Once on a Moonless Nightby Sijie Dai
When Puyi, the last emperor, was exiled to Manchuria in the early 1930s, it is said that he carried an eight-hundred-year-old silk scroll inscribed with a lost sutra composed by the Buddha. Eventually/i>
From the author of the beloved best seller Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, a haunting tale of love and of 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 eight-hundred-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 . . .” in this story that carries us across the breadth of China’s past, the myth and the reality.
From the Hardcover edition.
"Once on a moonless night a lone man is traveling..." and, stumbling, clings to the side of an abyss. No, this doesn't actually happen in Dai's magisterial new work; it's reputedly the beginning of a lost Buddhist sutra, written on a scrap of silk belonging to China's last emperor. As Dai would have it, the exiled emperor tosses it from a plane, and the daughter of the man who claims it is pursued by French linguist Paul d'Ampere-he's fascinated because the sutra is written in the lost language of Tumchooq. Their son, named Tumchooq, keeps the story of the sutra alive and shares it with a Western student who becomes obsessed with it-and pregnant with Tumchooq's child. Dai's latest is structurally more complex than his international hit, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, whose power lies partly in its singular clarity. But it's just as rich and evocative and powerfully delivers the idea that language (even more than literature, as in Balzac) truly defines us. This should be almost as big as Balzac; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/1/08.]
- Gale Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Large Print
- Product dimensions:
- 5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)
Meet the Author
Born in China in 1954, Dai Sijie is a filmmaker and novelist. He left China in 1984 for France, where he now lives and works. He is the author of the international best seller Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (short-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in the United Kingdom and made into a film) and of Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch (winner of the Prix Femina).
From the Hardcover edition.
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