The American journalist Edgar Snow, who is best known for his book Red Star Over China (1937), apparently managed to interview Lu Xun (1881 - 1936). According to Helmut Martin, who wrote an afterword to a German translation of The True Story of Ah Q (1921 - 1922), Edgar Snow asked Lu Xun whether there were still as many Ah Qs in China as at the time when Lu Xun wrote the story a decade earlier. Lu Xun responded (German translation):

Es ist schlimmer geworden. Jetzt regieren sie schon dieses Land!

("It has gotten worse. Now they are even ruling this country!" Translated from Die wahre Geschichte des Ah Q. Nachwort von Helmut Marting. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1982; page 113.)

Wikipedia gives the following translation:

It's worse now. Now it's Ah Q's who are running the country.

(The translation reads "Ah Q's", not "the Ah Q's"; this may be related to the fact that Chinese has no definite articles.) Wikipedia claims that the source is Denton "MOVE TO THE LEFT: 1927–1936", which is not in the list of sources, and which I have not been able to track down online.

My question is where and when Edgar Snow published the interview from which this quote is taken. It is definitely not in Red Star Over China (I couldn't find it in my own copy of the book).

  • 1
    Wang Baorong's PhD thesis "Lu Xun’s Fiction in English Translation: The Early Years", which can be requested here, might have some relevant info. Snow and Xun first met on 21 February 1933, and Snow interviewed Xun during that week, but the text of the interview is not quoted there. Most likely it was in Chinese, since Xun knew little English. Someone who speaks Chinese might be able to answer this easily just from a quick web search.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 11:52
  • The Denton citation is to u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/lu-xun ; search for "Move to the left" in that document. What it says is not more detailed than the W article itself, and less detailed than Ra'T's answer. Commented May 2, 2020 at 14:07
  • @kimchilover Thanks. When I searched for that article in January 2019, it was apparently incomplete; at that time, I couldn't find that passage in the article, if I remember correctly.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


I found somewhere that provides a proper source, although it seems the interview was conducted and probably published in Chinese, so it may be difficult to actually find the original unless you speak Chinese.

From a footnote in Paul B. Foster, Ah Q Archaeology: Lu Xun, Ah Q, Ah Q Progeny and the National Character Discourse in Twentieth Century China, Lexington Books, 2006, chapter 8 footnote 20, page 331:

Lu Xun recognized exactly this point, as reported by Edgar Snow, who asked him: "Since the Nationalist Party has made the second revolution, do you think there are just as many Ah Q's now as before?" Lu Xun replied laughing: "It's even worse. Now they are governing the country." Edgar Snow, "Lu Xun he Meiguo jizhe Aidejia Sinuo tan A Q" [Lu Xun talks about Ah Q with American reporter Edgar Snow], in Shuo bu jin de A Q [The immutable Ah Q], gen. ed. Chen Shuyu (Beijing: Zhongguo wenlian chuban gongsi, 1997), 120.

Worldcat and Stanford Libraries have entries for this book.

The article Paul B. Foster, "Ah Q genealogy: Ah Q, Miss Ah Q, national characterand the construction of the Ah Q discourse", Asian Studies Review, 28(3) (2004), pp. 243-266, also cites this comment to the same source, the 1997 book.

I found this by first searching for Snow's article Edgar Snow, "Lu Shun: Master of Pai-Hua", Asia (January) (1935): pp. 40-43, which I couldn't find online, but then searching for anything which cites this article - of which Google Scholar found 6, one of them being the book quoted above.

  • Thanks! I had searched using both "Lu Xun" and "Lu Hsun", but "Lu Shun" is a non-standard transliteration, as far as I know. And it had not occurred to me that Edgar Snow might have published an interview in Chinese instead of English.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 12:39
  • @Tsundoku I've seen it as "Lu Hsun" and "Lu Shun" as well - so many variants. Also, apparently Lu Xun didn't speak good English (at least not at the time when Snow met him), so I was more or less expecting the interview would've been in Chinese.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 13:10

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