Nobel Prize for Literature

With the upcoming announcement for the Nobel Prize in Literature, I was reminded of Lu Xun and began to pick up volume 3 of the “Lu Xun – Selected Works” and simply turning to a page to read, just for the reading pleasure and to relieve the thought of him.

I happen to turn to this piece that he wrote on “What is the secret to good writing?”. This was his reply to a magazine when asked by them to comment on this topic.

December 27, 1931

Dear Sir,

You should have addressed your question to American or Chinese professors in Shanghai, whose heads are full of “rules of writing” and “the art of writing fiction.” Though I have written a score or so of short stories I have never had any set views on the subject, in much the same way as I can speak Chinese but could never write An Introduction to Chinese Grammar. But since you did me the honour of consulting me, here are a few tips from my experience:

1. Take an interest in everything and see as much as you can. Don’t write as soon as you have seen a little.

2. Don’t force yourself to write when not in the mood.

3. Don’t choose definite models for your characters, but create them out of all that you have seen.

4. Read your story through a least twice after finishing it, and ruthlessly cut all words, phrases and sections that are not essential. It is better to compress the material for a story into a sketch than to stretch the material for a sketch into a story.

5. Read foreign stories, especially those of Eastern and Northern Europe, as well as Japanese works.

6. Never make up adjectives or phrases that no one else can understand.

7. Never believe any talk about “rules of writing.”

8. Never trust Chinese “literary critics,” but read the works of reliable foreign critics.

That is all I can say on this subject. I send you my greetings!

Lu Xun.


The above must be read against the background of Lu Xun during the 1931 era in China and his political interests and you will probably understand his words within that context.

Currently, I am all absorbed into improving my skills at Weiqi (Go). Have been spending a lot of time in solving problems, replaying professional games and playing as well. This is to prepare myself mentally for the upcoming tournament in Bangkok from the 19th of October to 23rd October 2005. Hopefully can win something but most importantly is to meet more friends and promote goodwill amongst people of different nations since many countries will be participating in this tournament. Wish me luck ;-)

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