[BOOKS] Dai Sijie's "Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch"
Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
Novel explains need for a sacrificial virgin.
`Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch' by Dai Sijie; Knopf ($22)
by Susan Hall-Balduf
Dai Sijie's endearing Mr. Muo in "Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch" has
just returned from France, where he trained as a psychoanalyst. His
goal is to be the first psychoanalyst in China.
But first he has to find a virgin.
He needs one to bribe the judge who has the power to reprieve Muo's
former schoolmate and forever sweetheart, whom he calls the Volcano
of the Old Moon. She is a political prisoner facing execution unless
Muo can find a virgin willing to sleep with flabby old Judge Di.
In his effort to contact Judge Di, he ends up in a mental
institution, from which he escapes. In his search for a suitable
girl, he ends up in the domestic workers market, where girls are
plentiful but none are what you'd call suitable.
In his quest to become China's first psychoanalyst, he takes on dream
interpretation and is mistaken for a fortune teller, which inspires a
most unsuitable, far from girlish police officer to fall madly in
love with him.
His only real client is a former neighbor he calls the Embalmer - she
works in a mortuary - who is still dealing with her husband's
decision to throw himself out a window on their wedding night.
Sijie's story meanders sweetly through Muo's bizarre travels and
absurd tribulations amid his gallant determination to save the
Volcano of the Old Moon while establishing his career in a shabby
This is Sijie's second novel; his first, "Balzac and the Little
Chinese Seamstress," was an international best-seller, and I'm
betting "Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch" takes the same path.
© Copyright 2005, DETROIT FREE PRESS