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.
There is a wealth of insights in Lu Xun's Revolution, and I applaud Gloria Davies for such thorough and conscientious efforts in plowing through all the sources of the later Lu Xun. Davies has not only carefully gone through all the controversies on the leftist literary front in Lu Xun's time; she has brought the relevance of Lu Xun's essays to the present world. I have always lamented the fact that many Lu Xun scholars, including myself, do not do full justice to the later Lu Xun. Now the record is being set straight.
The range of Davies' research is staggering, and her erudition is impressive as she glides through Lu Xun's literary career. She deals frankly and comprehensively with Lu Xun's most prominent critics and notes how he handled them with intensity and agility. She has much to say, as well, about his theories of writing--how he decried political rhetoric, despised romantic fiction and saw the moral ambiguity of revolutionary writing. She also reproduces his list of eight tips for aspiring writers.
In Lu Xun's Revolution, Davies has created a fascinating account of the final years of the writer's life and the beginning of his literary afterlife.
A groundbreaking work.
For those who would like to find out about Lu Xun there is plenty of information in this copious literary and political biography...Lu Xun's Revolution is a formidable book.
This richly documented study of China’s pre-eminent writer Lu Xun (1881-1936) by Gloria Davies cannot fail to provoke deep reflection on the issue of the creative writer, artist, philosopher, or scholar and his or her involvement in politics.
- 448 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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