The paper examines the ways in which memory is constructed in Lu Xun’s writings, above all his essay (zawen) by means of an artistic staging of its antagonism with forgetting. The author emphasizes the primacy of forgetting, as opposed to recollection conventionally understood, as the centrality of Lu Xun’s stressful, tragic principle of memory. The author argues that, by turning to forgetting as a register of and formal-spatial space for historical and political content, Lu Xun puts his signature stylistic maneuvers and mannerisms in full display. Hence, “memory for the sake of forgetting” must be understood literally, that is, as forgetting functioning as a heightened and intensified form of social protest, albeit in modernistic rather than realistic terms; and through this pressurized and agonistic inner space of convoluted temporality. Furthermore, the author seeks to show that forgetting also serves a representational function that goes hand-in-hand with Lu Xun’s zawen as poetics and chronicle all at once. In Lu Xun’s writing of reminiscence, that which fails to be repressed into silence, despair and oblivion roars back from the depth of an existential void, and reorganizes historical experiences of chaos and danger into a more powerful and intimate encasement and mimesis of reality. Thus, in Lu Xun, a modernist intervention into nothingness makes palpable history’s own structure of conflict, oppression and impasse which simultaneously stands for a metaphysics of defiance and hope.
Canon or the classic refers to the best and most representative works in a literary or cultural tradition, and the rise of world literature now provides an opportunity for scholars of different literary traditions, particularly non-Western and the less well-known and insufficiently studied “minor” traditions, to introduce and present the canonical works they know best to form a canon of world literatures. World literature is not just all the works that happen to circulate beyond their culture of origin, but the collective body of the best canonical works from various literary traditions that circulate to constitute what we call world literature.
While Lu Xun’s early works of fiction have long established his literary reputation, this article focuses on the form and content of his zawen essays written several years later, from 1925 to 1927. Examining the zawen from Huagai ji, Huagai ji xubian (sequel), and Eryi ji (Nothing more), the author views these as “transitional” essays which demonstrate an emergent self-consciousness in Lu Xun’s writing. Through close reading of a selection of these essays, the author considers the ways in which they point toward a state of crisis for Lu Xun, as well as a means of tackling his sense of passivity and “petty matters.” This crisis-state ultimately yields a new literary form unique to the era, a form which represents a crucial source of Chinese modernity. From sheer impossibility and a “negating spirit” emerges a new and life-affirming possibility of literary experience.