Roy Chan is assistant professor of Chinese at the College of William & Mary.
This talk explores the ways in which Lev Tolstoy is cited nearly contemporaneously by Gyorgy Lukacs and Eileen Chang: according to Lukacs, Tolstoy embodied the quintessence of realist narrative’s ability to capture the mass experience of history. For Chang, defending herself against charges of being a trivial and uncommitted pulp writer, Tolstoy’s work exemplified the value of a narrative process marked by the very serendipity and contingency mirrored in reality. I will explore the common resonances of war, narrative and history that run through Lukacs’ and Chang’s appropriations of Tolstoy, as well as suggest ways in which all three writers are trying to grapple with world-historical consciousness through literary form. Noting Lukacs’ and Chang’s common citation of Tolstoy as a monument to their own writing, I also plan to articulate how all these writers engage in a special kind of “world literature” indelibly marked by modern warfare and mass-produced suffering.