Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a 2000 novel written by Dai Sijie. I remember this making quite a splash when it first came out, but I am just now getting around to reading it. This story tells of the power of literature and the true universality of story-telling. The classics reach out across cultures and generations to inspire and to change lives.
from the back of the book:
In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China's infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour the banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.The Guardian says, "Infused with the magic and spark of myth and fable, Sijie reminds us how precious intellectual liberty is." Kirkus Reviews calls it "Literate and moderately engaging".
There's a reading group guide with discussion questions here.