Propaganda is only a paper tiger; paper books are the ones with teeth and oh! how they bite! Sijie’s novel shows the underbelly of China’s re-education program, its failure a fait acompli from the beginning.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress · Dai Sijie
Ina Rilke translation · Anchor Books, 2001 · 184 pages, paperback
The violin, its varnished wood smooth, reflects the embers. It fails to be a toy of the Western bourgeoisie when the sonata cut by its bow is given a new name: “Mozart is Thinking of Chairman Mao.” An enemy music made ally by a lie.
The village headman contemplates. Mozart is thinking of Chairman Mao? The violin may stay.
The Great Leap Forward was, of course, a Great Leap Backward, and in the same vein China’s re-education program was a mandate for ignorance.