Lu Xun (1881-1936) is one of the most prominent symbols and advocates of China’s cultural and linguistic revolution at the beginning of last century. As it is known, Chinese modernity was also the result of a wide and dynamic process of translation and transculturation.

Both as a writer and a translator, Lu Xun contributed to shaping modern Chinese literature and culture with his own literary creation and a range of translations from Western fiction and theory – often mediated through the Japanese language.

However, more than a theorist and practitioner of translation, Lu Xun was mainly a critical and «translational» thinker, a disposition who helped him through the often painful and self-questioning confrontation with the West. His famous theory of nalaizhuyi 拿来主义 (grabbism), elaborated in the years of his study of Western literatures and translation activity, reminds of Spivak’s theory of translation as culture, while his yingyi 硬译 (hard or stiff translation) method anticipates somehow Venuti’s concept of foreignisation.

Lu Xun was a fine scholar and a good transmitter of traditional Chinese literature, as his innovating and still unsurpassed book on the history of Chinese fiction demonstrates. His proficiency in classical Chinese prose and poetry did not prevent him from boldly experimenting a completely new writing method, «grabbing» some stylistic and syntactic features from the foreign writers he had translated, and melting them with traditional elements.

On the hundredth anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, which was deeply inspired by the translation of foreign works, while taking into account the specific historical conditions, the cultural bias of his time and his own controversial personality, Lu Xun can be analysed and recognised as a «cultural translator», who attempted to translate between Western and Chinese culture building on the awareness of the inequality of this dialogue.

Nicoletta Pesaro is Associate professor of Chinese Language and Literature at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. She has been teaching modern Chinese language, Chinese translation and modern and contemporary Chinese literature since 2000, and coordinates the Master programme in Interpreting and Translation for Publishing and for Special Purposes (Ca’ Foscari University) since 2008. 

Her research interests include modern and contemporary Chinese literature, theory of narrative and translation studies. She edited two books, on Chinese literature (La litérature chinoise globale: enjeux linguistiques, traductologiques et génériques, 2017) and on Chinese translation (The Ways of Translation. Constraints and Liberties of Translating Chinese, 2014). She is currently completing a new Italian translation of Lu Xun’s first two collections of short stories (Sellerio Editore) and a book on Twentieth-Century Chinese fiction with M. Pirazzoli (Carocci).