The Three-Body Problem

by Cixin Liu – Translated by Ken Liu

Chapter 01 The Madness Years

Part 2

Link to Chapter 01 Part 1

Battles like this one raged across Beijing like a multitude of CPUs working in parallel, their combined output, the Cultural Revolution. A flood of madness drowned the city and seeped into every nook and cranny.

At the edge of the city, on the exercise grounds of Tsinghua University, a mass “struggle session” attended by thousands had been going on for nearly two hours. This was a public rally intended to humiliate and break down the enemies of the revolution through verbal and physical abuse until they confessed to their crimes before the crowd.

As the revolutionaries had splintered into numerous factions, opposing forces everywhere engaged in complex maneuvers and contests. Within the university, intense conflicts erupted between the Red Guards, the Cultural Revolution Working Group, the Workers’ Propaganda Team, and the Military Propaganda Team. And each faction divided into new rebel groups from time to time, each based on different backgrounds and agendas, leading to even more ruthless fighting.

But for this mass struggle session, the victims were the reactionary bourgeois academic authorities. These were the enemies of every faction, and they had no choice but to endure cruel attacks from every side.

Compared to other “Monsters and Demons”, reactionary academic authorities were special: During the earliest struggle sessions, they had been both arrogant and stubborn. That was also the stage in which they had died in the largest numbers. Over a period of forty days, in Beijing alone more than seventeen hundred victims of struggle sessions were beaten to death. Many others picked an easier path to avoid the madness: Lao She, Wu Han, Jian Bozan, Fu Lei, Zhao Jiuzhang, Yi Qun, Wen Jie, Hai Mo, and other once-respected intellectuals had all chosen to end their lives.

Those who survived that initial period gradually became numb as the ruthless struggle sessions continued. The protective mental shell helped them avoid total breakdown. They often seemed to be half asleep during the sessions and would only startle awake when someone screamed in their faces to make them mechanically recite their confessions, already repeated countless times.

Then, some of them entered a third stage. The constant, unceasing struggle sessions injected vivid political images into their consciousness like mercury, until their minds, erected upon knowledge and rationality, collapsed under the assault. They began to really believe that they were guilty, to see how they had harmed the great cause of the revolution. They cried, and their repentance was far deeper and more sincere than that of those Monster and Demons who were not intellectuals.

For the Red Guards, heaping abuse upon victims in those two latter mental stages was utterly boring. Only those Monsters and Demons who were still in the initial stage could give their overstimulated brains the thrill they craved, like the red cape of the matador. But such desirable victims had grown scarce. In Tshinghua there was probably only one left. Because he was so rare, he was reserved for the very end of the struggle session.

Ye Zhetai had survived the Cultural Revolution so far, but he remained in the first mental stage. He refused to repent, to kill himself, or to become numb. When this physics professor walked onto the stage in front of the crowd, his expression clearly said: Let the cross I bear be even heavier.

The Red Guards did indeed have him carry a burden, but it wasn’t a cross. Other victims wore tall hats made from bamboo frames, but his was welded from thick steel bars. And the plaque he wore around his neck wasn’t wooden, like the others, but an iron door taken from a laboratory oven. His name was written on the door in striking black characters, and two red diagonals were drawn across them in a large X.

Twice the number of Red Guards used for other victims escorted Ye onto the stage: two men and four women. The two young men strode with confidence and purpose, the very image of mature Bolshevik youths. They were both fourth-year students majoring in theoretical physics, and Ye was their professor. The women, really girls, were much younger, second-year students from the junior high school attached to the university. Dressed in military uniforms and equipped with bandoliers, they exuded youthful vigor and surrounded Ye Zhetai like four green flames.

His appearance excited the crowd. The shouting of slogans, which had slackened a bit, now picked up with renewed force and drowned out everything else like a resurgent tide.

After waiting patiently for the noise to subside, one of the male Red Guards turned to the victim. “Ye Zhetai, you are an expert in mechanics. You should see how strong the great unified force you’re resisting is. To remain so stubborn will lead only to your death! Today, we will continue the agenda from the last time. There’s no need to waste words. Answer the following question without your typical deceit: Between the years of 1962 and 1965, did you not decide on your own to add relativity to the intro physics course?”

“Relativity is part of the fundamental theories of physics,” Ye answered. “How can a basic survey course not teach it?”

“You lie!” a female Red Guard by his side shouted. “Einstein is a reactionary academic authority. He would serve any master who dangled money in front of him. He even went to the American Imperialists and helped them build the atom bomb! To develop a revolutionary science, we must overthrow the black banner of capitalism represented by the theory of relativity!”

Ye remained silent. Enduring the pain brought by the heavy iron hat and the iron plaque hanging from his neck, he had no energy to answer questions that were not worth answering. Behind him, one of his students also frowned. The girl who had spoken was the most intelligent of the four female Red Guards, and she was clearly prepared, as she had been seen memorizing the struggle session script before coming onstage.

But against someone like Ye Zhetai, a few slogans like that were insufficient. The Red Guards decided to bring out the new weapon they had prepared against their teacher. One of them waved to someone offstage. Ye’s wife, physics professor Shao Lin, stood up from the crowd’s front row. She walked onto the stage dressed in an ill-fitting green outfit, clearly intended to imitate the military uniform of the Red Guards. Those who knew her remembered that she had often taught class in an elegant qipao, and her current appearance felt forced and awkward.

“Ye Zhetai!” She was clearly unused to such theater, and though she tried to make her voice louder, the effort magnified the tremors in it. “You didn’t think I would stand up and expose you, criticize you? Yes, in the past, I was fooled by you. You covered my eyes with your reactionary view of the world and science! But now I am awake and alert. With the help of the revolutionary youths, I want to stand on the side of the revolution, the side of the people!”

She turned to face the crowd. “Comrades, revolutionary youths, revolutionary faculty and staff, we must clearly understand the reactionary nature of Einstein’s theory of relativity. This is most apparent in general relativity: Its static model of the universe negates the dynamic nature of matter. It is anti-dialectical! It treats the universe as limited, which is absolutely a form of reactionary idealism…”

As he listened to his wife’s lecture, Ye allowed himself a wry smile. Lin, I fooled you? Indeed, in my heart you’ve always been a mystery. One time, I praised you genius to your father – he’s lucky to have died early and escaped this catastrophe – and he shook his head, telling me that he did not think you would ever achieve much academically. What he said next turned out to be so important to the second half of my life: “Lin Lin is too smart. To work in fundamental theory, one must be stupid.”

In later years, I began to understand his words more and more. Lin, you truly are too smart. Even a few years ago, you could feel the political winds shifting in academia and prepared yourself. For example, when you taught, you changed the names of many physical laws and constants: Ohm’s law you called resistance law, Maxwell’s equations you called electromagnetic equations, Plank’s constant you called the quantum constant… You explained to your students that all scientific accomplishments resulted from the wisdom of the working masses, and those capitalist academic authorities only stole these fruits and put their names on them.

But even so, you couldn’t be accepted by the revolutionary mainstream. Look at you now: You’re not allowed to wear the red armband of the “revolutionary faculty and staff”; you had to come up here empty-handed, without the status to carry a little Red Book… You can’t overcome the fault of being born to a prominent family in pre-revolutionary China and of having such famous scholars as parents.

But you actually have more to confess about Einstein than I do. In the winter of 1922, Einstein visited Shanghai. Because your father spoke fluent German, he was asked to accompany Einstein on his tour. You told me many times that your father went into physics because of Einstein’s encouragement, and you chose physics because of your father’s influence. So, in a way, Einstein can be said to have indirectly been your teacher. And you once felt so proud and lucky to have such a connection.

Later, I found out that your father had told you a white lie. He and Einstein had only one very brief conversation. The morning of November 13, 1922, he accompanied Einstein on a walk along Nanjing Road. Others who went on the walk included Yu Youren, president of Shanghai University, and Cao Gubing, general manager of the newspaper Ta Kung Pao. When they passed a maintenance site in the road bed, Einstein stopped next to a worker who was smashing stones and silently observed this boy with torn clothes and dirty face and hands. He asked your father how much the boy earned each day. After asking the boy, he told Einstein: five cents.

This was the only time he spoke with the great scientist who changed the world. There was no discussion of physics, of relativity, only cold, harsh reality. According to your father, Einstein stood there for a long time after hearing the answer, watching the boy’s mechanical movements, not even bothering to smoke his pipe as the embers went out. After your father recounted this memory to me, he sighed and said, “In China, any idea that dared to take flight would only crash back to the ground. The gravity of reality is too strong.”

“Lower your head!” one of the male Red Guards shouted. This may actually have been a gesture of mercy from his former student. All victims being struggled against were supposed to lower their heads. If Ye did lower his head, the tall, heavy iron hat would fall off, and if he kept his head lowered, there would be no reason to put it back on him. But Ye refused and held his head high, supporting the heavy weight with his thin neck.

“Lower your head, you stubborn reactionary!” One of the girl Red Guards took off her belt and swung it at Ye. The copper belt buckle struck his forehead and left a clear impression that was quickly blurred by oozing blood. He swayed unsteadily for a few moments, then stood straight and firm again.

One of the male Red Guards said, “When you taught quantum mechanics, you also mixed in many reactionary ideas.” Then he nodded at Shao Lin, indicating that she should continue.

Shao was happy to oblige. She had to keep on talking, otherwise her fragile mind, already hanging on only by a thin thread, would collapse completely. “Ye Zhetai, you cannot deny this charge! You have often lectured students on the reactionary Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.”

“It is, after all, the explanation recognized to be most in line with experimental results.” His tone, so calm and collected, surprised and frightened Shao Lin.

“This explanation posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function. This is another expression of reactionary idealism, and it’s indeed the most brazen expression.”

“Should philosophy guide experiments, or should experiments guide philosophy?” Ye’s sudden counterattack shocked those leading the struggle session. For a moment they did no tknow what to do.

“Of course it should be correct philosophy of Marxism that guides scientific experiments!” one of the male Red Guards finally said.

“Then that’s equivalent to saying that the correct philosophy falls out of the sky. This is against the idea that the truth emerges from experience. It’s counter to the principles of how Marxism seeks to understand nature.”

Shao Lin and the two college student Red Guards had no answer for this. Unlike the Red Guards who were still in junior high school, they couldn’t completely ignore logic.

But the four junior high girls had their own revolutionary methods that they believed were invincible. The girl who had hit Ye before took out her belt and whipped Ye again. The other three girls also took off their belts and strike at Ye. With their companion displaying such revolutionary fervor, they had to display even more, or at least the same amount. The two male Red Guards didn’t interfere. If they tried to intervene now, they would be suspected of being insufficiently revolutionary.

“You also taught the big bang theory. This is the most reactionary of all scientific theories.” One of the male Red Guards spoken up, trying to change the subject.

“Maybe in the future this theory will be disproven. But two great cosmological discoveries of this century – Hubble’s law, and observation of the cosmic microwave background – show that the big bang theory is currently the most plausible explanation for the origin of the universe.”

“Lies!” Shao Lin shouted. Then she began a long lecture about the big bang theory, remembering to splice in insightful critiques of the theory’s extremely reactionary nature. But the freshness of the theory attracted the most intelligent of the four girls, who couldn’t help but ask, “Time began with the singularity? So what was there before the singularity?”

“Nothing,” Ye said, the way he would answer a question from any curious young person. He turned to look at the girl kindly. With his injuries and the tall iron hat, the motion was very difficult.

“No … nothing? That’s reactionary! Completely reactionary!” the frightened shouted. She turned to Shao Lin, who gladly came to her aid.

“The theory leave open a place to be filled by God.” Shao nodded at the girl.

They young Red Guards, confused by these new thoughts finally found her footing. She raised her hand, still holding the belt, and pointed at Ye.

“You: you’re trying to say that God exists?”

“I don’t know.”

“What?”

“I’m saying I don’t know. If by ‘God’ you mean some kind of superconsciousness outside the universe, I don’t know if it exists or not. Science has given no evidence either way.” Actually, in this nightmarish moment, Ye was leaning toward believing that God did not exist.

This extremely reactionary statement caused a commotion in the crowd. Led by one of the Red Guards on stage, another tide of slogan-shouting exploded.

“Down with reactionary academic authority Ye Zhetai!”

“Down with all reactionary academic authorities!”

“Down with all reactionary doctrines!”

Once the slogans died down, the girl shouted, “God does not exist. All religious are tools concocted by the ruling class to paralyze the spirit of the people!”

“That is a very one-sided view,” Ye said calmly.

The young Red Guard, embarrassed and angry, reached the conclusion that, against this dangerous enemy, all talk was useless. She picked up her belt and rushed at Ye, and her three companions followed. Ye was tall, and the four fourteen-year-olds had to swing their belts upward to reach his head, still held high. After a few strikes, the tall iron hat, which had protected him a little, fell off. The continuing barrage of strikes by the metal buckles finally made him fall down.

The young Red Guards, encouraged by their success, became even more devoted to this glorious struggle. They were fighting for faith, for ideals. They were intoxicated by the bright light cast on them by history, proud of their own bravery…

Ye’s two students had finally had enough. “The chairman instructed us to ‘rely on eloquence rather than violence’!” They rushed over and pulled the four semicrazed girls off Ye.

But it was already too late. The physicist lay quietly on the ground, his eyes still open as blood oozed from his head. The frenzied crowd sank into silence. The only thing that moved was a thin stream of blood. Like a red snake, it slowly meandered across the stage, reached the edge, and dripped onto a chest below. The rhythmic sound made by the blood drops was like the steps of someone walking away.

A cackling laugh broke the silence. The sound came from Shao Lin, whose mind had finally broken. The laughter frightened the attendees, who began to leave the struggle session, first in trickles, and then in a flood. The exercise grounds soon emptied, leaving only one young woman below the stage.

She was Ye Wenjie, Ye Zhetai’s daughter.

As the four girls were taking her father’s life, she had tried to rush onto the stage. But two old university janitors held her down and whispered into her ear that she would lose her own life if she went. The mass struggle session had turned into a scene of madness, and her appearance would only incite more violence. She had screamed and screamed, but she had been drowned out by the frenzied waves of slogans and cheers.

When it was finally quite again, she was no longer capable of making any sound. She stared at her father’s lifeless body, and the thoughts she could not voice dissolved into her blood, where they would stay with her for the rest of her life. After the crowd dispersed, she remained like a stone statue, her body and limbs in the positions they were in when the two old janitors had held her back.

After a long time, she finally let her arms down, walked slowly onto the stage, sat next to her father’s body, and held one of his already-cold hands, her eyes staring emptily into the distance. When they finally came to carry away the body, she took something from her pocket and put it into her father’s hand: his pipe.

Wenjie quietly left the exercise grounds, empty save for the trash left by the crowd, and headed home. When she reached the foot of the faculty housing apartment building, she heard peals of crazy laughter coming out of the second’floor window of her home. That was the woman she had once called mother.

Wenjie turned around, not caring where her feet would carry her.

Finally, she found herself at the door of Professor Ruan Wen. Throughout the four years of Wenjie’s college life, Professor Ruan had been her advisor and her closet friend. During the two years after that, when Wenjie had been a graduate student in the Astrophysics Department, and through the subsequent chaos of the Cultural Revolution, Professor Ruan remained her closest confidante, other than her father.

Ruan had studied at Cambridge University, and her home had once fascinated Wenjie: refined books, paintings, and records brought back from Europe; a piano; a set of European-style pipes arranged on a delicate wooden stand, some made from Mediterranean briar, some from Turkish meerschaum. Each of them seemed suffused with the wisdom of the man who had once held the bowl in his hand or clamped the stem between his teeth, deep in thought, though Ruan had never mentioned the man’s name. The pipe that had belonged to Wenjie’s father had in fact been a gift from Ruan.

This elegant, warm home had once been a safe harbor for Wenjie when she needed to escape the storms of the larger world, but that was before Ruan’s home had been searched and her possessions seized by the Red Guards. Like Wenjie’s father, Ruan had suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution. During her struggle sessions, the Red Guards had hung a pair of high heels around her neck and streaked her face with lipstick to show how she had lived the corrupt lifestyle of a capitalist.

Wenjie pushed open the door to Ruan’s home, and she saw that the chaos left by the Red Guards had been cleaned up: The torn oil paintings had been glued back together and rehung on the walls; the toppled piano had been set upright and wiped clean, though it was broken and could no longer be played; the few books left behind had been put back neatly on the shelf…

Ruan was sitting on the chair before her desk, her eyes closed. Wenjie stood next to Ruan and gently caressed her professor’s forehead, face, and hands – all cold. Wenjie had noticed the empty sleeping pill bottle on the desk as soon as she came ine.

She stood there for a while, silent. Then she turned and walked away. She could no longer feel grief. She was now like a Geiger counter that had been subjected to too much radiation, no longer capable of giving any reaction, noiselessly displaying a reading of zero.

But as she was about to leave Ruan’s home, Wenjie turned around for a final look. She noticed that Professor Ruan had put one makeup. She was wearing a light coat of lipstick and a pair of high heels.

The Three-Body Problem

by Cixin Liu – Translated by Ken Liu

Chapter 01 The Madness Years

Part 1

China, 1967

The Red Union had been attacking the headquarters of the April Twenty-eighth Brigade for two days. Their red flags fluttered restlessly around the brigade building like flames yearning for firewood.

The Red Union commander was anxious, though not because of the defenders he faced. The more than two hundred Red Guards of the April Twenty-eight Brigade were mere greenhorns compared with the veteran Red Guards of the Red Union, which was formed at the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in early 1966. The Red Union had been tempered by the tumultuous experience of revolutionary tours around the country and seeing Chairman Mao in the great rallies in Tiananmen Square.

But the commander was afraid of the dozen or so iron stoves inside the building, filled with explosives and connected to each other by electric detonators. He couldn’t see them, but he could feel their presence like iron sensing the pull of a nearby magnet. If a defender flipped the switch, revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries alike would all die in one giant ball of fire.

And the young Red Guards of the April Twenty-eighth Brigade were indeed capable of such madness. Compared with the weathered men and women of the first generation of Red Guards, the new rebels were a pack of wolves on hot coals, crazier than crazy.

The slender figure of a beautiful young girl emerged at the top of the building, waving the giant red banner of the April Twenty-eighth Brigade. Her appearance was greeted immediately by a cacophony of gunshots. The weapons attacking here were a diverse mix: antiques such as American carbines, Czech-style machine guns, Japanese Type-38 rifles; newer weapons such as standard-issue People’s Liberation Army rifles and submachine guns, stolen from the PLA after the publication of the “August Editorial”; and even a few Chinese dadao swords and spears. Together, they formed a condensed version of modern history.

Numerous members of the April Twenty-eighth Brigade had engaged in similar displays before. They’d stand on top of the building, wave a flag, shout slogans through megaphones, and scatter flyers at the attackers below. Every time, the courageous man or woman had been able to retreat safely from the hailstorm of bullets and earn glory for their valour.

The new girl clearly thought she’d be just as lucky. She waved the battle banner as though brandishing her burning youth, trusting that the enemy would be burnt to ashes in the revolutionary flames, imaging that an ideal world would be borm tomorrow from the ardour and zeal coursing through her blood… She was intoxicated by her brilliant, crimson dream until a bullet pierced her chest.

Her fifteen-year-old body was so soft that the bullet hardly slowed down as it passed through it and whistled in the air behind her. The young Red Guard tumbled down along with her flag, her light from descending even more slowly than the piece of red fabric, like a little bird unwilling to leave the sky.

The Red Union warriors shouted in joy. A few rushed to the foot of the building, tore away the battle banner of the April Twenty-eighth Brigade, and seized the slender, lifeless body. They raised their trophy overhead and flaunted it for a while before tossing it toward the top of the metal gate of the compound.

Most of the gate’s metal bars, capped with sharp tips, had been pulled down at the beginning of the factional civil wars to be used as spears, but two still remained. As their sharp tips caught the girl, life seemed to return momentarily to her body.

The Red Guards backed up some distance and began to use the impaled body for target practice. For her, the dense storm of bullets was now no different from a gentle rain, as she could no longer feel anything. From time to time, her vinelike arms jerked across her body softly, as though she were flicking off drops of rain.

And then half of her young head was blown away, and only a single, beautiful eye remained to stare at the blue sky of 1967. There was no pain in that gaze, only solidified devotion and yearning.

And yet, compared to some others, she was fortunate. At least she died in the throes of passionately sacrificing herself for an ideal.

Link to Chapter 01 Part 2

花了下午几个小时睡后时间,将这个只有两篇的系列补全,其间洗了几件衣服,回复了几条短信,考虑着如何安排后天开始的斋节食物安排,以及发了几次呆。昨晚跟大伙去Expo的福满楼吃了顿两个多小时的公司所在厂区的商会所谓换届选举就职仪式暨晚宴,请来了名誉顾问、东海岸集选区议员陈舜娘小姐为嘉宾,人家也不容易啊,致辞吃饭颁奖照相敬酒下来也就整个晚上了。好玩的是,她进来以及离去大家都需要起立以示尊敬,这边似乎议员以上级别的都是这样。

元宵节了。阿公说要注意海啸,因为智利的地震。

回家前已经考虑好要将Pentax FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro和Vivitar 24mm f2.8 with auto aperture转卖出去,在家里的时间里也是没有怎么用到这两个定焦镜头,个人还是比较喜欢变焦的,当然现在也没有那么多时间出去东拍西拍的啦,每个月的outing能够去已经算不错的了。FA100mm一定是要卖的,对于我来说太贵,而且用途稍微少了点,但是每个定焦看起来都是有专门的用途。运气不错,将帖子发出去三天内已经将两个镜头出手,其中FA 100mm便宜了20块,而Vivitar 24mm价钱没有变。虽然卖掉两个镜头,但手中的仍然有四支,Mel送给我一支Auto Chinon Multi Coated 28mm f2.8,光圈不可在机身上调,可能以前的胶片机可以。试了一下,表现能力跟Vivitar 24mm的差不多,就是没有那么广角罢了。当初买下24mm的就是以为比kit lens的18mm还要广角,出丑了。另外也大胆的将机身聚焦屏和CMOS上的灰尘弄掉,CMOS上的只敢去吹吹,发现也就那么回事,胆大心细先做调查即可。

Jan 15, 2010

午后梦苕庵

8. p74
就诗歌创作成就而论,明代确实没有大诗人,既无法同唐宋的辉煌相提并论,也不及清代。阮大诚可说是其中的佼佼者。所赏阮诗的并非钱仲联一个,胡先驌称他是“有明一代唯一诗人”,章太炎也有同样的观点,陈三立评价更高“芳絮深微,妙绪披纷。具体储、韦,追踪陶、谢。不以人废言,吾当标为五百年作者。”那几乎就是阮大成坐上明清两代的头一把交椅了。

我们知道阮大成,可能太受《桃花扇》的影响,忠奸分明。即使阮大成的品行确实如此不堪,他在文学上的成就是否值得肯定?托马斯·潘恩说过一句名言:“我们必须提防哪怕是对我们的敌人的不公正。”无论中外,文学史上都有不少品行不佳却才会出众的作家,他们也应得到公正的评价。所谓“人归人,文归文”还是公允的态度。赞赏阮大成的诗,并不是肯定他的为人;否定他的行为,也不应抹杀他的诗才。不仅对古代的严分宜、阮大成,就是对现代的汪精卫、周作人、胡兰成,都应作如是观。

笺注

9. p104
对年轻的读者来说,“磨镜党”是什么东西,似乎需要注释一下。先说“磨镜子”,在玻璃尚未传入中国前,国人用的镜子都是铜制的,时间长了就会黯然无光,于是就有一种专门为人“磨镜子”的人,挑着担子满街跑,自己备有一面母镜,将人家交给他的旧镜子在母镜子上尽力摩擦,就能让旧镜恢复光泽,像新的一样。自从玻璃镜子传到中国后,传统的“磨镜子”职业也就淘汰了。但“磨镜子”又有了新的含义:“古代的镜子是以铜相磨,现代的磨镜是以肉相磨。”《上海俗语图说》中如此解释:“镜子应平坦光滑,才能照见人影,两面铜镜相磨,以光滑对平坦,中间绝无峰峦起伏,以磨镜代表(女)同性爱,大概就是这个缘故?”

[那么如此类比,男同性爱,就是“双棍党”了。 — 玖伍贰柒注]

幸存

10. p128
二00三年英国出版了一张CD,叫The Spoken Word,收有托尔斯泰用英文朗读他的哲学著作For Every Day中的一段话:“生命的目的在于自我完善,个人道德心灵的不断完善。”还有丁尼生一口气不间断地朗诵他自己诗歌的声音。最近大英图书馆又扩充内容,出版了两张一套的CD《历史的声音》,收录的声音不仅有作家的,还有科学家、运动员、艺术家。最早的声音是十九世纪末英国著名莎剧演员亨利·欧文朗诵的一段莎剧。一百多年后我们藉此能够听到这位当年最有魅力的莎剧演员的声音。柯南·道尔简要地说了福尔摩斯的原型:“我写这个故事的时候,还是个刚从学校毕业的青年医生,特别受了爱丁堡贝尔医生的影响,他有着惊人的观察力,看一眼他的病人,不仅能够说出病症,还能说出他的职业和居住处,并以此自豪。”可能我五年前在大英图书馆听到的柯南·道尔的声音,也是这段话。《历史的声音》中还能听到弗洛伊、爱因斯坦等历史上名人的声音。

奇异的阅读

11. p134
“滞销书”并不是没有读者,而是出版社看不到它能带来丰厚的利润,所以不感兴趣。《奇异的阅读》里有一则掌故,说的是有位叫凯瑟雷诺的老绅士,自娱自乐印了大量历史研究的小册子,一个法国人称他是“小书大作者”(a great author of little books)。他一共写了两百多本这样的小册子,每本只有四页厚。尽管他很想把这些“作品”推销出去,但没有一家出版社愿意为他印刷发行。他只得自己把小册子印出来,然后时不时地出入旧书店,尤其是巴黎的旧书店,乘人不备,偷偷地把自己的作品塞一两本到书架上,然后开开心心回家,觉得自己又在成名的路上跨出了一步。他的这些小书就是通过这样的途径流传出去的。

[这一段是抄错了,本来是要抄下面这段关于评价书的段落。 — 玖伍贰柒注]

12. p137
美国批评家莱昂内尔·特里林在一篇文章中讲述了耶鲁大学一名教授的趣闻:这位教授在讲解安德鲁·马韦尔《致羞涩的情人》一诗的课堂上,花一个小时讲述作者生平传略和政治生涯,讲到这首诗时只说了一句:“至于这首诗嘛,诸位—-精品—-精品!”这让我想起张中行回忆在北大听俞平伯讲词,到李清照“莫道不消魂,帘卷西风,人比黄花瘦”,俞平伯说:“好好,真好!至于为什么好,说不清楚。”特里林认为,批评的宗旨,在于“把握本来面目的诗作”,超越虚妄的解释和围绕作品积累起来的各种传说。结构、解构、能指、所指,大概属于特里林说的“虚妄的解释”,我看了就头疼;但“围绕作品积累起来的各种传说”正是我们读书的兴趣所在,如果这也要超越,那么谈诗除了说“精品”或“好,好,真好”外还能说什么呢?

Jan 18, 2010

圈椅上的旅行家

13. p142
在《小熊温尼·苔》(The House At Pooh Corner)故事的最后,克利斯多弗·罗宾对小熊温尼说:“苔,答应我,你不会忘记我,即使我到了一百岁。”温尼·苔想了一会儿,问:“那么,那时我有多大?”罗宾回答说:“九十九岁。”温尼·苔点点头,说:“我答应。”

“于是,他们一起走了。但是不管他们走到哪里,不管途中发生了什么事,森林中那一块神奇的地方总会有一个小孩和他的小熊在玩耍。”童话的结尾总是留给人们淡淡忧伤,那是因为我们都将告别童年,并将永远怀念那无忧无虑的岁月。

14. p146
回忆录的书名译成中文是《“喂?我给你接萨特。。。。。。”》,其中对萨特和他那批伙伴有一个总体评价:“所有这些杰出的教授、哲学家、作家、政治界、文化界、经济界的理论家和批评家,都脆弱得叫人难以置信。”这些杰出人物“自我意识要比肚量大,会以真理的名义把反对者千刀万剐,尤其当他们自己犯错的时候,瞧不起任何跟他们想法不同的人,思想奥林匹斯山上作威作福的诸神。他们等待的只是一件事:得到母亲的溺爱,也就是不负任何责任。”

15. p148
。。。英国作家艾伦·狄波顿《旅行的艺术》开头引了这段情节后说,旅行的观察不能跟我们期盼的划上等号,我们大老远跑去一个地方,往往大失所望,看到的不过尔尔,没什么特别的。所以有时不免觉得最精致的旅行还是想象。这种感受大概不止狄波顿一个,美国有两个作家编了一本《最糟糕的旅行–著名作家落难记》,英文原名叫I shall Have Stayed Home,译成“还不如呆在家里呢”或许更切题。其中有位经常外出旅行的作家说,他真想不起来曾经住过的任何一家希尔顿高级酒店了。但却很清晰地记得在约卡塔睡在草垫的那一夜。“真正能留在记忆中的都是些苦难的经历,是我们的那份沮丧,泄气,以及最终的艰难过关。”

而人们阅读旅游文学,也往往更喜欢看到作者的苦难经历,就像曾有过的那句名言:“我们旅行中唯一有把握吸引读者的就是灾难,人们就喜欢那一类事。”为什么呢?就是可以在阅读中庆幸自己免疫受难,甘心当一个armchair-traveller,如德埃圣公爵想的:“如果能以逸待劳,坐在椅子上云游四海,又何必四处奔波?”

抄《东写西读》之一

如前所述,现转抄如下。

Jan 13, 2010

读《容安馆札记》的札记

1. p7
“幻既出人意外,巧复在人意中,造物可谓善于作文矣” — 毛宗岗“读三国志法”
“A probably impossibility is always preferred to an improbable possibility.” — 亚里士多德“诗学”

2. p13
卡尔在这本传记中引了福尔摩斯《恐怖谷》中的一段话:

“有什么你希望我注意的地方吗?”
“注意那狗在夜间的不寻常举动。”
“那狗整夜什么举动都没有。”
“那正是不寻常之处。”

卡尔把这个称为“福尔摩斯学说”,是福尔摩斯寻找线索,观察问题的独特思想。而钱先生认为这不过是“与古为新”,并从第欧根尼·拉尔修(Diogenes Laertes)的书中找出一连串古希腊哲人的类似对话,如有人问泰勒斯为什么没有自己的孩子,他回答说:“因为我爱孩子。”又如Solon为失去儿子而哭泣,有人对他说这是徒劳无用的,他回答道:“正因为徒劳无用,我才会哭泣。”又有人问某哲人,为何在没人的地方笑,他回答:“这正是理由!”

3. p16
风尘如此,官场也如此。钱先生进一步引梁绍壬《两般秋雨庵随笔》的一则故事,说某人到广东,遇见一妓,两人缠绵难分,那妓女恨不得马上嫁给他。这人回家后告诉友人,友人后来也去广东,找到此妓,说起这人的名字,那妓女已完全不记得了。梁绍壬由此说到他的一个朋友刚到北京,遇见达官贵人,那些大官“垂问备至,居处饮食,成询问详悉。”开始还以为那些大官有古大臣之风,过了不久发现那些大官“言属而意不属”,根本不是真的关心,无非是应酬客套而已。因此说,与官场人交往,正如与风尘女子交往,当不得真。

《三国》识小

4. p26
这些可以说是所有《三国》读者的共同心声,照理会读得大快人心,读得赏心悦目,读得为之雀跃。但事实是,我期待了那么久的书,却几乎读不下去。太圆满了!解气是解了,却陷入了空虚之中。正如叔本华说的,人生因为无法满足愿望而痛苦,一旦获得了满足,同时也就消除了他的愿望,可怕的空虚和无聊就会袭来。“人生是在痛苦和无聊之间像钟摆一样回来摆动着。”在我看来,痛苦是沉重的,却有一种悲壮的感觉,如古希腊人说的,悲剧有一种净化心灵的作用,读《三国演义》就有这种作用,我可以一遍又一遍地读;而空虚的感觉,如米兰·昆德拉所言,是难以承受的轻,这也是《反三国演义》让我读不下去的原因。

梁山不好汉

5. p31
施先生用心理分析的手段,挖出石秀隐藏在内心深处对潘巧云的性欲望,被压抑的欲望却以另一种姿态出现,“嫉妒戴着正义的面具在石秀的失望了的热情的心中起了作用。”当他发现潘巧云的奸情后,产生了“因为爱她,所以要杀她”的奇妙思想,“睡一个女人,在石秀是以为决不及杀一个女人那样的愉快”。血腥唤起了石秀变态的情欲:“黑的头发,白的肌肤,鲜红的血,这样强烈的色彩的对照,看见了之后,精神上和肉体上,将感受到怎样的轻快啊!”

Jan 14, 2010

牛郎织女与袁枚的胡子

6. p52
牛郎织女原是天上的两颗星,大约在汉代开始变成了神。《古诗十九首》中有这样一首:“迢迢牵牛星,皎皎河汉女,纤纤擢素手,札札弄机杼。终日不成章,泣涕零如雨。河汉清且浅,相去复几许。盈盈一水间,脉脉不得语。”到了南北朝,又增添了故事情节,南朝殷芸《小说》中说:“天河之东有织女,天帝之子也。年年机杼劳役,织成云锦天衣,容整不暇整。帝怜其独处,许嫁河西牵牛郎,嫁后逐废织纴。天帝怒,责令归河东,但使一年一度相会。”以后故事不断被添油加醋,而成为民间传说中经典爱情故事。

王太守八宝豆腐及其他

7. p58
关于豆腐,《归田琐记》还记了一段故事,说豆腐制作时,用豆、水、杂料等合重若干,等做成豆腐后,份量会超过原先的含量,朱熹因为格不出其中的理,所以终生不吃豆腐。

拖了好几天,断断续续先抄上这几段,怎样才能提供识字能力?打出其中的有些字让人火冒三丈,深深怀疑以前的语文课是不是睡过来的。这两天上火,无名火?是食物的关系。在K的帮忙下,在淘宝上订购了许多零零碎碎的东西,到时候会挂满东西回来。手痒,又进了一个Pentax SMC A 70-210mm f4 macro手动头。这次是从LX手中拿过来的,二百块。他所有卖东西的帖子都疑似有“Selling coz my dry cabinet is overcrowded”这么一句话,见面的时候就问他的干燥箱是多大,为什么老是满的?他在NTU读博士,将他的家乡武汉跟GF的成都搞混掉了。那么这次的理由是因为周六要去看飞行展,所以要用到一个长变焦的镜头。周日开始上了一堂日文课,Motegi老师的英文不是那么铃铛,就当作是泡在日语中吧,进度太快了,要花很多时间,这个本来也是要花时间的。周六时,在ZH家的聚会成了一个关于祈祷练习会,包括了如何祈祷,如何定下目标等一篮子改进目标。也是早到了要反思的时间啦。嗯,其中关于一些个人感观,至少没有上次在听演讲时那么反感,究竟是感情蒙蔽了思维还是别的,不敢深思。其中有些类似的关于TCH跟我提到的“万有引力定律”相似,夜深了,先闲置不议。

回家倒计时:8天。

關于今天是千年一遇的祝福短語和信息在面前如柳葉般舞動,待一陣子才能夠慢慢看清眼前的路。晚上的月亮并不明亮,依稀看著地上的標記一步步地跑向目的地,然后一步步邁回來。回響這三分之一的生命歷程(希望如此),幾乎沒有一件事情是善始善終,帶著三分鐘的微波爐熱度不停的向下一個看似能夠鋪就遠大前程的玉米撲去,最后發現腋下連夾個西瓜解渴都難。


Download: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/766

三個星期前在手機上讀完了查爾斯·狄更斯(Charles Dickens)的《大衛·科波菲爾》(David Copperfield),這是一本據說是應該在中學時代就應該讀完的書。書的背景并不是很龐大,圍繞著大衛的成長歷程一點一點展開。印象較深的是里面對心理和人物特征的描寫,比如米考伯一家人的演說性詞匯。相對與《遠大前程》(Great Expectations)來說,少了點諷刺的味道,狄更斯在里面只是平靜的敘述大衛遇到的一切,似乎對希普的陰謀和大衛的努力都輕輕帶過。現在在慢慢腐蝕掉手機上的《遠大前程》,很長的一段時間里面只是讓它坐冷板凳,或許是開頭沉悶的氣氛和緩慢展開故事有關。相對于狄更斯的變化莫測描寫人物的手法,我在這里只能干巴巴的說自己超啊贊啊喜歡將不同性格和社會地位的對白和描述。比較喜歡《大衛·科波菲爾》,《遠大前程》太現實了。

[Great Expectations] download: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/1400