Lu Xun’s Revolution: Writing in a Time of Violence

Gloria Davies, Author
Gloria Davies. Harvard Univ., $35 (448p) ISBN 978-0-674-07264-0
Reviewed on: 01/07/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
Hardcover - 449 pages - 978-0-674-07394-4
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China’s prewar literary lion carries on a conflicted, fractious relationship with the gathering revolution in this tepid study. Historian and literary scholar Davies explores Lu’s career in the decade before his death in 1936, when he was a leading left-wing writer and polemicist in a period of intense strife between China’s Nationalist government and Communist Party. While Lu was canonized by Mao as an exponent of revolutionary violence, Davies emphasizes his antiauthoritarian humanist streak. (Mao also allowed that Lu would have been imprisoned under the Communist regime.) Through his vitriolic debates with Marxist opponents in literary journals, Davies traces Lu’s complex ideas as a believer in revolution who deplored its violence, a supporter of the masses who championed individual conscience, and a man of the left who resisted Party dogmas. In close exegeses of his writings, she teases out the links between his politics and his literary innovations, particularly his pioneering use of the baihua vernacular. Lu emerges as a vibrant writer grappling with leftist intellectual dilemmas. Unfortunately, Davies’s somewhat disorganized text and staid academic prose drain much of the drama from Lu’s story. Hers is a rather bloodless take on a powerful writer and his bloody times. Photos. (Apr.)
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