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Dai Sijie

Dai Sijie

Locating the Third Culture in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

(p.123) Chapter 5 Dai Sijie
Adapted for the Screen
Hsiu-Chuang Deppman
University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter explores a paradigmatic East-West and city-country cultural encounter through the lens of a film director adapting his own bestselling novel, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (novel 2000; film 2002). Set in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, both the novel and film describe the experience of two urban teenagers sent to the countryside to be re-educated by peasants. An inside-outsider with a unique perspective, Dai Sijie writes in French about his intimate but distant Chinese memories and constructs a dialogic picture of China that has a complex, evolving cultural and class makeup. While Dai’s novel highlights, often humorously, divisive and discursive cultural practices—official Communist discourse, antiofficial Western romanticism, and nonofficial local parody, among many others—his film imagines a native land that mitigates class conflicts and nostalgically personifies a magnanimous “China.”

Keywords:   self-adaptation, Dai Sijie, cultural encounters, China, cultural practices, Communist discourse, Western romanticism, local parody, class conflicts, class politics

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