Jonathan Mirsky

Voice of the People

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

By

Harvard University Press 408pp £24.95) order from our bookshop

Ask well-educated Chinese to name their country’s greatest 20th-century author and they usually answer Lu Xun. Yet Lu, born in 1881, has been misunderstood in China since 1940, when Mao praised him as his ‘moral guide’ and ‘the chief commander of China’s cultural revolution’. That was a lie, but because the Great Teacher himself had praised Lu, much of that false view has stuck. If Lu hadn’t died in 1936, once Mao came to supreme power, he would have been executed or, like Hu Feng, one of his closest colleagues (who is barely mentioned by Gloria Davies and misidentified as a Party member), imprisoned for decades.

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