Selected Stories
Selected Stories
Selected Stories
5 3
Price: $8.75 FREE for Members
Type: eBook
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Page Count: 288
Format: pdf
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0393008487
ISBN-13: 9780393008487
User Rating: 4.6667 out of 5 Stars! (3 Votes)

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"Some of these stories, I am sure, will be read as long as the Chinese language exists." Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Chinese

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| 4 out of 5 Stars!

Lu Xun (a.k.a. Lu Hsun) is considered the father of modern literature in China, and his work has had a profound influence on the arts of his native land. For the Western reader, the more you know about Chinese history and culture the more you will understand and enjoy these stories. This is best illustrated by Lu Xun's most famous work, "The True Story of Ah Q". Considered a masterpiece in China, it tells the story of a clueless ne'er-do-well who stumbles his way through the transition from an old imperial regime to a new revolutionary government, suffering a series of humiliations along the way. It's obviously a satirical piece, though Westerners with little knowledge of Chinese history and politics may have trouble figuring out what exactly is being satirized. While some of the broader themes in the story are apparent, for the most part I felt like a Tibetan yak herder trying to make sense of Huckleberry Finn, Don Quixote, or Candide. The same holds true for the last two stories in the book, "The Flight to the Moon" and "Forging the Swords". Both are based on myths or folklore, and in both cases, the metaphor escaped me.

Despite these few moments of culture shock, throughout the remainder of the book Lu Xun's skill as a storyteller is evident, and his keen perception of the human condition imbues these stories with a universal appeal that defies cultural boundaries. Most involve a first-person narrator, an educated city-dweller, presumably Lu Xun himself, who travels back to his home village to visit his family. There he meets an old friend, relative, or acquaintance who reminds him of a lost memory from his past. These are often bleak tales emphasizing the negative aspects of Chinese society in the early 20th century: peasants held down by a restrictive class hierarchy ("My Old Home"), women locked into a system of marital customs little better than slavery ("The New Year's Sacrifice"), intellectuals persecuted for their political leanings ("The Misanthrope"), and the relentless futility of folk medicine and traditional religious practices in solving people's problems ("Medicine" and "Tomorrow").

Though Lu Xun was a radical leftist, his stories do not carry any blatant overtures in favor of communism or any other political creed. They are, however, loaded with blatant condemnation of the old feudalistic order of the Qing Dynasty. When Lu Xun writes about his childhood, he does show some fond nostalgia for the old Chinese customs (most notably in "Village Opera"), but as an adult intellectual he clearly advocates the abandonment of the antiquated social order in favor of more modern, Western-influenced ideas. This collection presents a fascinating view of Chinese culture at a revolutionary turning point. Any lover of literature with an interest in China will appreciate these well-crafted and emotionally moving stories.

| 5 out of 5 Stars!

I have read various books by Chinese authors and, except for Lin Yutang's works, found them to be boring. Not so with this work. Lu Hsun's short stories are valuable on two spheres: from a literary standpoint and from a historical standpoint.

Several of his stories are excellent. His most famous one is "The True Story of Ah Q," a very funny depiction of a neurotic individual; sometimes, the humor is lost because of cultural differences, but a lot nevertheless shows through. "A Madman's Diary" is an accurate depiction of the thoughts of an individual who has become paranoid and sees persecution and conspiracies around him. "An Incident" is an exceedingly short short story wherein a callous person is put to shame by someone lesser than him. "The New Year's Sacrifice," depicts the heartlessness in Chinese culture towards women. There are other gems as well. In the process, not only do we connect with universal human values and problems, but we are also shown cultural differences as well, something that we, in the West, are grossly ignorant of.

Hand in hand with the above is the historical standpoint. I believe that it was Croce who said that art can be a more accurate depiction of history than the formal historical works. Throughout the stories we can glimpse at a society that is at the border, emerging from a feudal background into the modern era, and the dislocation of values, traditions, etc. that result because of that transition.

| 5 out of 5 Stars!

After studying to become a doctor in a Western-style medical school in Nanjing in the 1910s, Lu Xun decided that the real diseases afflicting China were not physiological, but sociological. Thus, in order to truly work toward the health of the nation, he decided to diagnose the nation's maladies as an author rather than a physician. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he took the radical stance that the source of China's social and economic woes was the very framework of Chinese culture itself, in the Confucian value system and the ancient hierarchy of social allegiance. In stories like "A Madman's Diary" (his first story, published initially in the magazine New Youth), he exposed the reality underlying the polished politeness of Chinese society, that the system forced people to consume one another and work toward each other's downfall.

Most of his stories are metaphorical, requiring a decent background in modern Chinese history and some ability for literary analysis. I'm not even close to a complete understanding of many of them, but the moments of insight these stories have given me into Chinese history (and into my own life) have been among the most pleasurable moments of my life. This book is indispensible for anyone who wishes to understand modern China; Lu is perhaps the greatest Chinese author of the last two centuries.

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