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The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 26, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0140455489 ISBN-10: 0140455485

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Lu Xun is not just a great writer. He is an essential writer-the kind whose works provide the clues an outsider needs to unlock the cultural code of a nation, and whose work becomes embedded in a nation's DNA. . . . This affordable volume comprises . . . his complete fiction. Julia Lovell's are arguably the most accessible translations yet. . . . Together, they give Lu Xun his best shot to date of achieving renown beyond the Chinese world. If it succeeds in this, the book could be considered the most significant Penguin Classic ever published."
-Time

"Julia Lovell and Penguin have done Chinese modern literature a great service in bringing this passionate, witty and bleakly nostalgic work to what one hopes will be a wider audience. Lovell's introduction is excellent."
-The Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Lu Xun (1881-1936) is one of the paradigmatic figures of twentieth-century Chinese literature. Despite his public commitment to Marxist literary ideals, Lu Xun's final years were spent mired in squabbles with the Chinese Communist Party's representatives of ideological orthodoxy. When he died he bequeathed to modern Chinese letters a contradictory legacy of cosmopolitan independence, polemical fractiousness and anxious patriotism that continues to resonate in Chinese intellectual life today. Julia Lovell is Queen's College Research Fellow in Modern Chinese Literature and Cultural History. She has translated the novels I Love Dollars by Zhu wen, Serve the People by Yan Lianke, and A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong. She has also edited and translated in part Lust, Caution, a collection of short stories by Eileen Chang. Dr Lovell is author of The Great Wall: China against the World, 1000 BC-AD 2000 and The Politics of Cultural Capital: China's Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (January 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140455485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140455489
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Leong Wai Hong on May 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Lu Xun is famous for his short stories which point out the lack of compassion and lack of honesty in Chinese society during the late Imperial china.

Lu Xun is a pen-name. His real name is Zhou Shu Ren. Born in 1881 to a scholar family he abandoned the path of studying for the imperial civil service exams to study medicine in Japan. He abandoned his study after seeing a slide of the execution of a Chinese by the Japanese in front of a group of apathetic Chinese. He came to the conclusion that a nation of healthy people is useless if they are intellectually and spiritually weak. After his Damascene experience he abandoned his medical studies and turned to writing to galvanise the Chinese people.

There are 2 English translations of his complete short stories. The earlier is by William Lyell published by the University of Hawaii Press in 1990. The latest is by Julia Lovell published by Penguin in 2009 with an Afterword by Yiyun Li.

Lyell's translation is more accessible compared to Lovell's though his footnotes are more and better. Lyell's version also has wonderful caricatures illustrations of The Real Story of Ah-Q. Lovell's has no illustrations. The Afterword by Li , to me , is inconsequential and does not add to the readers' appreciation of the importance of Lu Xun as an important founding figure of modern Chinese literature. For me, the best of Lu Xun's short stories are ' The Real story of Ah-Q' , ' Diary of a Madman' and 'Kong Yi Ji'.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mike on September 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, published by Penguin Classics, and translated by Julia Lovell.

Lovell's translation is very smooth, clear, and accessible. I can't compare it to the older translations, but I can't imagine being disappointed by this one. Her ~25-page introduction is informative, as are the annotations, which can be found in the back of the book. The binding is on par with any other Penguin Classic - the spine will inevitably crease upon reading, but the pages are very secure (in my copy, anyway).

Lu Xun (pen name of Zhou Shuren) was a highly influential short story writer and essayist who lived through China's revolution and subsequent social and political tumults in the early 20th century. He was both renowned and scorned for writing with base, common language rather than the lofty language of aristocrats that was popular at the time. His earlier stories are idealistic and extremely critical of traditional Chinese society, but as he ages and matures, they become more personal, nostalgic, and bleak. The final few stories in the collection are retellings of traditional Chinese folk tales. I highly recommend reading Lu Xun - his stories are filled with wisdom, understatement, irony, love, tragedy, and everything else human. I loved every story in the book - it belongs on a shelf alongside the world's finest literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kendrick on May 7, 2013
Format: Paperback
Outside of world literature connoisseurs and scholars, Lu Xun (1881-1936) is not well known to the West. Writing in the early twentieth century, Lu Xun is considered one of the founders of modern Chinese literature. The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun is a Penguin-published compilation of his short stories and one of his plays. Lu Xun never wrote a large novel, but stuck to painting vignettes of the life of common Chinese folk--usually peasants--and the struggles they underwent to survive.

Being a strong influence in the May Fourth movement, which spawned a mix of liberal and leftist ideologues, Lu Xun is a complicated historical figure. Mao Zedong enshrined him as a staunch supporter of the masses and therefore a spokesman for the Communist cause. Lu Xun's care to write about the sufferings of the underclass at the hands of landlords, warlords, and other abusers of authority naturally lent itself to the Communist agenda. At the same time, however, Lu Xun imported Western "imperialist" literature into China, promoted reading of the Western canon, and lived in relative luxury compared to his fictional subjects. He never lived for any significant amount of time in the countryside, where he might have learned firsthand the peasants' toil.

Lu Xun's most famous novella is The Real Story of Ah-Q, which recounts the quixotic story of a rural peasant (Ah-Q) who is a bully toward those he considers his inferiors and finds ways to deceive himself in order to deny humiliation when treated poorly by his superiors. He consistently finds ways to convince himself that he's better than the wealthy villagers and prestigious families.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Piet de Groot on March 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed this book. Like the style of Lu Xun here. This book can be taken as an interesting book on ancient Chinese life and culture and at the same time one is able to extract much more if read for technique and style, giving an insight in how the poor lived in those times. The gradual building up of Ah-Q's personae shows just what a literary giant Lu Xun really was. A Great book, one of many I bought from Amazon.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on February 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
Lu Xun is an important Chinese writer, because he was one of the first authors to write in the vernacular about common people in common surroundings.
While his best known stories (Diary of a Madman, The Real Story of Ah-Q) are not really outstanding, some short sketches are true gems, like `New Year's Sacrifice', `The Loner' or `Forcing the Swords'. He had some formidable themes in his hands, like `Bringing Back the Dead', but he didn't develop them.

A cultural crusader, not a revolutionary
Lu Xun saw himself as a crusader for cultural reforms: `if people were intellectually feeble, they would never become anything other than cannon fodder or gawping spectators. The first task was to change their spirit, and literature and the arts were the best means to this end.' (Outcry)
He was in no way a revolutionary: `Everything that actually happened in 1911, I can't bear it. All those old friends - young men, quietly finished off by bullets, after years of sacrifice or tortured in prison for weeks. Or just disappeared off the face of the earth, along with their hopes and ambition ... Locked, abused, persecuted, their graves forgotten.'

Family and Village Life
In `Village Opera', real village life is better than `opera'.
Some stories are purely anecdotal family sketches (A Cat among the Rabbits, A Comedy of Ducks, A Happy Family, Soap, The Divorce), while other ones treat individual problems (the failure in a governmental exam in `The White Light' or obsession with cannibalism in `Diary of a Madman'), and still other ones with the Manchu law on pigtails or the stigma of baldness (Nostalgia, A Passing Storm).
`Yang Yiji' and `The Real Story of Ah-Q' deal with village outcasts seeking shelter or revenge against a harsh and cruel world.
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