Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

ph_0111206370-LuXun.jpg Lu Xun Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Lu Xun wrote prolifically throughout his life, producing essays, verses, reminiscences, and translations of other writers as well as the short fiction for which he is known in the West. The bulk of Lu Xun’s writing consists of polemical essays, written between 1907 and 1936, directed against aspects of Chinese culture and politics of which he disapproved. These writings have been collected from time to time and make up more than twenty volumes. Varying in style, these essays were published in newspapers and magazines and are journalistic in design compared to the sensitive, imaginative, and carefully constructed short stories.

Much of Lu Xun’s writing as a whole consists of the translations of foreign authors, a practice he continued during his entire career. His translations were rendered from Japanese or German, the only foreign languages he knew. As early as 1903, he translated the science fiction of Jules Verne. In 1909, he and his brother, Zhou Zuoren, collaborated in publishing Yuwai xiaoshuo ji (collection of foreign stories). In two volumes, it included works by Anton Chekhov, Leonid Andreyev, Vsevolod Mikhaylovich Garshin, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Guy de Maupassant, Oscar Wilde, and Edgar Allan Poe. In the 1930’s, Lu Xun translated works by many other Russian authors. He and his brother also issued an anthology of Japanese authors titled Xiandai riben xiaoshuo ji (1934; a collection of modern Japanese short stories), which...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Lu Xun is generally regarded as one of the most important of modern Chinese writers. His short story “Kuangren riji” (“The Diary of a Madman”), modeled on Nikolai Gogol’s story of the same title, was the first Chinese story written in the style of Western fiction and Lu Xun’s first story written in the modern vernacular. His reputation as a short-fiction writer rests primarily on two volumes of stories written between 1918 and 1925, Call to Arms and Wandering. After these, Lu Xun wrote little fiction. His best-known story is the novella The True Story of Ah Q.

Lu Xun developed a narrative style of pointing without commentary, allowing silence to generate meaning within the form of the short story, a method reminiscent of Poe, who may have influenced Lu Xun’s sense of structure. Like many Chinese writers of short fiction, Lu Xun was influenced by Western masters of the form, especially those whom he translated. It was Lu Xun, however, who pioneered the movement in short fiction that helped launch a new literary era in China, and his assimilation of Western ideas became the new reality in Chinese fiction.

Lu Xun’s tales often tend toward satire, and his sense of irony is masterful and pervasive. Reminiscent of the traditional Chinese painter, Lu Xun renders a whole person from a few deft strokes and evokes atmosphere without elaborate detail. Considered a pioneer of modern Chinese realism, he has been...

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Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Which of Lu Xun’s proposals for setting China right seems to make the most sense today?

What is the basis of Lu Xun’s assessment of China’s “slave mentality,” and how did he expect China to overcome it?

What are the proportions of prose and poetry in Lu Xun’s Wild Grass? What does the latter contribute to the former?

In “The Diary of a Madman,” can the reader successfully distinguish the character’s insight from his mental confusion?

Distinguish between Lu Xun’s tragic vision and his optimism. How convincing is the basis of his optimism?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Chang, Lung-hsi. “Revolutionary as Christ: The Unrecognized Savior in Lu Xun’s Works.” Christianity and Literature 45 (Autumn, 1995): 81-93. Discusses Lu Xun’s fascination with the Christ figure, particularly as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. Argues that by rereading his works and carefully considering the neglected aspects of those works, such as his use of the Christ figure, we may begin to really understand Lu Xun and his significance for modern China.

Chen, Pearl Hsia. The Social Thought of Lu Hsün, 1881-1936. New York: Vantage Press, 1976. Chronicles the development of Lu Xun’s thought against his cultural background, including his encounter with Western ideas, his belief in women’s rights, his involvement with liberal socialism, and his reevaluation of traditional Chinese culture. The preface, by Franklin S. C. Chen, is an essay on traditional China’s economic structure as it related to social thought.

Hanan, Patrick. “The Techniques of Lu Hsün’s Fiction.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 34 (1974) 53-96. Using a broad definition of “technique,” Hanan discusses possible influences of writers such as Nikolai Gogol, Vsevolod Mikhaylovich Garshin, and Leonid Andreyev, as well as Lu Xun’s use of symbols and different types of irony.

Kowallis, Jon Eugene. The Lyrical Lu...

(The entire section is 572 words.)