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The Inner Workings of Lu Xun’s Mind: Behind the Author’s Pen-Names

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Lu Xun is arguably the most prolific user of pseudonyms of all writers in the world. The question, then, is why. While the diversity and multiplicity of Lu Xun’s pseudonyms defy clear classification, a close examination reveals much more than just the erstwhile political justifications for anonymity. This article argues that Lu Xun’s pseudonyms, with their rich literary allusions, satire, and humour, shed light on his complex character, and contributed to his sophisticated writing style. Through the author’s choice of pseudonyms, we see the inner workings of his mind, hear a voice of a national conscience, and feel his intense—albeit at times ambivalent—emotions. The pen-names Lu Xun ingeniously employed constructed his image as a solitary thinker and fighter embarked on a long and difficult journey in search of light in the darkness. Indeed, not only have the pseudonyms enriched the layered significance of his writing, they also have much to tell about Lu Xun both as an author and a person: his keen awareness of social and political issues, his deep insight into the weakness of the national character, and his passionate concern for the nation, as well as his eclectic approach to both classical discourse and modern narrative. And as such, these pseudonyms should form an integral part of the many queries posed and pondered by Lu Xun studies.


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