronte.)

I have to say that I’m a little surprised that the narrator and Luo didn’t fight over the Little Seamstress. And Luo is the more confident one, as far as the storytelling goes. I can’t help but wonder, if the Little Seamstress is so beautiful, how the narrator has no feelings of wanting her at all. It’s a little strange that we don’t really know anything about Luo’s and the Little Seamstress’s relationship–but all of the sudden, the narrator mentions that they had sex (and even a little detail, at that!). It makes me wonder whether or not that relationship really means anything. But, then again, the narrator just might not relate everything Luo says. The narrator seems to feel inferior to Luo, but is totally okay with it. And I find that a little strange…

Oh, and I’m wondering if there’s any significance to that rooster clock. If the villagers went through all the belongings that the two boy brought with them and saw anything of value, they could’ve taken it and made it “community property”, couldn’t they? (If they were true communists and shared everything, that is.) Or maybe they were just supposed to take away anything “revolutionary”. Either way, it seems like the headman, who so admired the clock, could easily just take it away from the boys. What role will the clock take later, I wonder…

On a previous note, I wonder why the narrator has no name. Even when asked his name by Four-Eyes’ mother, he replied with Luo’s name. What’s the significance to this?!


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