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IN BRIEF

Fiction

January 06, 1991|Sharon Dirlam

DIARY OF A MADMAN by Lu Xun (University of Hawaii Press: 389 pp.) Lu Xun (1881-1936) is considered one of China's great modern fiction writers. He writes in a highly stylized, colloquial Chinese; despite the problems translator William A. Lyell discusses in his introduction, this collection of 25 stories reads splendidly. "Ah Q--The Real Story," the best-known of the author's works, is a tale of the lack of love and honesty in Chinese society. Poor Ah Q's very identity as a pathetic victim is somehow suspect, and his inability to face reality seems an indication of the weakness of Chinese character. "Diary of a Madman" drove me crazy, and I can only understand it literally, as the notes of a man who thinks everyone wants to devour him. Lu Xun had hopes for Communism and its classless society, and Mao Zedong sang his praises. He saw "spiritual numbness" as a problem as early as 1904, and 86 years later his voice still rings true.

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