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.
The novel's unnamed narrator, a French translator working on Bernardo Bertolucci's THE LAST EMPEROR in 1970s China, meets a half-French half-Chinese vegetable seller, and finds herself swept into a labyrinthine quest to learn a dead language and locate the long-lost teeth-shredded scroll thrown in rage out of an airplane window by China's Emperor Pyui, as he is flown by his Japanese captors to be puppet emperor of Manchuria. ONCE ON A MOONLESS NIGHT is a lush and multi-layered novel that travels effortless between time periods, blends elements of myth and history, and conjures scenes infused with the quality of legend: a French scholar trapped in a Chinese labor camp reveals his secret knowledge to his son; two young boys find themselves lost in the torture chambers of the forbidden city; and a love affair arises out of the poetic qualities of vegetables. Dai Sijie (BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS) has written a novel of great mystery, resonance, and beauty.
- Fiction + Literature Genres, Fiction + Literature Themes
- Love + Relationships + Sex, Types of Characters, Travel + Voyages, Religion + Beliefs, Conflicts + Dualities, Literary
- August 10, 2010
- August 10, 2010
- Dai Sijie