Lu Xun is famous for his short stories which point out the lack of compassion and lack of honesty in Chinese society during late Imperial China.
Lu Xun is a pen name. His real name is Zhou Shu Ren. Born in 1881 to a scholar family he abandoned the path of studying for the imperial civil service exams to study medicine in Japan. He abandoned his study after seeing a slide of the execution of a Chinese by the Japanese in front of a group of apathetic Chinese. He came to the conclusion that a nation of healthy people is useless if they are intellectually and spiritually weak. After his Damascene experience, he abandoned his medical studies and turned to write to galvanise the Chinese people.
There are 2 English translations of his complete short stories. The earlier is by William Lyell published by the University of Hawaii Press in 1990. The latest is by Julia Lovell published by Penguin in 2009 with an Afterword by Yiyun Li.
Lyell’s translation is more accessible compared to Lovell’s though his footnotes are more and better. Lyell’s version also has wonderful caricatures illustrations of The Real Story of Ah-Q. Lovell’s has no illustrations. The Afterword by Li, to me, is inconsequential and does not add to the readers’ appreciation of the importance of Lu Xun as an important founding figure of modern Chinese literature. For me, the best of Lu Xun’s short stories are ‘ The Real story of Ah-Q’, ‘ Diary of a Madman’ and ‘Kong Yi Ji’.