Upgrade to the Flash 9 viewer for enhanced content, including the ability to browse & search through your favorite titles.
Click here to learn more!
A precious scroll inscribed with a lost Buddhist sutra—once owned by Pu Yi, the last emperor of China—is illicitly sold to an eccentric French linguist, Paul d’Ampere, who is imprisoned as a result. In jail, he devotes himself to studying its ancient text.
A young Western scholar in China hears this account from the grocer Toomchooq, whose name mysteriously connects him to the document. She falls in love with both teller and tale, but when d’Ampere is killed in prison, Toomchooq disappears, and she, pregnant with his child, embarks on a search for her lost love and the scroll that begins, “Once on a moonless night . . .”
“[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
“Elegant and thoughtful. . . . Worthwhile and captivating with a beautiful ending sure to resonate with its audience. . . . A celebration of the joy of a good story. [Dai] Sijie delights in storytelling.” —Bookreporter.com
“Filled with twists and turn of fate, back stories, symbolism and intersections of politics and religion worthy of a Dan Brown novel. . . . Dai adds layer upon layer of meaning. . . . [Once Upon a Moonless Night] pulls the reader along, as does the language, which is pungent and immediate. And as for the scroll itself: this is one mystery, one message, that really makes it worth reading until the last lines of a novel to discover.” —UPI Asia
“Once on a Moonless Night is full of tales within tales and worlds within worlds, ranging from ancient Chinese empires through communist China to modern Beijing.” —A. S. Byatt, The Guardian [UK]
“[Dai] Sijie's ambitious work spans a thousand years of Chinese history. . . . [with] a rich repository of tales, traditions and sensibilities [the book's] theme of indeterminacy of meaning is braided into the clash between East and West. . . . [Dai] Sijie has a gift for the spectacular.” —Times Literary Supplement [UK]
“Once on a Moonless Night evokes the past with all the eerie clarity of a dream, its outlines blurred, but every tiny, telling detail extraordinarily alive. Anyone in search of a brief history of China would do well to begin right here.” —Financial Times [UK]
“[Dai] Sijie’s breathtaking story shows the beauty and horrors that make up China’s history while the poetry of [Dai] 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.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[B]ewitching. . . . As impressionistically historical as it is imaginative, Dai’s dreamlike tale of epic quests and love put to the test is exquisitely structured. . . . Dai’s dazzling and magical saga intimates that language is transcendent; books are precious; translation is a noble art; stories are the key to freedom; and truth prevails.” —Booklist (starred review)