Dubbed the father of modern Chinese literature, Lu Xun, one of the most prolific Chinese writers of the 20th century, will soon have his works made more available to Western readers with the publication of an English version of The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun: The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China by Penguin this month.
Julia Lovell, professor of Chinese history and literature at Cambridge University, began translating the book over a year ago. Lovell has translated many works of contemporary Chinese fiction into English including I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen and A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong, she is known for her keen insight and fresh perspective on Chinese texts.
"Lu Xun's powerful short stories offer a snapshot of early 20th century China in bitingly sharp focus," Lovell explains in her introduction in the book. "Anyone who wants to get a handle on modern Chinese culture and particularly on the sense of crisis that has gripped modern writers and thinkers can't do better than start with Lu Xun, because his characters, themes and black humor have established themselves so firmly in China's national imagination."
"I strongly feel that the publication of Lu Xun is a real opportunity to bring an important author, one of the founding voices of modern Chinese literature, to new audiences," she added.
Jo Lusby, general manager of Penguin China highlighted the importance of reading Lu Xun's when attempting to understanding Chinese literature and culture. She said that Lu's Diary of a Madman was the first work of Chinese literature she read in Chinese and it will always have a special place on her bookshelf.
"Lu Xun is taken as the benchmark for all contemporary Chinese writers to be measured; he succeeded in expressing both the pride and the frustrations inherent in Chinese society," Lusby commented. "Lu Xun remains absolutely important today and we felt very strongly that a new translation of Lu Xun's work was long overdue."
Born in 1881 in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province with the name Zhou Shuren, Lu Xun adopted his pen name in 1918 when he released his short story Diary of a Madman, which was notable for its biting criticisms of various corrupt customs and feudal codes of ethics that once permeated China.
Glorified by Mao Zedong as "the saint of modern China," Lu Xun was considered a revolutionary and progressive fighter who spent his final years fighting bureaucracy and corruption, serving as a beacon for literary independence and patriotism that continues to resonate today.
After his untimely death of tuberculosis in 1936, Lu Xun was adopted as a revolutionary icon, especially during the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976). His works were widely disseminated for the public to study and to read, mainly as political propaganda and in many ways the literary significance and his actual legacy in Chinese literature is usually distorted.
"Lu Xun's work proved to be popular from the moment it came out and after Mao said he liked it very much, it became even more popular," explained Lu Xun's grandson Zhou Lingfei, during the book's launch ceremony Wednesday in Beijing. Zhou is currently dedicated to promoting Lu Xun and his works.
Zhou added that what he endeavors to do in the near future is to present a multi-dimensional image of his grandfather to readers, rather than the image that has been over-glorified by modern history.
"Readers in the West, especially younger generations, do not have much knowledge of contemporary Chinese literature and mutual communication is highly needed," Zhou stressed. "The interaction between East and West should not be confined to the economy. Cultural and civilization links are also very important and it's also important for the outside world to understand why Lu Xun wrote these stories. To get a deep understanding of Lu Xun's work, readers have to learn about the historical background."
The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun has been published as a Penguin Classic and will soon be widely available throughout the West. Several English versions of Lu Xun's works have been published previously, but Penguin stated that Lovell's translation is a fresh and accurate new interpretation, encompassing the passage of time.
(Global Times November 16, 2009)