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Wild Grass

Lu Xun

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To purchase Wild Grass

Title: Wild Grass
Author: Lu Xun
Genre: Various
Written: 1927 (Eng. 2022)
Length: 97 pages
Original in: Chinese
Availability: in: Wild Grass and Morning Blossoms Gathered at Dusk - US
in: Wild Grass and Morning Blossoms Gathered at Dusk - UK
in: Wild Grass and Morning Blossoms Gathered at Dusk - Canada
in: Nouvelles et poèmes en prose - France
Wilde Gräser - Deutschland
Erbe selvatiche - Italia
La mala hierba - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
directly from: Harvard University Press
  • Chinese title: 野草
  • Originally published in the literary journal Threads of Talk (语丝) between December 1924 and April 1926
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Eileen J. Cheng
  • Edited by Theodore Huters
  • Previously translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang (1974) and by Matt Turner, as Weeds (2019)

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Our Assessment:

B : small, artful collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Wild Grass collects twenty-three pieces originally published in a literary journal, with Lu Xun explaining in a 1932 planned Preface to an English translation by Y.S.Feng (which was destroyed in the Battle of Shanghai and never published) that:

They are, for the most part, little more than impromptu reflections. Since it was difficult to say things directly at the time, the wording is sometimes rather ambiguous.
       As translator Cheng notes in her Introduction, the collection is often called one of 'prose poems' but:
The term, however, is somewhat of a misnomer. the collection is an eclectic mix of genres, including prose poems, anecdotes, parables, dream-writing, and short memoirs; it also includes a one-act play and a parody of a classical poem.
       It is indeed very much a grab-bag of different styles and approaches, in short pieces -- many only two or so pages long. They do include fairly traditional story-like-accounts, such as 'Story of Good Things', that opens nicely:
     The lamp flame gradually dwindled, indicating that not much kerosene remained. The kerosene wasn't the old trusted brand, and its smoke had long left dark stains on the glass chimney. The sound of exploding firecrackers reverberated all around, and tobacco smoke surrounded me. It was a murky night.
       The classical-poem-parody and the mini-drama are the biggest changes of pace in the collection, but even here the feel remains consistent with the collection as a whole. The approach Lu Xun then relies most on is in relating dreams -- though even here he shows creative variety, from 'Tremors on the Border of Degradation', which begins: "I dreamed of myself dreaming", to 'After Death', which begins: "I dreamed of myself dead on a road". Nicely, too, he concludes one such piece, 'The Dog's Retort':
     I keep on running, fleeing as fast as I can until I have fled the dreamscape and am lying in my own bed.
       There's a pervasive sense of melancholy, too -- not of hopelessness, but of a kind of resignation, as in 'Hope', which begins:
     My heart feels exceptionally lonely.
     Yet my heart is at peace: no love nor hate, no joy nor sorrow. No color nor sound either.
     I have probably grown old.
       Here he turns to words by Petőfi Sándor (!) -- a rare instance of referring to other writing or historical figures in the collection --, finding some hold and explanation in a line of Petőfi's: "Despair, like hope, is a delusion".
       These are more than simple sketches, offering interesting if at times oblique insight with their dips into the author's moods and states of mind in these years. Well-expressed, there is much here that is dream-like -- so also both the sense of the fleeting and nebulous --, making for a fine collection that lingers past its initial impressions.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 March 2024

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Wild Grass: Reviews: Lu Xun: Other books by Lu Xun under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Chinese author Lu Xun (鲁迅) lived 1881 to 1936.

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© 2024 the complete review

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