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Once on a Moonless Night

by Dai Sijie
£7.99   paperback  Vintage (2010)

Once on a Moonless Night by Dai Sijie A young French woman in Peking in the late 1970s interprets between Chinese professors and Bertolucci for his film The Last Emperor. Afterwards, she follows a disgruntled old professor who tells her about a text believed to be taken directly from Buddha’s teachings and inscribed on silk cloth centuries ago. It was written in a now-dead language called Tumchooq (coincidentally, the name of a young Chinese man she has just met), so beautiful in its simplicity it is almost impossible to render accurately in translation. Puyi, the last emperor and last owner of this relic, allegedly tore the silk in two with his teeth while being flown to Manchuria by the Japanese, and threw the fragments from the plane. Only half of the mutilated manuscript was recovered, and the reader, like the narrator, must wait till the end of the novel to discover the rest.
 
When the complete text is finally pieced together, its message is devastatingly simple, and all the more poignant because it has taken such sacrifice and effort to decipher.

"Dai Sijie is a wonderful storyteller. There are not many storytellers writing at present in the French language, which makes his speed and intricacy and drama appear more surprising...so well done, in such a swift and uncompromising way, that the reader and author and characters feel the simple astonishment of having survived...the end of the tale is beautifully conclusive and satisfactory "
(A.S. Byatt, Guardian)

ISBN 13: 9780099521327 | ISBN 10: 0099521326