From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Acclaimed novelist Sijie has written another novel that has already caused a stir in France. Narrated by an unnamed Western student in China in the 1970s, the story begins centuries before, with the Emperor Huizong, a calligrapher and great art collector, who acquired a silk scroll with a Buddhist sutra written upon it in an ancient lost language. The last emperor of Japan inherits the scroll and then in 1952, Paul d'Ampère, a French linguist, becomes obsessed with translating the scroll and goes to prison for 25 years for illegally acquiring it. When the narrator falls in love with a greengrocer, Tumchooq, who tells her the story, she begins to witness the life-altering consequences of the scroll—consequences that will change her own life and send her on a journey to seek truth and understanding. Sijie's breathtaking story shows the beauty and horrors that make up China's history while the poetry of Sijie's words is revealed in Hunter's magnificent translation. It's fitting that a story of a love affair with language should be written so beautifully. (Aug.)
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“[A] multilayered masterpiece.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Beautiful. . . . Spectacularly scenic. . . . Impressive. . . . The euphonious sounds of the prose, together with the sensory impressions they unleash, reinforce the book’s message that language can offer mesmerizing pleasures.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Enchant[ing]. . . . Elegantly translated. . . . An intricate and affecting legend of love, loss, and intellectual obsession.” —The Boston Globe
“An exquisitely structured, dreamlike tale of strange and noble quests, not to mention love, that roams across centuries and touches down in China, Burma, Mali and Paris.” —Kansas City Star, Best 100 Books of the Year
“Haunting and complex. . . . Told with a spare elegance of prose. . . . Abounds in inventive mythology darkly threaded by a tragic love story.” —The Washington Times
“A freewheeling meditation on language as the divine current that buoys human experience. . . . As a piece of art, encrusted with meaning and mystery, it is rich and strange.” —The Los Angeles Times
“Much of this wonderfully written book is set against the colorful backdrop of Old Peking and the crisply written narrative is as exciting and powerful as a typhoon.” —Tuscon Citizen
“At its heart the novel crafts an ode to the power of language.” —National Geographic Traveler
“[This] complex and well written historical novel . . . grips the audience thoroughly with its poetic look back in time.” —Mainstream Fiction
“Mesmerizing.” —Audrey Magazine
“Elegant and thoughtful. . . . Worthwhile and captivating with a beautiful ending sure to resonate with its audience....