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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

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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, celebrated during and since his lifetime for his powerful diagnoses of his nation's social and political crisis, and for his pioneering achievements in reinventing the vernacular as a literary language. Despite his public commitment to Marxist literary ideals and his posthumous canonization by Mao Zedong, 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.

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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 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 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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9 of 9 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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2 of 2 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 2 people found the following review helpful By Pacem in Terris on November 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
These stories are fine art. The book consists of two sections. The first section has stories set in the China of the new republic, 1911-1925. These remind me of Tugenev. The subjects are the poor, the lower and lower middle class. The characters are specific and real, and at the same time universal and eternal. The second section, the last third of the book, consists of stories based upon the legends of the three ancient dynasties. These stories gently blend myth, magic and legend to reveal that human nature is eerily constant over several millennia. I found these parables familiar, new and entrancing.
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