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A Madman's DiaryScritto da: Lu Xun Letto da: Douglas Harvey Audio
“A Madman’s Diary” is a short story by Lu Xun first published in 1918. Written in vernacular Chinese, it is considered “China’s first modern short story” and the most influential modern work in the republican era. Lu was inspired by “Diary of a Madman" by Nicolai Gogol, both in the use of the diary form and in the idea that the madman sees things more clearly than others. The story comes about when the narrator decides to visit two friends with whom he has lost touch when he learns that one of them has fallen ill. When he arrives, he is met by the brother, who informs him that his brother is no longer ill and hands him a copy of his brother’s diary. It is immediately apparent that the diarist is indeed mad. He believes he is surrounded by cannibals and that everyone has cannibalistic designs on him. His paranoia grows and he begins to see threats everywhere. He even sees the words “Eat People” between the lines of classic Confucian texts. He eventually suspects that his late sister had been eaten by his brother, and that he himself may have unknowingly done so. He ardently hopes that everyone will have a change of heart and change their ways. The story ends with a plea to “save the children”.
The story is not readily comprehensible, and it took several years for it to be recognized as important. Gradually the madman is seen as a revolutionary contemptuous of Chinese tradition and its feudal society that “eats people”, people who themselves are corrupted by traditions they cannot escape.