Ellan Read

sometimes witty book reviews

The True Story of Ah Q

It’s unlikely you’ve ever read this if your’e 1) not Chinese 2) have not studied Chinese. There aren’t many English translations; I struggled through this Chinese Language class version. No, not exactly the most appealing read to hunt down. Gosh I write these blogs well sometimes…

So why read this? Well, if you’re a language/linguistics buff you’ll be very excited. It’s one of the first Chinese texts written in the (then) new Chinese ‘Vernacular Language.’ That is, it wasn’t written in the style of ancient Chinese classics but actually in the spoken language that the people of China used at the time. The True Story of Ah Q (1921) was a story accessible to the masses just as they were beginning to be educated.

If you’re a history fanatic, you’ll appreciate that Ah Q as a character is a personification of the Chinese state just before the 1911 revolution overthrew the Ming dynasty. Ah Q is a stupendously daft country bumpkin that the author, Lu Xun, seems to delight in torturing. There are characterisations of ‘Western Devils,’ Japan, ancient religious sects and of course the struggling government of the day.

For the politics enthusiast, you’ll appreciate the trials of Lu Xun after the publication of his novella. First of all – it was a novella; second it was written across (rather than down) the page. Huge Western influences that directly challenged the still lingering, feudal-era tendencies. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) latched onto Xun’s Western-influenced, anti-Ming writings a few years later and promoted his works as having a revolutionary voice. The CCP then turned around and persecuted him during the Cultural Revolution for…um…being too Western and not respecting the dynastical traditions of China.

It’s short, pretty funny and definitely not something everyone reads. (And yes, I am trying to get more people to read this so I’m not mistaken for a hipster…)

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This entry was posted on April 3, 2015 by in China, Classics, Fiction, political and tagged , , .
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