Lu Xun is one of the major figures of modern Chinese literature - but perhaps people out there in the Internet ether know this -- or at least, I keep wondering who in China is clicking on this blog? I taught "Diary of a Madman" this year -- reluctantly. I knew little of Chinese literature. It was a mandate from the English department at City College of New York to teach this early 20th century short story as part of my World Humanities course.
I loved this story. Reading and teaching Lu Xun led me to think of China -- and of other places in history and time that has suppressed human creativity and hope -- driven people crazy with fear. I wonder if they are reading him in China today -- or is he out of fashion? Written in 1918, "Diary of a Madman" is about a so called "madman's" point of view of his village -- of sanctioned terror, of a village and of families turning to the most horrendous of human crimes-- cannibalism.
Or, is this all just the crazed ramblings of an unreliable narrator? Moreover, is this truth or symbolic of a larger destruction of a corrupt, brutal, inhuman society? Does the madman speak truth to power or does he have no power at all --except to share his nightmares?
As the narrator exclaims at the very end, "Are there children who have not yet eaten human flesh? Save the children..."
author of LIE