Following his runaway best seller, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie gives us a delightful new tale of East meets West: an adventure both wry and uplifting about a love of dreams and the dream of love, and the power of reading to sustain and inspire the spirit.
After years of studying Freud in Paris, Mr. Muo returns home to introduce the blessings of psychoanalysis to twenty-first-century China. But it is his hidden purpose—to liberate his university sweetheart, now a political prisoner—that leads him to the sadistic local magistrate, Judge Di. The price of the Communist bureaucrat’s clemency? A virgin maiden. And so our middle-aged hero Muo, a Westernized romantic and sexual innocent himself, sets off on his bicycle in search of a suitable girl.
Muo’s quest will take him from a Chengdu mortuary to a rural panda habitat, from an insane asylum to the haunts of the marauding Lolo people. Along the way, he will lose a tooth, his virginity, and his once unshakable faith in psychoanalytic insight. But his quixotic idealism will not waver, even as he comes to see that the chivalrous heart may have room for more than one true love.
Dai Sijie’s exuberant, touching—and most unlikely—romance is a triumph of unbridled imagination, a celebration of the yearning spirit.