The Will to the Transaesthetic:
The Truth Content of Lu Xun’s Fiction

By Jian Xu

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 11, no. 1, pp.61-92

What makes Lu Xun’s relatively small output of short fiction the paragon of twentieth-century Chinese literature? Is it its preoccupation with social and political concerns, an “obssession with China,” or the formalist concern of its fictional art? The answer is not both, the article argues, because in Lu Xun’s fiction, the two are not seperable. The two sides of the question are really one issue: how to enable the form of fiction to mediate truth content and thus articulate the social antagonisms without falsely resolving them The article introduces Theodor Adorno’s theory of the truth content in works of art to stress the paradoxical nature of Lu Xun’s art which epitomizes, in the author’s opinion, the major strength of modern Chinese literature as a whole. Because Lu Xun is not only willing, but actually seeks, to disrupt the unity and closure of his narrative form in order to expose the unreconciled status of social contradictions, he achieves a truly modern fictional art in its very “death” and is rightfully looked upon by later writers of China as the master of modern short fiction.