Lu Xun is revered in China as the father of modern Chinese
literature, and was similar to Mark Twain in his ability to skewer the
morals and politics of the day (early 20th century China) through devilishly drawn characters, satire, and
brilliant language. A few of those characters, Ah Q in particular, have endured through the last 70 years of change and remain common referents for Chinese people. October 19th was the 70th anniversary of his death in 1936, and there are some interesting sites to visit in Virtual China. Sina’s Lu Xun commemoration site goes over his life history and provides links to some of his stories and essays (in Chinese; see English links below), selections of which have been posted in full on Sina’s Literature BBS.
“How Far Have we Gotten from Lu Xun?”
is a 70th Anniversary Sina website/blog that tries to open up conversation on what the
famous author’s work means in contemporary China. This website includes sections on “Does Lu Xun
Still have Value Today,” “The Real Lu Xun and his Critics,” and “Lu Xun in the People’s Eyes” — each section has links to blog posts. As the site notes in its editorial: As for whether he’s
outdated or not, the debates fly every few years, something which can
only happen with a timeless author. Actually, he’s already very, very
close to us.
The comments on the blog, in response to the opening editorial, range from pride in Lu”s body of work, to ironic consideration of where Lu Xun would be if he were writing today [rough translations]:
Compared with today, Lu Xun’s era was one of free speech.
In the busy, rushing forests of today’s cities…people have lost too much, been numb for too long…”A Call to Arms”《呐喊》[his anthology published in 1923] in
this era that lacks a “call to arms”, when our cities are getting more
and more sophisticated, our lives are getting fuller, our
“life paths” are broadening…and the look in our eyes is ever more mixed up, pompous, and sad. After 70 years, “A Call to Arms”
wakes me up…
haven’t read Lu Xun, you should. You’ll understand why the characters of Ah Q and Kong
Yiji continue to make sense today. They’re extraordinary for the non-Chinese speaker when read in Chinese. In English, the Lu Xun Reference Archive, (part of the Marxists Internet Archive), has links to all of the pieces in the volume Selected Stories of Lu Hsun,
published by Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1960, 1972. I am no Lu
Xun expert, but if you haven’t read any you might start with The True Story of Ah Q, then move on to Kong Yiji, Medicine, and Soap. Diary of a Madman, his earliest published story, is famous for its use of the metaphor of cannibalism to describe Chinese social relations.