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Mao Badges and Rocket Parts

Robert Macfarlane, 23 August 2001

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress 
by Dai Sijie, translated by Ina Rilke.
Chatto, 208 pp., £10, June 2001, 0 7011 6982 6
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The Drink and Dream Teahouse 
by Justin Hill.
Weidenfeld, 344 pp., £12.99, March 2001, 0 297 64697 4
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... It was said that The Little Red Book had ‘supplied the breath of life to soldiers gasping in the thin air of the Tibetan plateau; enabled workers to raise the sinking city of Shanghai three-quarters of an inch; inspired a million people to subdue a tidal wave in 1969, a group of housewives to reinvent shoe polish, and surgeons to sew back severed fingers and remove a 99 pound tumour as big as a football ...

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