Chinese Stories of Social Realism, 1918-1933
Straw Sandals is a collection of 23 stories, a play, and a poem by 16 Chinese writers selected to represent the radical literature produced in China between 1918 and 1933. It was assembled in Peking in 1934 by Harold R. Isaacs with the advice and guidance of Lu Hsün, China's foremost literary figure of this century, and Mao Tun, leading novelist of the younger group that had gathered around Lu Hsün in those tumultuous years.
The first half of the collection, including several of Lu Hsün's most famous stories, typifiers work that appeared in the first years of China's modern cultural renaissance—short stories written in vernacular Chinese that rejected surviving Chinese traditionalism with its philosophic and social outlooks, its rules of behavior for family life and relationships between men and women. The second group of stories reflects the growing ideological and political turbulence of the 1920s and 1930s.
Straw Sandals is introduced by Professor Isaacs, who describes the historical setting in which this short-lived and violence-ridden literary movement tried to make its way. He vividly presents the Shanghai of that period, where many of these writers struggled to pursue their craft and were caught between the pressures of Kuomintang repression (many were imprisoned and executed) and the demands for total conformity inside the Communist movement. His account adds an ironic perspective to the collection in the light of all that has happened since that time—for the writers who survived Kuomintang repression and the war against Japan to see the Communist victory they had fought so hard and so long to bring about ultimately fell in their turn in the repeated purges that marked the Communist regime's imposition of total control over all art and literature.
The English translations of a number of these stories first appeared in the China Forum, a journal that Professor Isaacs edited and published in Shanghai from 1932 to 1934. They were made by a distinguished Chinese language scholar, the late George A. Kennedy, while he was teaching I a Shanghai school. The rest of the collection was translated by several Chinese collaborators and then edited by Isaacs.
The book includes updated biographical notes on the writers, many of which were originally supplied by the writers themselves, and some notes by Mao Tun on underground literary magazines of the period.