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Lu Xun's Revolution

Lu Xun's Revolution

Writing in a Time of Violence

Gloria Davies

ISBN 9780674072640

Publication date: 04/08/2013

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Widely recognized as modern China’s preeminent man of letters, Lu Xun (1881–1936) is revered as the voice of a nation’s conscience, a writer comparable to Shakespeare and Tolstoy in stature and influence. Gloria Davies’s portrait now gives readers a better sense of this influential author by situating the man Mao Zedong hailed as “the sage of modern China” in his turbulent time and place.

In Davies’s vivid rendering, we encounter a writer passionately engaged with the heady arguments and intrigues of a country on the eve of revolution. She traces political tensions in Lu Xun’s works which reflect the larger conflict in modern Chinese thought between egalitarian and authoritarian impulses. During the last phase of Lu Xun’s career, the so-called “years on the left,” we see how fiercely he defended a literature in which the people would speak for themselves, and we come to understand why Lu Xun continues to inspire the debates shaping China today.

Although Lu Xun was never a Communist, his legacy was fully enlisted to support the Party in the decades following his death. Far from the apologist of political violence portrayed by Maoist interpreters, however, Lu Xun emerges here as an energetic opponent of despotism, a humanist for whom empathy, not ideological zeal, was the key to achieving revolutionary ends. Limned with precision and insight, Lu Xun’s Revolution is a major contribution to the ongoing reappraisal of this foundational figure.


  • As the recognized founder of modern Chinese literature and arguably the central intellectual figure in China and much of East Asia throughout the twentieth century and even up to the present day, the influence of Lu Xun is difficult to overestimate, and, so it logically follows, is the significance of this book. Gloria Davies has taken a tripartite approach: she assesses Lu Xun from a literary, linguistic, and intellectual angle and does so with elegant precision. No one has treated Lu Xun as an essayist--particularly in the last ten years of his life--as well and as sensitively as Davies has here.

    —Jon Eugene von Kowallis, author of The Lyrical Lu Xun


  • Gloria Davies is a literary scholar and historian of China at Monash University in Australia. She is also Adjunct Director of the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University.

Book Details

  • 448 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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