Thursday, 28 November 2013

Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie

Having enchanted readers on two continents with Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie now produces a rapturous and uproarious collision of East and West, a novel about the dream of love and the love of dreams. Fresh from 11 years in Paris studying Freud, bookish Mr. Muo returns to China to spread the gospel of psychoanalysis. His secret purpose is to free his college sweetheart from prison. To do so he has to get on the good side of the bloodthirsty Judge Di, and to accomplish that he must provide the judge with a virgin maiden.

This may prove difficult in a China that has embraced western sexual mores along with capitalism–especially since Muo, while indisputably a romantic, is no ladies’ man. Tender, laugh-out-loud funny, and unexpectedly wise, Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch introduces a hero as endearingly inept as Inspector Clouseau and as valiant as Don Quixote.

 
 
 

 
 About the Author
 
Born in China in 1954, Dai Sijie is an award-winning author and filmmaker. Caught up in China’s Cultural Revolution, he was "re-educated" between 1971 and 1974, and spent time working in a camp in a rural part of Sichuan province. After his re-education, he completed high school and university in China before departing for France in 1984 on a scholarship. He directed his first film in 1989. His first novel, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress was published in France in 2000. The translation became a national bestseller in America.

Sijie currently lives and works in Paris, France. 

 
 
 

Reviews
The New York Times
The Guardian

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Muo’s Traveling Couch proved to be a great book to stimulate discussion; again, our members were deeply divided in their opinions about the book.
    On the positive side the book was “well-written, effective and vividly expressed”. Mr. Muo and the many other characters were depicted well, for example, the policewoman had “a face like a colander”. While the characters were numerous, they were so deftly portrayed that no confusion resulted.
    The translator did impressive work in keeping the lyricism of the text. In fact, the book did not read like a translation at all; there were no flat sections or jarring word choices. The reader may well not have known that the text was translated from French or that the author’s first language is Mandarin.
    On the negative, some readers knew when the text was intended to be funny, but did not find it so. Was this a cultural difference? Was it the picaresque nature of the tale? Mr. Muo has been likened to Don Quixote; however, his quest was not entirely noble in that he sought a virgin in order to give her to wicked Judge Li. He did not show much concern for the women he chose – he was even willing to put forward his good friend, the embalmer.
    This book was very polarizing - we either loved or hated it. Yet, it was intriguing and certainly worth a second read.

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