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◎ 简•奥斯丁——狂奔的女孩 (英文:弗蕾雅•约翰逊|汉译:王雪飞 (阅读3441次)



Jane Austen: Galloping girl (excerpt)
Freya Johnson
Jane Austen wrote fast and died young. Her life on paper may have spanned three decades, but all six of her celebrated novels made their public appearance between 1811 and 1817. The phrase “tell-tale compression”, self-consciously applied by the narrator towards the end of Northanger Abbey (1817), captures something of Austen’s authorial career, too. Indeed, in her case it is appropriate that the word “career”can mean a short gallop at full speed, as well as the potentially slower progress of an individual’s working life. Novelists are more usually seen as long-distance runners than as sprinters, and Austen’s mature fiction has been cherished for the gradual emergence into consciousness of its heroines’thoughts and feelings. Yet speedy progress—described in Emma (1815) as the “felicities of rapid motion”—remained central to this writer’s craft from start to finish.
 

 
简·奥斯丁写作神速,英年早逝。其笔墨生涯仅约三十载的光景,但她总共六部著名小说则是在一八一一至一八一七年之间面世的。叙事者在《诺桑觉寺》接近尾之时所自觉采用的“叙事压缩法”也耗费了奥斯丁的一些写作时光。诚然,对她而言,“生涯”二字足堪指代个人在职业上潜在的缓步进展,也可表示一段短暂的全速飞驰。通常小说家则更被视为长跑者,而非短跑者。人们由于对女性主人公思想感情的渐进感知而念念不忘奥斯丁成熟的虚构小说。但是,正如《爱玛》(1815)之中所描绘的“快速动作的喜悦”那样,快速进展一直是这位作家贯彻始终的核心手法。
Two hundred years ago, on St Swithun’s Day in 1817, Austen, near death, dictated an odd poem about horse racing to her sister Cassandra. From her sick bed in Winchester, she imagined how the festivities outside her window had come into being. The poem opens like this:
二百年前,不久于人世的奥斯丁在1817年的圣斯威逊节上献给胞姐卡桑得拉一首关于赛马的诗作。置身于温切斯特,她从卧榻上想像着节庆活动如何出现于窗外。诗歌开头是这样写的:
When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of Saint Swithin
And that William of Wykeham’s approval was faint.
温切斯特的赛跑首度拉开
此刻据说仙女都把老圣徒忘却
这与圣斯威逊假期毫不相契
威廉·威克姆的批示受到忽略
The races however were fixed and determined
The company came and the Weather was charming
The Lords and the Ladies were satine’d and ermined
And nobody saw any future alarming.
那些赛事却已然成为定局
人群来到,天上带有明媚之色
老爷太太衣着光鲜
谁都没对前途有所警觉
Austen died three days later, on 18th July 1817. Imagining, in her last known literary composition, the origins of a horse race and the fatal allure of the “charming”, she was also excavating the origins of her writing life. That her Winchester poem concerns how the dead are mostly (even in the saintliest of cases) forgotten has perhaps also to do with her sense of a future abruptly foreclosed, and of authorial work left undone. Not only undone, but largely overlooked: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion appeared together in four volumes, posthumously, at the very end of 1817, in a print run of 1,750 copies; three years later, 282 remained unsold.
三天之后,奥斯丁便亡故于一八一七年七月十八日。在将其最后那篇知名的文学作品中关于赛马的最初起因以及“魅力”的最终诱惑加以想像之时,她还挖掘了自己写作生活的来龙去脉。她涉及往生者(甚至包括最为神圣的情形)何以最易被人忘却的那首温切斯特诗歌作品,或许也与作者嘎然而止的未来意识和不曾完工的写作事业不无关联。不仅未曾完工,而且还被大大地忽略了——《诺桑觉寺》于作者身后的一八一七年年底以四卷同时面世,一次印出1750册,过了三年仍有282册滞销。
Austen, depicted by her immediate family as a covert, dutiful, and domestically-minded writer, has since her death been serially repackaged by critics and imitators as a conservative and a radical, a prude and a saucepot, pro- and anti-colonial, a feminist and a downright bitch. Perhaps this fluidity and adaptability spring from her reluctance to be pigeonholed. After all, Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey warns that “from politics, it was an easy step to silence.”But facing down such overt discouragement, many critics from the 1970s to the present have discerned in Austen a writer who was far from apolitical.
奥斯丁这位被身边亲人形容为隐蔽、尽责、顾家的作者则在离世以后被诸多评论家和模仿者们重新包装成为保守派、激进派、假正经、大骚货、殖民地的拥护者和反对者、女权主义者和彻头彻尾的婊子。或许,这种流畅笔法与适应能力就是由于她不肯被人草草归类而产生的结果。毕竟,《诺桑觉寺》中的亨利·蒂尔尼警告说,“从政治方面看,这是趋于沉默的方便步骤。”然而,从二十世纪七十年代直至当今,众多的评论家在直面如此公开的阻挠之时,从奥斯丁身上分明看到的是个远非厌恶政治的作家。
During Austen’s time of apprenticeship, radical novelists typically presented their heroes and heroines as the victims of a rotten system. Conservative writers of fiction tended, by contrast, to treat their protagonists as sinners in need of correction and redemption. The late Marilyn Butler was the most forceful proponent of the line that Austen belonged in the second camp, and to insist that her brand of conservatism, Anglican and Tory, would have been understood as such by early-19th-century readers. Read in this light, her heroines contrive to endorse the status quo through their commitment to duty and self-sacrifice. Writing as a Christian moralist, Austen, it is often claimed, duly presents a view of society that conforms to religious principles and respects tradition.
早在奥斯丁学习写作的年间,激进的作家们明显地将自己的男女主人公刻划为腐朽体制的受害者。相比之下,保守的作家则倾向于将其主人公当成需要加以纠正和救赎的罪人来处理。已故的玛丽莲·巴特勒乃是对奥斯丁所属第二阵营路线的强力支持者,为了坚持圣公会和托利党这一保守主义旗号,势必会被十九世纪早期的读者作如是观。这么一解读,其女主人公则是为了拥护现状,才通过她们的忠于职守与自我牺牲而设计出来的。时常有人主张,身为一名基督教道德家的奥斯丁充分展示着一种符合宗教准则并且重视传统的社会观点。
An opposing school of Austen criticism has sought to present her as sympathetic to radical politics, seeing her novels as an attempt to challenge or at least to revise the established order, especially patriarchy. Several decades ago, Edward Said drew attention to the simultaneous presence of and silence about empire and slavery in Mansfield Park, a line of enquiry that has most recently been pursued (with different conclusions) in Helena Kelly’s Jane Austen: The Secret Radical, published last year. Austen is undoubtedly concerned with the precarious economic position of women and therefore, more broadly, with power and inequality. Her fiction could not possess the shape or emphasis that it does without the glaring injustice of 18th and 19th-century inheritance laws. Time and again, she foregrounds the ignorance of women denied a formal education, the psychological and emotional fragility of mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and widows, the exploited poverty and dependency of spinsters, and the boredom of aimless, well-to-do ladies.
奥斯丁评论界的某个对立学派试图把她说成是激进政治的同情者,还认为她的小说带有挑战(或者至少是想修正)现存秩序(尤其是父权社会)的意向。几十年前,爱德华·赛伊德(Edward Said)引得人们注意《曼斯菲尔德庄园》一书中的帝国以及奴隶制同时并存状态以及对其保持沉默的现象,此乃海伦娜·凯利在其最近所著(去年出版)《简·奥斯丁:隐蔽的激进者》之中着力进行的一系列(结论各异的)调查。奥斯丁无疑就关注妇女并不稳定的经济地位表示,进而更加关注权势与不平等现象。她的小说难免带有某种烙印或者重点,无不折射着十八世纪赤裸裸的社会不公和十九世纪的遗产继承法。她一再地强调妇女因得不到正规教育而无知,为人母、为人姐妹妻女者、为人守寡者们的脆弱情感,老处女们因受剥削而致贫困乃至仰人鼻息,富家女们因漫无目标而显得沉闷。
Critics of Austen too often forget that she was primarily a writer and defender of fiction, not a polemicist. To say this does not mean we have to bleach her work of historical purchase, topicality, or partisanship. But it does entail acknowledging that her commitment was to everything that novels might be and do, rather than to any political cause. In her beguiling ability to convey sympathy, meaning, information and suggestion through the faulty, shifting perspectives of her characters, we come to know, and learn how to judge, a little of the world we are in. That does not mean we arrive at an understanding of everything about human behaviour, or of what motivates it
奥斯丁的文学批评家时常忘记,她本非辩论家,而是作家和虚构文学的维护者。这么讲并不意味着我们就得将其作品的历史追求、时事话题或是党派观念冲淡。然而,这倒真会由此承认,其所承担之责就是小说可能要显现或者要从事的一切,而与任何政治原因则并不相干。从她凭借笔下人物那并不完善而且游移不定的视角来传达同情、寓意、信息和建议的诱人手法上,我们终于知道并且学会了如何判断我们所居住的这个小小世界。那并不意味着我们对一切涉及人类行为或者动机已然有着一种了解。
 
Recognising the necessarily incomplete business of such disclosure may, however, be good cause for something other than grief and vexation. Austen’s fictions set out to mislead us, and none more so than Emma, a novel full of tricks and impositions. Card games and wordplay crop up throughout this book, which is in a broader sense about what it means to toy with other people. Mischievous little clues, at the level of individual words, open up wider moral vistas and show Austen playing with her readers, too. As she wrote to Cassandra in 1813, echoing Walter Scott, “I do not write for such dull Elves / As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.”
这种揭示乃是必要而又并不完整之事,但如此认可则会心安理得地忽略伤心与苦恼。奥斯丁那些的虚构之作故意误导我们,其中最最典型的莫过于《爱玛》,这是部充满阴谋和欺诈的小说。该书通篇是牌局和双关之语,这从文章上来说是在故意戏弄读者。虽只聊聊数语,那些淘气的小小暗示则打开了更为广阔的视野,表明奥斯丁也在拿读者开涮。她在一八一三年写给卡桑德拉的信中曾附和司各特说,“我才不为这种沉闷的侏儒而写作/因为他们本身并不具备太多的智力。”
 
We dull elves need to remain on the lookout. Almost a century ago, Virginia Woolf described the double bind of anyone trying to get to grips with Austen: “First…of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness; second…there are 25 elderly gentlemen living in the neighbourhood of London who resent any slight upon her genius as if it were an insult offered to the chastity of their aunts.”
我们这些侏儒需要保持警觉。差不多一百年前,弗吉尼亚·伍尔夫曾对任何试图洞察奥斯丁而进退两难的人做过描写:“首先……在所有的大家之中,她的伟大之处乃是最难把握的;其次……居住在伦敦街区里的二十五位老先生厌恶任何对其天资的丝毫轻视,那就像是对他们自家阿姨贞操的一种污辱。”
By March 1817, Austen’s complexion changed for the worse. As she wrote to her niece, shades of “black and white and every wrong colour”had passed across her face. One of the many strange things about Austen’s rapid and fatal illness is that it shares so many traits with what happens to characters in her childhood stories. Her abbreviated career possesses a freakish circularity, in which Austen’s literary beginnings appear to forebode how she herself would end. The brief, hysterically brilliant teenage works are littered with sick and dying women, and with girls whose faces are—according to those who surround them—the wrong colour, either too white or too red.
到了一八一七年三月,奥斯丁的肤色变得更糟。正如她在给侄女的信中所写的那样:脸上都布满了“黑白之类诸多反常的颜色”。关于奥斯丁那迅速恶化的病情,其中有一种怪事,就是在其童年故事人物身上也带有那么多类似的特征。她那被截短的生涯带有一种难以捉摸的循环状态,奥斯丁的文学起步之作就预示着她本人将会如何结局。十来岁时好些简短而又才气逼人的作品之中处处都有气息奄奄的病妇,还有脸色不对的女孩——依照她们周围人的说法,要么是白得过分,要么是红得反常。
The dashing teenage works are brutally funny studies in ugliness, violence, sickness and death, including suicide and murder. Pace and timing are necessarily different in the longer works of fiction, as is the sense of national and personal history. For all the hard-won patience of her final completed novel, as readers of Austen we should perhaps, in this bicentenary year, take more seriously than we are encouraged to do the last words of Sophia to Laura in “Love and Friendship”(1790): “Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint—.”
她十来岁时闯劲十足的作品就是对丑陋、暴力、疾病和死亡(包括自杀与谋杀)所作的残忍而又有趣的研习。进度与时间的安排在更长篇幅的小说作品之中则需要有所不同,感觉就跟国家和个人的历史一样。尽管她在最后写完的小说上给予了难得的耐心,可在这两百年后的今天,我们作为奥斯丁的读者,该要比人们所鼓励的还更严肃一些来对待《爱情与友谊》中索菲亚对劳拉所说的临终之语:“如果你愿意,尽管发疯好了,但是可别晕倒……”


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