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Once on a Moonless Nightby Sijie Dai
Synopses & Reviews
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 dAmpere, 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 Tumchooqhis name the same as that of the language in which the scroll is writtenwho has recently returned from three years of reeducation. She will come again and again to Tumchooqs shop near the gates of the Forbidden City, drawn by the young man and his stories of an estranged father. But when dAmpere 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 Buddhas lesson that begins “Once on a moonless night . . .” in this story that carries us across the breadth of Chinas past, the myth and the reality.
From the Hardcover edition.
From the author of the beloved bestseller "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" comes a haunting tale of love--and the beguiling power of a lost language--in this story that carries readers across the breadth of China's past.
A precious scroll inscribed with a lost Buddhist sutra—once owned by Pu Yi, the last emperor of China—is illicitly sold to an eccentric French linguist, Paul d’Ampere, who is imprisoned as a result. In jail, he devotes himself to studying its ancient text.
A young Western scholar in China hears this account from the grocer Toomchooq, whose name mysteriously connects him to the document. She falls in love with both teller and tale, but when d’Ampere is killed in prison, Toomchooq disappears, and she, pregnant with his child, embarks on a search for her lost love and the scroll that begins, “Once on a moonless night . . .”
About the Author
Born in China in 1954, Dai 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).Sijie
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