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East Asian
Once on a Moonless Night
 
 
Author
Dai Sijie.
Publisher Knopf  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 8.3 x 5.25 x 1 inches
ISBN 9780307271587
Pages/Publication Date 277/2009
Daedalus Item Code 13688
This item is not available.
Description
The author of the internationally acclaimed Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress and the Prix Femina winner Mr. Muo's Traveling Couch, Dai Sijie here spins a remarkable, many-layered tale about the beguiling power of a lost language. When Puyi, the last emperor, was exiled to Manchuria in the early 1930s, it is said that he carried an 800-year-old silk scroll inscribed with a lost sutra composed by the Buddha. Eventually the scroll would be sold illicitly to an eccentric French linguist named Paul d'Ampere, in a transaction that would land him in prison, where he would devote his life to studying the ineffably beautiful ancient language of the forgotten text. Our unnamed narrator, a Western student in China in the 1970s, hears this story from the greengrocer Tumchooq—his name the same as that of the language in which the scroll is written—who has recently returned from three years of reeducation. She will come again and again to Tumchooq's shop near the gates of the Forbidden City, drawn by the young man and his stories of an estranged father. But when d'Ampere is killed in prison, Tumchooq disappears, abandoning the narrator, now pregnant with his child. And it is she, going in search of her lost love, who will at last find the missing scroll and discover the truth of the Buddha's lesson that begins "Once on a moonless night...."

"Once on a Moonless Night takes the reader deeper, into stories within stories and myths within myths about China's real and imaginary past.... Startling undercurrents sway this mysterious narrative: Dai Sijie's inventiveness enfolds it in some extreme stories [that] show how language, which we (and many modern Chinese) think of as free, may be treacherous and incomplete.... This shy, complex novel, which speaks its concerns so quietly, remains a forceful lament, infused with incident and dramatic storytelling."—Daily Telegraph (London)

 
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