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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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"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
Julia Lovell (translator) teaches modern Chinese history and literature at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her translations include Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang, Serve the People by Yan Lianke, and I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen.
Yiyun Li (afterword), one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists Under 35 and one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” best fiction writers, is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Whiting Writers’ Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. Born in Beijing, she lives in Oakland, California.
Top Customer Reviews
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'.
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.
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.Read more ›
Pretty good stories, set mostly before the revolution.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's always a pleasure to discover a great writer, one who the represents the cultural, political, psychological and historical times he/she is writing about. Read morePublished 3 months ago by David Blumenkrantz
Very interesting and informative. It inspired me to do more research in these areas.Published 9 months ago by Sheela
Lovell's Penguin paperback of Lu Xun's complete fiction is released as "The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China", and Lu Xun is one of the seminal - if not the most... Read morePublished 11 months ago by NeverneverLand
Stories written by a true patriot who loved his country and his countrymen.Published 12 months ago by Jana Kubik-Kwan
A wonderful book, and an eye-opener about China. A definite must-read if you are interested in recent Chinese history, as well as literature.Published 16 months ago by elisse
One of the best short story of all time is the true story of Ah-Q. Lu Xun is master of the craft.Published 23 months ago by Madhav
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. Read morePublished on November 13, 2013 by Pacem in Terris
Lu Xun tells stories with a sense of humor about his homeland of China, often focusing on a character from an odd point of view--the mad man, the mother whose child is dying.Published on July 14, 2013 by Sheri Fresonke Harper