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A Chinese Literary Treasure

February 15, 1987

I wish to express my gratitude to a great Chinese author who died in Shanghai 50 years ago last October. Just as every American will recognize the names of Hemingway or Faulkner, so everyone familiar with 20th-Century Chinese culture will recognize the name of Lu Hsun (Lu Xun). In so much of his writing, there are those sparks of enlightenment that will delight any thinking mind, sometimes with laughter and sometimes with the shock of reality.

When George Bernard Shaw visited China, Lu Hsun was one of those who met him. I do not wish to wrongly suggest that these two writers were alike in temperament or style, but they did share that spirit of wonder and a rich wit that keeps their writing alive to this day. While both could be called leftists, they each were such strong individualists that neither could be "party" men.

Just as in a famous work, Sinclair Lewis gave our language the word "Babbitt," describing a type of character met with in our society, so Lu Hsun gave to the Chinese language the name "Ah Q" as a character type he described in his famous short story. And like Sinclair Lewis, Lu Hsun warns us with humor and sharp satire of the world we live in.

Lu Hsun (1881-1936) wrote no long work, just essays, poems, and short stories, yet in China, he is still read in school. His home has become a much visited museum, and he has almost been canonized by the present government. He would be happy that his work is now read by so many but probably very unhappy about the memorialization.

Born Chou Shu-jen in Shaohsing, he would later gain worldwide fame under his pen name, Lu Hsun. He studied in Nanking and in Japan to become a doctor, but as he read Ibsen and translated into Chinese several Russian writers, he decided to become a writer. Although his stories and essays are hard to locate in this country, for any reader who wants a new literary adventure, it will be worthwhile seeking them out. I have no doubt that given more time, the name of Lu Hsun will become much better known here too.

DONALD DESCHNER

Hollywood

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