Fou Lei

An Insistence on Truth

In Fou Lei: An Insistence on Truth, Mingyuan Hu thinks through the life and work of one of modern China’s most significant public intellectuals, investigating his Shanghai-Paris trajectory and his resistance against cultural barbarism. Using hitherto undiscovered archival documents, Hu presents the first study of Fou Lei’s youth, particularly his formative years in Europe (1928–1931), and analyses the critic-translator’s identity vis-à-vis intercultural friendships and political predicaments. Bringing together previously untranslated material in French and Chinese, Fou Lei paints a man in dark times searching for illumination through words, and invites the reader to reconsider questions, unresolved and unspoken, about his tragic end.

This volume was originally published in hardback 25 May 2017.

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Mingyuan Hu, Ph.D. University of Glasgow and former Lecturer in Art History at the University of Leeds, is a Research Associate at the Humboldt University Berlin.
"Hu Mingyuan's book leaves the reader dreaming wistfully of a better China, of the boundless creative potential that could be unleashed within China, if the freedom of thought and the life of the spirit so evident in this book were ever to be sanctioned by the authorities. That would be a true Chinese Renaissance. [..] Hu Mingyuan's humanistic credentials are evident from the very first pages...So too is her virtuosity in navigating effortlessly between demanding texts in Chinese, English and French. [..] This absorbing book breaks new and fascinating ground, offering crucial evidence of the growth of a great translator's mind. It should be read with care by anyone engaged in modern Chinese intellectual history, and by all who are interested in the history of translation. [..] Throughout the book, Hu is never afraid to think laterally and creatively herself, infusing a lyrical quality into her writing, a quality which lifts her work far above the run-of-the mill academic studies of modern Chinese culture." - John Minford, Professor Emeritus of Chinese, Australian National University, and Sin Wai Kin Distinguished Professor of Chinese Culture and Translation, Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, in: China Review International, Vol. 24 No. 2 (2017)
"A powerfully argued and deeply moving study, linking Shanghai and Paris, of one of twentieth-century China’s greatest and most courageous public intellectuals. Uncovering previously unknown primary sources that detail personal relationships in Paris, Hu Mingyuan charts the evolution of Fou Lei’s resistance to authoritarianism and the seeds of his tragic demise." - Claire Roberts, The University of Melbourne, author of Friendship in Art: Fou Lei and Huang Binhong
"This is a groundbreaking biography of twentieth-century China’s greatest translator. The discoveries rigorously unearthed in Parisian archives by Dr Hu Mingyuan shed an entirely new light on Fou Lei’s links to French friends such as Jean Daniélou and René Étiemble. The reconstruction of Fou Lei’s intellectual itinerary through his brotherhood with his authors and heroes, be it Romain Rolland and his Jean-Christophe or Hippolyte Taine and his Philosophy of Art, restitutes for the reader this Insistence on Truth which gives Fou Lei’s tragic destiny its true meaning, beyond the mishaps common to much of his generation." – Pierre Barroux, former Consul General of France in Shanghai
Note on Transliteration
Note on Translation

Part 1: Shanghai in Revolution: An Unlived Youth
Chapter 1: Everywhere a Stranger

Part 2: The Spleen of Paris: A Bildungsroman
Chapter 2: Crisis: What Bruges Did Not Appease
Chapter 3: Malady: Child of the Century by Lac Léman
Chapter 4: Remedy: The Promise of Tainean Scientism
Chapter 5: Fever: From Werther to Beethoven
Chapter 6: Light: A Willed Metamorphosis

Part 3: Shanghai in Turmoil: A Land of Chimera
Chapter 7: Moralising in Times of War: A Critic was Born
Chapter 8: Translating, or the Search for a Brother
Chapter 9: Creatures of Prometheus, or Unresolved Grief

All interested in the art and intellectual histories in twentieth-century China, in Sino-European communication in interwar Paris, and in cross-lingual relations, cultural studies, and biography.
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