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.
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.
An examination of Soviet nostalgia—nostalgia for the times when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had a close relationship with the Soviet Union, as it appears in contemporary discourses that reimagine the Soviet Union, is essential to understand the quotidian aspect and cultural history of the PRC in the 1950s, as well as cultural attitudes in contemporary China. Wang Meng’s In Remembrance of the Soviet Union (2007) and Feng Jicai’s Listening to Russia (2005) are characterized by nostalgia for the lost Soviet Union, which exerted a strong influence on the PRC during the 1950s. In contemporary China, where the market economy is the dominant mode of production, Wang and Feng’s Soviet nostalgia is a gesture of yearning for a type of historical temporality that has seemingly been lost. Their works express the desire to reclaim the historical past of the 1950s, which they portray as having been completely erased by the developmental logic of late-capitalism—the authentic cultural experiences in the 1950s, especially the everyday life along with the revolutionary ideals are rendered unreal within the post-revolutionary logic. The concept of Soviet “ji” (祭, “remembrance”) provides a theoretical framework through which to understand the way in which the phenomenon of Chinese nostalgia has the potential to shift contemporary social reality.