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Tropic of Cancer  北回归线-第八章第七节

I'm smiling because whenever we touch on the subject of this book which he is going to write some day things assume an incongruous aspect. He has only to say "my book" and immediately the world shrinks to the private dimensions of Van Norden and Co. The book must be absolutely original, absolutely perfect. That is why, among other things, it is impossible for him to get started on it. As soon as he gets an idea he begins to question it. He remembers that Dostoevski used it, or Hamsun, or somebody else. "I'm not saying that I want to be better than them, but I want to be different," he explains. And so, instead of tackling his book, he reads one author after another in order to make absolutely certain that he is not going to tread on their private property. And the more he reads the more disdainful he becomes. None of them are satisfying; none of them arrive at that degree of perfection which he has imposed on himself. And forgetting completely that he has not written as much as a chapter he talks about them condescendingly, quite as though there existed a shelf of books bearing his name, books which everyone is familiar with and the titles of which it is therefore superfluous to mention. Though he has never overtly lied about this fact, nevertheless it is obvious that the people whom he buttonholes in order to air his private philosophy, his criticism, and his grievances, take it for granted that behind his loose remarks there stands a solid body of work. Especially the young and foolish virgins whom he lures to his room on the pretext of reading to them his poems, or on the still better pretext of asking their advice. Without the least feeling of guilt or selfconsciousness he will hand them a piece of soiled paper on which he has scribbled a few lines – the basis of a new poem, as he puts it – and with absolute seriousness demand of them an honest expression of opinion. As they usually have nothing to give by way of comment, wholly bewildered as they are by the utter senselessness of the lines, Van Norden seizes the occasion to expound to them his view of art, a view, needless to say, which is spontaneously created to suit the event.

我笑是因为每回一谈到这本他有朝一日要写的书,事情就显得有点儿滑稽了。只要他一说“我的书”,整个世界立即便缩小到范诺登和他的公司伸手可及的范围之内。这本书一定要绝对用自己的观点写成,一定要绝对十全十美,这便是他不可能着手开始写的原因之一。一旦有了一个想法他便提出疑问,他记得陀思妥耶夫斯基写过这个,或者哈姆森写过,或是别的什么人写过。“我并不是说我要写得比他们好,不过我想与他们有所不同。”他解释道。于是他不去写自己的书,却一个个作家挨着往下读,以便确实弄清他不会踩到这些作家的私人领地上。书读得越多他便越瞧不起别人,这些作家没有一个能令他满意,没有一个达到他为自己规定的那种十全十美的境地。他常常会全然忘记自己连一章也没有写完,却严然以屈尊的态度谈论这些作家,仿佛署着他大名的书已摆满了一书架,而且这些书都是广为人知的,因而再提到书名也显得多余了。他从来没有公开撒谎,不过那些被他硬拉住听他宣讲他的独到哲学和批评观、听他发牢骚的人显然都想当然地以为在夸夸其谈的言辞后面立着一大堆大部头著作。尤其是那些年轻的。傻呼呼的处女,他是以给她们念自己的诗的借口把这些女孩子哄骗到房间里来的,另一个更妙的借口便是要征求她们的意见。他一点也不感到难为情或是不好意思便把草草写着几行诗的一张脏兮兮的纸条拿给她们看按照他的说法,这是一首新诗的枝干部分—然后他便摆出十分严肃的架势要她们诚实地发表意见。通常她们什么评论性意见也说不出来,因为这几行诗毫无意义,她们看后完全摸不着头脑。于是范诺登便抓住这个机会向她们讲解他的艺术观,不用说,这套观点全是他为了应景胡编乱造出来的。

So expert has he become in this role that the transition from Ezra Pound's cantos to the bed is made as simply and naturally as a modulation from one key to another; in fact, if it were not made there would be a discord, which is what happens now and then when he makes a mistake as regards those nitwits whom he refers to as "push overs." Naturally, constituted as he is, it is with reluctance that he refers to these fatal errors of judgment. But when he does bring himself to confess to an error of this kind it is with absolute frankness; in fact, he seems to derive a perverse pleasure in dwelling upon his inaptitude. There is one woman, for example, whom he has been trying to make for almost ten years now – first in America, and finally here in Paris. It is the only person of the opposite sex with whom he has a cordial, friendly relationship. They seem not only to like each other, but to understand each other. At first it seemed to me that if he could really make this creature his problem might be solved. All the elements for a successful union were there – except the fundamental one. Bessie was almost as unusual in her way as himself. She had as little concern about giving herself to a man as she has about the dessert which follows the meal. Usually she singled out the object of her choice and made the proposition herself. She was not bad looking, nor could one say that she was good-looking either. She had a fine body, that was the chief thing – and she liked it, as they say.

扮演这样一个角色后来成了他的拿手好戏,从埃兹拉•庞德的诗到上床间的过渡变得又简单又自然,像从乐曲的一个调转为另一个调。事实上,如果过渡实现不了便会造成不和谐,当范诺登对付他称之为“容易上钩的女人”的傻娘儿们时一出错便会造成这种不和谐。自然,尽管生来便是这样一个人,他一提起那些致命的判断错误仍不免犹犹豫豫。不过一旦开始谈起一个这类错误他便十分坦诚,其实一讲起自己做的蠢事他还能反常地从中得到几分乐趣呢。比如说,有一个女人,他追求这个女人已经差不多有十年了—先是在美国,后来又在巴黎。这是同他保持真诚友好关系的唯一一个异性,他们不仅都喜欢对方,还相互理解。起初我觉得他若真能把这个女人弄到手,问题也就解决了。促成他们成功结合的一切因素都有了—只是缺少最基本的。贝西为人处事几乎同范诺登一样乖张。对于把自己献给某个男人,贝西丝毫不感兴趣,正如她对于餐后甜点心不感兴趣一样。她通常会自己挑出选中的男人,然后自己向他提议上床睡觉。她长得不丑,可是谁也不能说她长得好看。她的身材很好,这是最主要的- 据说她很欣赏自己的身材。

They were so chummy, these two, that sometimes, in order to gratify her curiosity (and also in the vain hope of inspiring her by his prowess), Van Norden would arrange to hide her in his closet during one of his seances. After it was over Bessie would emerge from her hiding place and they would discuss the matter casually, that is to say, with an almost total indifference to everything except "technique." Technique was one of her favorite terms, at least in those discussions which I was privileged to enjoy. "What's wrong with my technique?" he would say. And Bessie would answer: "You're too crude. If you ever expect to make me you've got to become more subtle."

他们两个人十分亲密,有时为了满足贝西的好奇心(同时也是徒劳地希冀显显本事,从而激发贝西的情欲),范诺登同别的女人约会前便设法把她藏在自己的衣橱里。完事后贝西从藏身之处钻出来,他们便会满不在乎地谈论此事。就是说,他们几乎对一切都漠不关心,除了“技术”。“技术”是贝西最喜欢用的词之一,至少在我有幸聆听到的那几次讨论中是这样的。范诺登会问,“我的技术有什么毛病?”贝西说,“你太粗鲁。如果你还希望勾引我就得温柔一些。”

There was such a perfect understanding between them, as I say, that often when I called for Van Norden at one-thirty, I would find Bessie sitting on the bed, the covers thrown back and Van Norden inviting her to stroke his penis… "just a few silken strokes," he would say, "so as I'll have the courage to get up." Or else he would urge her to blow on it, or failing that, he would grab hold of himself and shake it like a dinner bell, the two of them laughing fit to die. "I'll never make this bitch," he would say. "She has no respect for me. That's what I get for taking her into my confidence." And then abruptly he might add: "What do you make of that blonde I showed you yesterday?" Talking to Bessie, of course. And Bessie would jeer at him, telling him he had no taste.

如同我说的,他们彼此间十分理解。我在一点半钟去找范诺登时常看到贝西坐在床边,被子掀到一边,范诺登在请求她抚摸自己的下体……他说,“只要轻轻摸几下,这样我就有勇气爬起来了。”要不他就催促贝西吮吸它,她不干,这时他俩便笑得上气不接下气。“我永远也没法把这个婊子弄到手,”他说。 “她一点儿也不尊重我,我向她倾诉心曲,得到的就是这个。”他会突然又冒出一句,“你跟我昨天介绍给你的那个金发女郎玩得怎样?”这话当然是对贝西说的,贝西嘲笑他,说他没有眼光。

"Aw, don't give me that line," he would say. And then playfully, perhaps for the thousandth time, because by now it had become a standing joke between them – "Listen, Bessie, what about a quick lay? Just one little lay… no." And when this had passed off in the usual manner he would add, in the same tone: "Well, what about him? Why don't you give him a lay?"

他说,“得了,别给我来口是心非的那一套了。”然后他又开了一个玩笑,这个玩笑恐怕已开过一千次了,因为他俩总是以此取乐- “喂,贝西,咱们麻利地睡一次怎么样?只睡一次……不行?”待这个玩笑像往常一样收场了,范诺登又以同样的口吻补充一句,“喂,他怎么样?你干吗不跟他睡一次?”

The whole point about Bessie was that she couldn't, or just wouldn't, regard herself as a lay. She talked about passion, as if it were a brand new word. She was passionate about things, even a little thing like a lay. She had to put her soul into it.

贝西的中心思想是说她不能、不愿意把自己当作一个性伙伴。她谈论激情,好像这是一个新名词一样。对于很多事情她都充满了激情,甚至像性交这种小事她也全力以赴。

"I get passionate too sometimes," Van Norden would say.

“有时候我也会动情的。”范诺登说。

"Oh, you," says Bessie. "You're just a worn out satyr. You don't know the meaning of passion. When you get an erection you think you're passionate."

“哼,你呀,”贝西说,“你不过只是一个疲惫的色鬼罢了。你不懂激情的含义,你一勃起便以为自己动情了。”

"All right, maybe it's not passion… but you can't get passionate without having an erection, that's true isn't it?"

“好,也许那不是动情……可是不勃起也就无法动情,是不是这样?”

All this about Bessie, and the other women whom he drags to his rooms day in and out, occupies my thoughts as we walk to the restaurant. I have adjusted myself so well to his monologues that without interrupting my own reveries I make whatever comment is required automatically, the moment I hear his voice die out. It is a duet, and like most duets moreover in that one listens attentively only for the signal which announces the advent of one's own voice. As it is his night off, and as I have promised to keep him company, I have already dulled myself to his queries. I know that before the evening is over I shall be thoroughly exhausted; if I am lucky, that is, if I can worm a few francs out of him on some pretext or other, I will duck him the moment he goes to the toilet.

我和范诺登步行去餐馆时脑子里始终想着关于贝西的事,以及被他拽进房间没日没夜鬼混的那些女人。我已经完全适应了他的自言自语,根本不用打断自己的思绪,一听到他说完了我就可以不假思索地发表一些正中他下怀的评论意见。这像二部合唱,而最像大多数二部合唱之处在于,一个人全神贯注地听只是为了听到要他自己启齿唱的信号。今晚他不上班,我又答应了陪他,他的提问已经使我生厌了。我明白不等今晚过去我就会精疲力竭的,如果运气好我就在他上厕所时乘机溜之大吉 -也就是说,如果我能以某种借口从他那儿先骗到几法郎。

But he knows my propensity for slipping away, and, instead of being insulted, he simply provides against the possibility by guarding his sous. If I ask him for money to buy cigarettes he insists on going with me to purchase them. He will not be left alone, not for a second. Even when he has succeeded in grabbing off a woman, even then he is terrified to be left alone with her. If it were possible he would have me sit in the room while he puts on the performance. It would be like asking me to wait while he took a shave.

可是他知道我惯于中途溜走,因而他不愿受奚落,紧紧握住他的钱包以防发生这类事情。如果我向他要钱去买烟,他便非跟我一道去不可,他自个儿绝不独自呆着,一秒钟也不。甚至当他成功地搂住一个女人时他也十分害怕独自同这个女人一块儿呆着,只要可能他就要我坐在房间里看他干那件事,如同刮脸时叫我在一旁等着一样。

On his night off Van Norden generally manages to have at least fifty francs in his pocket, a circumstance which does not prevent him from making a touch whenever he encounters a prospect. "Hello," he says, "give me twenty francs… I need it." He has a way of looking panic stricken at the same time. And if he meets with a rebuff he becomes insulting.

晚上不上班时范诺登至少要设法在衣袋里放上五十法郎,可是这仍挡不住他一遇到可能有钱的主儿便开口要钱。他说,“喂,我二十法郎……我等钱用。”与此同时,他有本领作出一副惊慌失措的样子。若是对方断然拒绝了,他便出言不逊了。

"Well, you can buy a drink at least." And when he gets his drink he says more graciously – "Listen give me five francs then… give me two francs…" We go from bar to bar looking for a little excitement and always accumulating a few more francs.

“得了,你至少得给我买杯酒喝。”喝到酒后他又和气他说,“那么给我五法郎好了……给我两法郎……”我们走遍一家家酒吧去寻找一点刺激,每一回总能添几个法郎的收入。

At the Coupole we stumble into a drunk from the newspaper. One of the upstairs guys. There's just been an accident at the office, he informs us. One of the proofreaders fell down the elevator shaft. Not expected to live.

在“库波勒”那儿我们偶然遇到了报社里的一个醉汉,是一个在楼上干活的家伙。他告诉我们办公楼里刚刚发生了一场事故,有一个校对员从电梯上摔下来,看来活不成了。

At first Van Norden is shocked, deeply shocked. But when he learns that it was Peckover, the Englishman, he looks relieved. "The poor bastard," he says, "he's better off dead than alive. He just got his false teeth the other day too…"

起初范诺登吃了一惊,深深地吃了一惊,后来听说那人是佩克奥弗,那个英国人,他便显得轻松些了。他说,“可怜的家伙,他死了还比活着好,他也是那天刚装的假牙……”

The allusion to the false teeth moves the man upstairs to tears. He relates in a slobbery way a little incident connected with the accident. He is upset about it, more upset about this little incident than about the catastrophe itself. It seems that Peckover, when he hit the bottom of the shaft, regained consciousness before anyone could reach him. Despite the fact that his legs were broken and his ribs busted, he had managed to rise to all fours and grope about for his false teeth. In the ambulance he was crying out in his delirium for the teeth he had lost. The incident was pathetic and ludicrous at the same time. The guy from upstairs hardly knew whether to laugh or to weep as he related it. It was a delicate moment because with a drunk like that, one false move and he'd crash a bottle over your skull. He had never been particularly friendly with Peckover – as a matter of fact, he had scarcely ever set foot in the proofreading department: there was an invisible wall like between the guys upstairs and the guys down below. But now, since he had felt the touch of death, he wanted to display his comradeship. He wanted to weep, if possible, to show that he was a regular guy. And Joe and I, who knew Peckover well and who knew also that he wasn't worth a good goddamn, even a few tears, we felt annoyed with this drunken sentimentality. We wanted to tell him so too, but with a guy like that you can't afford to be honest; you have to buy a wreath and go to the funeral and pretend that you're miserable. And you have to congratulate him too for the delicate obituary he's written. He'll be carrying his delicate little obituary around with him for months, praising the shit out of himself for the way he handled the situation. We felt all that, Joe and I. without saying a word to each other. We just stood there and listened with a murderous, silent contempt. And as soon as we could break away we did so; we left him there at the bar blubbering to himself over his Pernod.

一提到假牙,楼上那个人就哭开了,他一把鼻涕一把泪他讲述了这次事故中的一个小插曲。他为此很难过,这个小插曲比这场灾难本身更使他难过。佩克奥弗摔到电梯底后恢复了知觉,这时来救他的人还没有来。他的腿摔断了,肋骨摔碎了,可他还是挣扎着站起来四处摸他的假牙,在救护车上他仍在昏迷中大声呼唤丢掉的假牙。这个小插曲既可悲又可笑,楼上那人讲述时简直不知道该哭还是该笑。这是需要加倍小心的一刻,同这样一个醉鬼打交道,弄不好他便会用酒瓶子砸你的脑袋。他并不特别同佩克奥弗好,实际上他几乎根本不曾进过校对部报社里楼上楼下的工作人员之间竖着一堵无形的墙。现在听到死了人他也想表示一下同伴情谊。若能哭得出他便要哭,以表明他也是正常人。而乔和我都很熟悉佩克奥弗,也明白他根本不值什么,因而我们对这一番喝醉后的多愁善感很不以为然,哪怕只是几滴眼泪也罢。我们想明白告诉他,可是跟这样一个家伙打交道你可诚实不起,你只得买一口花圈去参加丧礼,装出一副很伤心的样子。你还得祝贺他写了一篇如此缠绵悱侧的讣告,好几个月内他都要把这篇讣告带在身边,把自己吹个不停,吹他是如何处理当时的局面的。这些我和乔都预料到了,尽管我们一句话也不用说,于是我们站着,以凶狠、沉默的心情听他说,一有机会逃走我们便逃走了,让他在酒吧里喝着茴香酒自己对自己哭诉去了。

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