100th Anniversary of Lu Xun's 'A World's Madman'

05 Oct 2018

Roman Shapiro, Emily Mae Graf, Taku Kurashige, Raman Sinha, Senno Takumasa & Hemant Adlakha

Venue: Multipurpose Hall, Kamaladevi Complex, IIC
Time: 6:00 PM

Lu Xun (1881-1936) is one of the greatest writers in 20th-century Chinese literature. His, A Madman’s Diary (1918) is the first short story in the modern Chinese literature, written in vernacular style. The short story is also considered a milestone fiction – the first piece of fiction written in the revolutionary realism tradition. The story was first published in the New Youth magazine. The story is often described as exposing the ‘cannibalistic feudal society’ of pre-revolutionary China. A Madman’s Diary condemns the oppressive nature of Chinese Confucian culture as a ‘man-eating society’, where the strong devours the weak. The Madman’s reading of ancient classical texts to discover evidence of cannibalism is a parody of traditional Confucian scholarship. Realistically speaking, Lu Xun’s madman is actually a rebel and social critic whose madness is a kind of sanity.

As early as in 1954, in the formative years of a new, revolutionary China, the writer Xu Zhongyu had advocated that Lu Xun’s madman “is not a mad person, but he is a warrior hero who fought feudalism”. The well-known Russian Sinologist Semenov believed that many Chinese fiction writers in the early 1920s liked to accidentally find someone’s manuscript to enhance the story’s authenticity. The author of A Madman’s Diary too made a similar claim and obtained the same artistic effect. Japan’s Kiyama Hideo too had nearly echoed Semenov’s sentiments

Lu Xun’s A Madman’s Diary has been compared with the Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol’s Diary of a Madman. While A Madman’s Diary reflects the influence of Leonid Andreyev’s short story The Real Laugh, Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Thomas H. Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics on one hand, it no doubt precedes the emergence of similar genre of short story fiction writing in the West, on the other. Take for example, Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce; In Search of Lost Time (1922-1927) by the French writer Markel Proust; Mrs. Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Wolf; and The Sound and the Fury (1929) by William Faulkner etc.

Lu Xun was once described by Mao Zedong as modern Chinese sage. Interestingly, a young Chinese writer recently wrote: “It is sad that we still need Lu Xun in China today.”

The panel discussion aims to bring together a group of eminent Lu Xun scholars from India and abroad, to deliberate upon the relevance of Lu Xun, the writer, as well as of A Madman’s Diary in China and world literature today.

About the Speakers

Prof. Senno Takumasa is a Professor and the Head of the Department of Chinese Literature and Linguistics in Waseda University. He graduated from Waseda University, the Department of Chinese Literature in 1979. He completed his master and doctoral course in Tokyo Metropolitan University, the Department of Chinese literature. He was appointed a full-time lecturer in Ryutu Keizai University in 1989, and was appointed an Associate Professor in Meisei University in 1992 and raised to the rank of Professor in 1997. He was later transferred to Waseda University in 2004. He is mainly engaged in research on Chinese modern literature and culture.

Dr. Roman Shapiro teaches Chinese Translation, History of Chinese Literature and other philological subjects. He taught at a number of universities in Russia and abroad and was a Board Member of the European Association of Chinese Studies and the European Association of Chinese Linguistics. He published research papers on Chinese literature, philology and culture. Dr Shapiro translated a number of works of Chinese literature into Russian, including Yu Hua (To Live, Chronicle of a Blood Merchant, China in Ten Words), Jia Pingwa, Li Jingze, and Wang Anyi. He also translated Jung Chang's bestselling memoires Wild Swans. He graduated from the Institute for Asian and African Studies (Moscow University).

Mr. Taku Kurashige is a lecturer at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Tsinghua University. He did his graduation from Minnesota State University, Mankato (USA). He worked as editor in Tokyo. In 2010, he entered the master program at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Tsinghua University (China). After finishing his degree in Modern Chinese Literature, he is pursuing the research at Tsinghua University under the supervision of Professor Wang Hui as Ph.D. candidate.

Dr. Emily Mae Graf works at Heidelberg University as Assistant Professor (Assistentin) at the Institute of Chinese Studies, teaching classes on the writers Lu Xun and Lai He, on contemporary writers, such as Yan Lianke, as well as on past and present cultural politics in the PRC. She received her PhD in 2018 in Sinology and Transcultural Studies from Heidelberg University at the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”. Her primary research focused on museums dedicated to Lu Xun in the PRC, Bertolt Brecht in the GDR and Lai He in Taiwan. Taking a global perspective, she investigated how each writer is represented as a left-wing writer and revealed how “world literary heritage” is thereby constructed through the display of their literary estates. A Joint-PhD Fellowship at Renmin University of China, Beijing (2013-14) enabled her to visit author museums across China and Taiwan, interviewing museum directors, staff and visitors.

Dr. Raman P. Sinha teaches Sanskrit Poetics, Western Literary Theory, Hindi Drama and Theatre, Philosophy of literary History at the Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. He has published three books besides several articles and research papers. He has also translated more than two hundred poems and some prose pieces from English and from different Indian languages and vice versa. His area of interests includes Hindi studies, Translation studies, Culture studies and Performing arts.

Dr. Hemant Adlakha is Professor of Chinese and the Ex-Chairperson, the Centre for Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies (CCSEAS), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) Delhi. His areas of research include Political discourse in the P R China, Chinese literature, culture and cinema. His PhD dissertation was on ‘Modernization and the State in Contemporary China: Search for a Distant Civil Society’. His present work looks at Lu Xun in contemporary China, East Asia and the world. He has published articles in Chinese and in English. He is a member, International Editorial Committee, International Society for Lu Xun Studies, Seoul (ROK). His most recent publications include, ‘Confucius’ in Encyclopedia of Rrace and Racism, 2nd Edition, Gale Cengage Learning, Macmillan Reference, USA. He is currently working on a book entitled “The Poetics of Change: Lu Xun’s Relevance and Influence on East Asian Modernity”. He has recently, in collaboration with Dr. Raman Sinha, Centre for Indian Languages, JNU, has completed a Chinese - Hindi translation of Lu Xun’s prose poetry collection Wild Grass (forthcoming 2018-19). Dr. Adlakha has also translated Lu Xun’s A Madman’s Diary from Chinese into Hindi (forthcoming 2018-19). He regularly contributes articles to journals and news magazines such as China Report, The Diplomat etc.

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