Monday, May 21, 2012

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

“I was carried away, swept along by the mighty stream of words pouring from the hundreds of pages. To me it was the ultimate book: once you had read it, neither your own life nor the world you lived in would ever look the same.” Ma in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress


The older I get, the more rebellious I become. Even when I try to plan my own reading, I sabotage myself. I have countless books lined up at home and on my Kindle that I am supposed to be reading. I am in the middle of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.  And yet, last Friday, I felt a library trip was in order. So, out of pure rebellion (and because non-fiction starves my poet soul), this past week-end, instead of finishing The Swerve or reading any of the other 500 books piled up at my house, I read Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie.

At least I chose a book that would feed the poet soul. I won’t say I loved the book or even that I found the translation fantastic. I wish my French were such that I could read the original. But, a small volume about the importance of literature, romance, art, and beauty in the midst of the soul-starving Chinese communist regime was just what I needed in my reading life right now.

One concept I found especially interesting was the narrator’s compulsion to collect the words of Balzac, so much so that he wrote them on the inside of his sheep-skin jacket when he couldn’t find any paper. I have often wondered if the compulsion to collect words and passages of beauty was just an oddity of mine and my own way of “writing” when I feel so inept and lacking with my own words. Something about being surrounded by beauty, whether reading it or just copying it, provides comfort.

And, of course, instead of going back to my “assigned” reading, I have now gone to the library and checked out two works by Balzac.  "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." (John Lennon)    

4 comments:

Nose_in_a_book said...

It's a few years back now but I seem to remember really liking this book. Possibly more than the two Balzac books I've read!

Melissa said...

I remember really liking this one as well. Its a great little story to read while in transit or while waiting for somebody.

Jennifer O. said...

Oh geez, this post could have been written by me. I feel compelled to make lists and lists because I'm overwhelmed by the madness, and then I go off and do something entirely different!

Oddly enough, I was thinking about this title just yesterday. I listened to the audio version of this book last year and told myself it was time to read some Balzac. But then, of course, I went out and read some Maupassant!-+

Amy said...

Ha! I guess all that really matters is that we are reading. I started Pere Goroit last night and so far am highlighting almost as much as I'm reading.

Waiting for the Present

photo by Amy Brandon   I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that ...