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Tropic of Cancer[北回归线][En/Cn]







It was spring before I managed to escape from the penitentiary, and then only by a stroke of fortune. A telegram from Carl informed me one day that there was a vacancy "upstairs"; he said he would send me the fare back if I decided to accept. I telegraphed back at once and as soon as the dough arrived I beat it to the station. Not a word to M. le Proviseur or anyone. French leave, as they say.

  我一下车便立刻来到一号乙的那家旅馆,卡尔就住在这儿。 他一丝不挂来开门,这天他是晚上休息,同往常一样床上有个女人。他说,“别管她,她睡着了。假如你想睡女人就睡她好了,她还不坏。”他拉开被子让我看看她的容貌,可是我还不想马上睡女人。我太激动了,像一个刚刚从狱中逃出的犯人。我只是想看、想听。从车站一路走来,像是做了一场大梦,我觉得自己已离开了很多年。

I went immediately to the hotel at 1 bis, where Carl was staying. He came to the door stark naked. It was his night off and there was a cunt in the bed as usual. "Don't mind her," he says, "she's asleep. If you need a lay you can take her on. She's not bad." He pulls the covers back to show me what she looks like. However, I wasn't thinking about a lay right away. I was too excited. I was like a man who has just escaped from jail. I just wanted to see and hear things. Coming from the station it was like a long dream. I felt as though I had been away for years.


It was not until I had sat down and taken a good look at the room that I realized I was back again in Paris. It was Carl's room and no mistake about it. Like a squirrel cage and shithouse combined. There was hardly room on the table for the portable machine he used. It was always like that, whether he had a cunt with him or not. Always a dictionary lying open on a gilt‑edged volume of Faust, always a tobacco pouch, a beret, a bottle of vin rouge, letters, manuscripts, old newspapers, water colors, teapot, dirty socks, toothpicks, Kruschen Salts, condoms, etc. In the bidet were orange peels and the remnants of a ham sandwich.


"There's some food in the closet" he said. "Help yourself! I was just going to give myself an injection."


I found the sandwich he was talking about and a piece of cheese that he had nibbled at beside it. While he sat on the edge of the bed, dosing himself with his argyrol, I put away the sandwich and cheese with the aid of a little wine.


"I liked that letter you sent me about Goethe," he said, wiping his prick with a dirty pair of drawers.


"I'll show you the answer to it in a minute – I'm putting it in my book. The trouble with you is that you're not a German. You have to be German to understand Goethe. Shit, I'm not going to explain it to you now. I've put it all in the book… By the way, I've got a new cunt now – not this one – this one's a half‑wit. At least, I had her until a few days ago. I'm not sure whether she'll come back or not. She was living with me all the time you were away. The other day her parents came and took her away. They said she was only fifteen. Can you beat that? They scared the shit out of me too…" I began to laugh. It was like Carl to get himself into a mess like that.

  他说,“你笑什么,也许我会为这个坐牢的。还好,我没有叫她怀上孕。不过这也很奇怪,因为她从来不采取妥当的措施照顾自己。你知道是什么救了我?照我看,是《浮士德》。就是! 她老子正巧看见它放在桌上,他问我懂不懂德文。事情这样一件件连下去,不等我省悟过来他已经瞧开我的书了。幸好我凑巧把莎士比亚的剧本也摊开了,这使他大力吃惊,说我显然是一个非常严肃的人。”

"What are you laughing for?" he said. "I may go to prison for it. Luckily, I didn't knock her up. And that's funny, too, because she never took care of herself properly. But do you know what saved me? So I think, at least. It was Faust. Yeah! Her old man happened to see it lying on the table. He asked me if I understood German. One thing led to another and before I knew it he was looking through my books. Fortunately I happened to have the Shakespeare open too. That impressed him like hell. He said I was evidently a very serious guy."


"What about the girl – what did she have to say?"

  “她吓得要死。你瞧,她来时戴着一块小手表,可慌乱中我们找不到这块表了。她老妈一定要叫我找到它,否则就叫警察。 这你就明白当时的情形了。我把整个房间翻了个底朝天,可还是找不到那块见鬼的手表。那当妈的气疯了。尽管她对我很不客气,我还是喜欢她,她比她女儿长得还漂亮呢。瞧,我要给你看看我刚刚开头写给她的信,我爱上她了……”

"She was frightened to death. You see, she had a little watch with her when she came; in the excitement we couldn't find the watch, and her mother insisted that the watch be found or she'd call the police. You see how things are here. I turned the whole place upside down – but I couldn't find the goddamned watch. The mother was furious. I liked her too, in spite of everything. She was even better‑looking than the daughter. Here – I'll show you a letter I started to write her. I'm in love with her…"



"With the mother?"


"Sure. Why not? If I had seen the mother first I'd never have looked at the daughter. How did I know she was only fifteen? You don't ask a cunt how old she is before you lay her, do you?"


"Joe, there's something funny about this. You're not shitting me, are you?"



"Am I shitting you? Here – look at this!" And he shows me the water colors the girl had made – cute little things – a knife and a loaf of bread, the table and teapot, everything running uphill. "She was in love with me," he said. "She was just like a child. I had to tell her when to brush her teeth and how to put her, hat on. Here – look at the lollypops! I used to buy her a few lollypops every day – she liked them."


"Well, what did she do when her parents came to take her away? Didn't she put up a row?"


"She cried a little, that's all. What could she do? She's under age… I had to promise never to see her again, never to write her either. That's what I'm waiting to see now – whether she'll stay away or not. She was a virgin when she came here. The thing is, how long will she be able to go without a lay? She couldn't get enough of it when she was here. She almost wore me out."


By this time the one in bed had come to and was rubbing her eyes. She looked pretty young to me, too. Not bad looking but dumb as hell. Wanted to know right away what we were talking about.


"She lives here in the hotel," said Carl. "On the third floor. Do you want to go to her room? I'll fix it up for you."



I didn't know whether I wanted to or not, but when I saw Carl mushing it up with her again I decided I did want to. I asked her first if she was too tired. Useless question. A whore is never too tired to open her legs. Some of them can fall asleep while you diddle them. Anyway, it was decided we would go down to her room. Like that I wouldn't have to pay the patron for the night.


In the morning I rented a room overlooking the little park down below where the sandwich-board men always came to eat their lunch. At noon I called for Carl to have breakfast with him. He and Van Norden had developed a new habit in my absence – they went to the Coupole for breakfast every day. "Why the Coupole?" I asked. "Why the Coupole?" says Carl. "Because the Coupole serves porridge at all hours and porridge makes you shit." – "I see," said I.


So it's just like it used to be again. The three of us walking back and forth to work. Petty dissensions, petty rivalries. Van Norden still bellyaching about his cunts and about washing the dirt out of his belly. Only now he's found a new diversion. He's found that it's less annoying to masturbate. I was amazed when he broke the news to me. I didn't think it possible for a guy like that to find any pleasure in jerking himself off. I was still more amazed when he explained to me how he goes about it. He had "invented" a new stunt, so he put it. "You take an apple," he says, "and you bore out the core. Then you rub some cold cream on the inside so as it doesn't melt too fast. Try it some time! It'll drive you crazy at first. Anyway, it's cheap and you don't have to waste much time.


"By the way," he says, switching the subject, "that friend of yours, Fillmore, he's in the hospital. I think he's nuts. Anyway, that's what his girl told me. He took on a French girl, you know, while you were away. They used to fight like hell. She's a big, healthy bitch – wild like. I wouldn't mind giving her a tumble, but I'm afraid she'd claw the eyes out of me. He was always going around with his face and hands scratched up. She looks bunged up too once in a while – or she used to. You know how these French cunts are – when they love they lose their minds."

Evidently things had happened while I was away. I was sorry to hear about Fillmore. He had been damned good to me. When I left Van Norden I jumped a bus and went straight to the hospital.

They hadn't decided yet whether he was completely off his base or not, I suppose, for I found him upstairs in a private room, enjoying all the liberties of the regular patients. He had just come from the bath when I arrived. When he caught sight of me he burst into tears. "It's all over," he says immediately. "They say I'm crazy – and I may have syphilis too. They say I have delusions of grandeur." He fell over onto the bed and wept quietly. After he had wept a while he lifted his head up and smiled – just like a bird coming out of a snooze. "Why do they put me in such an expensive room?" he said. "Why don't they put me in the ward – or in the bughouse? I can't afford to pay for this. I'm down to my last five hundred dollars."

"That's why they're keeping you here," I said. "They'll transfer you quickly enough when your money runs out. Don't worry."

My words must have impressed him, for I had no sooner finished than he handed me his watch and chain, his wallet, his fraternity pin, etc. "Hold on to them," he said. "These bastards'll rob me of everything I've got." And then suddenly he began to laugh, one of those weird, mirthless laughs which makes you believe a guy's goofy whether he is or not. "I know you'll think I'm crazy," he said, "but I want to atone for what I did. I want to get married. You see, I didn't know I had the clap. I gave her the clap and then I knocked her up. I told the doctor I don't care what happens to me, but I want him to let me get married first. He keeps telling me to wait until I get better but I know I'm never going to get better. This is the end."

I couldn't help laughing myself, hearing him talk that way. I couldn't understand what had come over him. Anyway, I had to promise him to see the girl and explain things to her. He wanted me to stick by her, comfort her. Said he could trust me, etc. I said yes to everything in order to soothe him. He didn't seem exactly nuts to me – just caved‑in like. Typical Anglo‑Saxon crisis. An eruption of morals. I was rather curious to see the girl, to get the lowdown on the whole thing.

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