Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch (2005) is by Dai Sijie, a Chinese author who works in France and writes in French. So this is a Chinese novel, written in French, and translated into English. There is little lost in the translation. This is one of those small books where in the flow of the writing is as entertaining as the story itself. Mr. Muo is a psychoanalyst and devoted student of Freud who returns to China on a comically romantic quest. Oddly reminiscent of Don Quixote, the story is about his Muo's quest to free his love who is a political prisoner. He must provide the local judge/potentate with a virgin in order to win his love. Like Don Quixote, his love has been romanticized into a damsel in distress. Mr. Muo travels the country interpreting dreams in order to find the elusive treasure to provide he judge, the result is a series of sad and humorous mishaps.
Dai Sijie is also the author of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Novel (2002), one of my favorite novels from a few years ago and for much the same reasons as I enjoyed Mr. Muo. Balzac is the story of two young men who are the educated and privilaged sons of doctors, they are sent to a tiny mountain village to be "re-educated" in Mao's China. The two young men begin to entertain the uneducated villagers by pantomiming and reciting the lines to popular movies, in their own unique method of story telling. They sustain themselves with stolen illegal books, including a volume of Balzac. They begin to read Balzac to the beautiful little seamstress while their imaginations and yearnings turn the ignorant country girl into a sophisticated young courtesan. I thought this novel wonderful.
Dai Sijie has a novel coming out this year called Once on a Moonless Night. I can't wait.
If you have read either of these books and liked them you should also try Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (2005), a great read.