Diary of a Madman and Other Stories by Lu Xun

I really wanted to love this book. It’s about Lu Xun one of the most ‘famous’ 20th century Chinese authors. I can say now after reading this collection, I understand the man, but didn’t really feel the meaning of his stories.

This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the stories, a few were funny, and in some I could even understand the satire he was trying to portray. A large part of me getting even that out of these ~80 year old stories is the passion of the translator. He really wrote detailed, useful footnotes. He even apologizes in the foreword that he erred on the side of caution and wrote more footnotes than were necessary for those that want to know all the little tidbits about Chinese culture and the particular story.

I really enjoy footnotes and these stories really needed them. Lu Xun often drops classical Chinese phrases or allusions into his work. This would be funny or strange in the original text, depending on the story, in the same way as if I quoted a verse of Shakespeare here. The translator italicizes these classical Chinese phrases while explaining it with a footnote as well.

The translator has a brilliant foreword that goes over the details of Lu Xun’s life and even the significance and meaning of some of his major works.

I certainly learned a lot reading these stories, but didn’t feel them in my heart. Sadly I feel the genius of Lu Xun’s work must have largely been lost in translation. I loved the passion of the translator, but stay away from these short stories unless you really, really like learning about China, or want to learn more about Lu Xun.

My Rating: ★★

My 2019 Reading Challenge: Book #8

NOTE ABOUT STAR RATINGS: 5 stars = excellent! 4 very good. 3 OK. 2 Disliked. 1 hated it!

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