For the love of Lu Xun

Ja­panese pro­fes­sor’s fas­ci­na­tion with one of China’s fore­most lit­er­ary fig­ures sparked a life­long in­ter­est

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE - By CAI HONG cai­hong@chi­

Re­spond­ing to a re­quest for a photo, Shozo Fu­jii, in his of­fice at the Uni­ver­sity of Tokyo, goes to one of his book­shelves and stands near a pic­ture of Lu Xun (1881-1936), a tow­er­ing fig­ure of mod­ern Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture. Lu Xun is one of the pro­fes­sor’s fa­vorite Chi­nese writ­ers.

“I was into Lu Xun’s work soon af­ter I read his short story, My Old Home, at ju­nior high school,” Fu­jii said.

The Ja­panese edi­tions of Lu Xun’s sto­ries such as Mr Fu­jino, A Small In­ci­dent, Storm in a Teacup and My Old Home were in­cluded in the Ja­panese ju­nior high school kokugo, or na­tional lan­guage, cur­ricu­lum af­ter the 1950s.

For Fu­jii, Lu Xun’s work opened the door to China. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school in 1972, he en­rolled at Ja­pan’s most pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing, the Uni­ver­sity of Tokyo, to study Chi­nese lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture.

In Septem­ber 1979, he went to Shang­hai as one of the first ex­change stu­dents be­tween China and Ja­pan and stud­ied at Fu­dan Uni­ver­sity for a year.

Later, back in Ja­pan, he con­tin­ued to study at Tokyo Uni­ver­sity and did his PhD dis­ser­ta­tion on Lu Xun’s lit­er­ary world and its in­flu­ence on lit­er­a­ture in China, Ja­pan and Rus­sia.

Fu­jii has taught con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture at the school since 1983, ex­cept for an in­ter­val from 1985 to 1988 at the Tokyo-based JF Oberlin Uni­ver­sity. He is now one of Ja­pan’s best­known schol­ars of mod­ern Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture and film.

Be­sides Lu Xun, Fu­jii’s stud­ies have cov­ered a large num­ber of Chi­nese lit­er­ary fig­ures, in­clud­ing Hu Shi, Mo Yan, Zheng Yi and writ­ers in Tai­wan and Hong Kong. But Lu Xun has al­ways stayed close to his heart.

Books Fu­jii has writ­ten about the Chi­nese writer in­clude The His­tory of Read­ing of Lu Xun’s My Old Home: The Space of Lit­er­a­ture in Mod­ern China, Lu Xun — The Land­scape of ‘Home­land’ and The En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Lu Xun.

The His­tory of Read­ing of Lu Xun’s My Old Home is a sum­mary of Fu­jii’s study of the Chi­nese writer over two decades. The book, which fo­cuses on My Old Home, in­ves­ti­gates its read­ing by mod­ern Chi­nese in­tel­lec­tu­als and how “imag­ined com­mu­nity” plays a role in the con­struc­tion of a na­tion.

The En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Lu Xun, pub­lished in 2002, won Fu­jii the 1 mil­lion yen ($9,500) Masayoshi Ohira Me­mo­rial Prize in 2003. In mem­ory of for­mer Ja­panese prime min­is­ter Masayoshi Ohira, the award is for books on pol­i­tics, eco­nom­ics, cul­ture and tech­nol­ogy which are be­lieved to have con­trib­uted to the de­vel­op­ment of the Ja­panese politi­cian’s Pa­cific Basin Com­mu­nity con­cept.

Quite a few Chi­nese writ­ers were writ­ing sto­ries and nov­els in Ja­pan in the early 20th cen­tury. In Jan­uary 1906, in Ja­pan’s north­east­ern city of Sendai, Lu Xun claimed to have ex­pe­ri­enced a life- chang­ing epiphany that led him to aban­don his med­i­cal stud­ies there and de­vote him­self to the “cre­ation of a lit­er­a­ture that would min­is­ter to the ail­ing Chi­nese psy­che”.

In a bac­te­ri­ol­ogy class at Sendai Med­i­cal School, the in­struc­tor used the slide pro­jec­tor to show stu­dents im­ages from the Russo-Ja­panese War (1904- 05). One of the slides showed a Chi­nese pris­oner about to be ex­e­cuted in Manchuria by a Ja­panese sol­dier, and the cap­tion de­scribed the man as a Rus­sian spy.

Later re­count­ing the “lantern slides in­ci­dent”, Lu Xun said the war scenes roused his Ja­panese class­mates into a pa­tri­otic frenzy. There were re­ver­ber­at­ing chants of “ban­zai!” — the Ja­panese war cry “(May you live) 10 thou­sand years!”

More than the sight of a fel­low Chi­nese fac­ing death, it was the ex­pres­sions on the faces of the Chi­nese bystanders that left Lu Xun deeply trou­bled. Phys­i­cally, they ap­peared sound, yet he felt that spir­i­tu­ally they were close to death.

With his switch from med­i­cal stud­ies to the lit­er­ary world, Lu Xun is widely re­garded as the founder of mod­ern Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture. And his in­flu­ence has ex­panded to Ja­panese writ­ers.

Osamu Dazai, one of Ja­pan’s most fa­mous 20th cen­tury authors, wrote a fic­tional bi­og­ra­phy of Lu Xun en­ti­tled A Re­gret­ful Farewell, in which he re­con­structed the “lantern slides in­ci­dent” and Lu Xun’s con­ver­sion to a lit­er­ary ca­reer.

Fu­jii has also traced Lu Xun in books writ­ten by other Chi­nese and Ja­panese authors.

From The His­tory of Read­ing of Lu Xun’s My Old Home to re­search into Chi­nese read­ing by Ja­pan lit­er­ary sen­sa­tion Haruki Mu­rakami, Fu­jii uses the so­ci­ol­ogy of lit­er­a­ture to give his work a broad per­spec­tive and con­sis­tent cul­tural iden­tity.

Fu­jii ar­gues that Lu Xun is one of Mu­rakami’s main in­flu­ences — break­ing with the com­monly held view that his in­flu­ences were pri­mar­ily Western writ­ers and lit­er­ary heavy­weights like F Scott Fitzger­ald and Fy­o­dor Dos­toyevsky.

Take the Ja­panese writer’s novel, 1Q84, for ex­am­ple. The ‘1’ in the book’s ti­tle, Fu­jii said, should be read as the per­sonal pro­noun ‘I’. In other words, ‘I am Q’. What the ‘84’ might stand for is un­clear.

In the third vol­ume of Mu­rakami’s 1Q84, there is a char­ac­ter called Gyuka — in­ter­preted as a play on the name Akyu, which is the Ja­panese spell­ing of the lead char­ac­ter’s name in Lu Xun’s

Fu­jii’s the­ory about 1Q84’ s mean­ing has been bol­stered by his close read­ings of Chi­nese lit­er­ary themes in Mu­rakami’s early nov­els such as Hear the Wind Sing and The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle.

The first line of Mu­rakami’s Hear the Wind Sing is rem­i­nis­cent of a line from Lu Xun’s po­etry col­lec­tion Wild Grass which says “des­per­a­tion is also a kind of hope”, ac­cord­ing to Fu­jii.

The Tokyo Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor be­lieves that although Mu­rakami only went to China once — in the 1990s, work­ing on a book in North China’s In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion — a num­ber of char­ac­ters in his works are Chi­nese.

Fu­jii, a pro­lific scholar, has trans­lated books writ­ten by Chi­nese authors, such as Tai­wan nov­el­ist Li Ang and the main­land’s win­ner of the 2012 No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture, Mo Yan. He trans­lated Mo Yan’s short sto­ries and The Repub­lic of Wine into Ja­panese.

His trans­la­tions of these writ­ers won praise from Ja­pan’s 1994 No­bel lau­re­ate in lit­er­a­ture, Ken­z­aburo Oe.

“When I vis­ited Mo Yan in his home­town, Gaomi, in East China’s Shan­dong prov­ince, I found a place dif­fer­ent from what I had imag­ined,” Fu­jii said.

From the Chi­nese au­thor’s sto­ries, the Ja­panese pro­fes­sor had pic­tured the place where he lived.

“( But) I re­al­ized how imag­i­na­tive Mo is shortly af­ter I ar­rived at Gaomi. He turns the ditches there into big rivers in his nov­els,” Fu­jii re­called.

Of course, there are other streams in mod­ern Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture, too. Fu­jii, the keen scholar, also pays close at­ten­tion to younger writ­ers such as Li Jie, known by her pen name Anni Baobei or An­nie Baby, and those of the bal­ing hou (“post-1980”) gen­er­a­tion, like au­thor, blog­ger, singer and pro­fes­sional rally driver Han Han.


Shozo Fu­jii says Lu Xun is one of his fa­vorite Chi­nese writ­ers.

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