Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Sijie) - Author Bio

Author Bio 
Birth—March 2, 1954
Where—Chengu, Sichuan, China
Education—re-education camp
Awards—Prix Femina, 2003
Currently—lives in Paris, France

Born in China in 1954, Dai Sijie is a filmmaker who was himself “re-educated” between 1971 and 1974.

He left China in 1984 for France, where he has lived and worked ever since. Blazac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, his first novel, is semi-autobiographical; it was an overnight sensation when it appeared in France in 2000, becoming an immediate best-seller and winning five prizes. Rights to the novel have been sold in nineteen countries.

His second novel, Mr. Muo's Traveling Couch won the French Prix Femina award in 2003. Once on a Moonless Night was published in 2007 (English trans., 2009) (From the publisher.)

Because Dai Sijie came from 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. After his return, he was able to complete high school and university, where he studied art history.

In 1984, he left China for France on a scholarship. There, he acquired a passion for movies and became a director. Before turning to writing, he made three critically-acclaimed feature-length films: China, My Sorrow (1989) (original title: Chine, ma douleur), Le mangeur de lune and Tang, le onzième. He also wrote and directed an adaptation of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, released in 2002. He lives in Paris and writes in French.

A new novel, Par une nuit où la lune ne s'est pas levée (Once on a Moonless Night), appeared in 2007 (and in English in 2009).

L'acrobatie aérienne de Confucius was released in 2008.

His first book, the semi-autobiographical Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse chinoise (Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) (2000), was made into a 2002 movie, which he himself adapted and directed. It recounts the story of a pair of friends who become good friends with a local seamstress while spending time in a countryside village, where they have been sent for 're-education' during the Cultural Revolution. They steal a suitcase filled with classic Western novels from another man being reeducated, and decide to enrich the seamstress' life by exposing her to great literature. These novels also serve to sustain the two companions during this difficult time. The story principally deals with the cultural universality of great literature and its redeeming power. The novel has been translated into twenty-five languages, and finally into his mother tongue after the movie adaptation.

His second book, Le Complexe de Di won the Prix Femina for 2003. It recounts the travels of a Chinese man whose philosophy has been influenced by French psychoanalyst thought. The title is a play on "le complexe d'Oedipe", or "the Oedipus complex". The English translation (released in 2005) is titled Mr. Muo's Traveling Couch.

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