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Tropic of Cancer  北回归线-第六章第一节

"Life," said Emerson, "consists in what a man is thinking all day." If that be so, then my life is nothing but a big intestine. I not only think about food all day, but I dream about it at night.


But I don't ask to go back to America, to be put in double harness again, to work the treadmill. No, I prefer to be a poor man of Europe. God knows, I am poor enough; it only remains to be a man. Last week I thought the problem of living was about to be solved, thought I was on the way to becoming self supporting. It happened that I ran across another Russian – Serge is his name. He lives in Suresnes where there is a little colony of émigrés and run down artists. Before the revolution Serge was a captain in the Imperial Guard; he stands six foot three in his stockinged feet and drinks vodka like a fish. His father was an admiral, or something like that, on the battleship "Potemkin."


I met Serge under rather peculiar circumstances. Sniffing about for food I found myself toward noon the other day in the neighbourhood of the Folies Bergère – the back entrance, that is to say, in the narrow little lane with an iron gate at one end. I was dawdling about the stage entrance, hoping vaguely for a casual brush with one of the butterflies, when an open truck pulls up to the sidewalk. Seeing me standing there with my hands in my pockets the driver, who was Serge, asks me if I would give him a hand unloading the iron barrels. When he learns that I am an American and that I'm broke he almost weeps with joy. He has been looking high and low for an English teacher, it seems. I help him roll the barrels of insecticide inside and I look my fill at the butterflies fluttering about the wings. The incident takes on strange proportions to me – the empty house, the sawdust dolls bouncing in the wings, the barrels of germicide, the battleship "Potemkin" – above all, Serge's gentleness. He is big and tender, a man every inch of him, but with a woman's heart.


In the café nearby – Café des Artistes – he proposes immediately to put me up; says he will put a mattress on the floor in the hallway. For the lessons he says he will give me a meal every day, a big Russian meal, or if for any reason the meal is lacking then five francs. It sounds wonderful to me – wonderful. The only question is, how will I get from Suresnes to the American Express every day?


Serge insists that we begin at once – he gives me the carfare to get out to Suresnes in the evening. I arrive a little before dinner, with my knapsack, in order to give Serge a lesson. There are some guests on hand already – seems as though they always eat in a crowd, everybody chipping in.


There are eight of us at the table – and three dogs. The dogs eat first. They eat oatmeal. Then we commence. We eat oatmeal too – as an hors d'œuvre. "Chez nous," says Serge, with a twinkle in his eye, "C'est pour les chiens, les Quaker Oats. Ici pour le gentleman. Ça va." After the oatmeal, mushroom soup and vegetables; after that bacon omelet, fruit, red wine, vodka, coffee, cigarettes. Not bad, the Russian meal. Everyone talks with his mouth full. Toward the end of the mea Serge's wife, who is a lazy slut of an Armenian, flops on the couch and begins to nibble bonbons. She fishes around in the box with her fat fingers, nibbles a tiny piece to see if there is any juice inside, and then throws it on the floor for the dogs.


The meal over, the guests rush away. They rush away precipitously, as if they feared a plague. Serge and I are left with the dogs – his wife has fallen asleep on the couch. Serge moves about unconcernedly, scraping the garbage for the dogs. "Dogs like very much," he says. "Very good for dogs. Little dog he has worms … he is too young yet." He bends down to examine some white worms lying on the carpet between the dog's paws. Tries to explain about the worms in English, but his vocabulary is lacking. Finally he consults the dictionary. "Ah," he says, looking at me exultantly, "tapeworms!" My response is evidently not very intelligent. Serge is confused. He gets down on his hands and knees to examine them better. He picks one up and lays it on the table beside the fruit. "Huh, him not very beeg," he grunts. "Next lesson you learn me worms, no? You are gude teacher. I make progress with you…"


Lying on the mattress in the hallway the odor of the germicide stifles me. A pungent, acrid odor that seems to invade every pore of my body. The food begins to repeat on me – the Quaker Oats, the mushrooms, the bacon, the fried apples. I see the little tapeworm lying beside the fruit and all the varieties of worms that Serge drew on the tablecloth to explain what was the matter with the dog. I see the empty pit of the Folies Bergère and in every crevice there are cockroaches and lice and bedbugs; I see people scratching themselves frantically, scratching and scratching until the blood comes. I see the worms crawling over the scenery like an army of red ants, devouring everything in sight. I see the chorus girls throwing away their gauze tunics and running through the aisles naked; I see the spectators in the pit throwing off their clothes also and scratching each other like monkeys.


I try to quiet myself. After all, this is a home I've found, and there's a meal waiting for me every day. And Serge is a brick, there's no doubt about that. But I can't sleep. It's like going to sleep in a morgue. The mattress is saturated with embalming fluid. It's a morgue for lice, bedbugs, cockroaches, tapeworms. I can't stand it. I won't stand it! After all I'm a man, not a louse.


In the morning I wait for Serge to load the truck. I ask him to take me in to Paris. I haven't the heart to tell him I'm leaving. I leave the knapsack behind, with the few things that were left me. When we get to the Place Péreire I jump out. No particular reason for getting off here. No particular reason for anything. I'm free – that's the main thing…


Light as a bird I flit about from one quarter to another. It's as though I had been released from prison. I look at the world with new eyes. Everything interests me profoundly. Even trifles. On the Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière I stop before the window of a physical culture establishment. There are photographs showing specimens of manhood "before and after." All frogs. Some of them are nude, except for a pince-nez or a beard. Can't understand how these birds fall for parallel bars and dumb bells. A frog should have just a wee bit of a paunch, like the Baron de Charlus. He should wear a beard and a pince nez, but he should never be photographed in the nude. He should wear twinkling patent leather boots and in the breast pocket of his sack coat there should be a white handkerchief protruding about three quarters of an inch above the vent. If possible, he should have a red ribbon in his lapel, through the buttonhole. He should wear pajamas on going to bed.


Approaching the Place Clichy toward evening I pass the little whore with the wooden stump who stands opposite the Gaumont Palace day in and day out. She doesn't look a day over eighteen. Has her regular customers, I suppose. After midnight she stands there in her black rig rooted to the spot. Back of her is the little alleyway that blazes like an inferno. Passing her now with a light heart she reminds me somehow of a goose tied to a stake, a goose with a diseased liver, so that the world may have pâté de foie gras. Must be strange taking that wooden stump to bed with you. One imagines all sorts of things – splinters, etc. However, every man to his taste!



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Tropic of Cancer

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米勒的第一部自传体小说 中英对照


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