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读书与想象:《布鲁克林有棵树》节选

《读者》杂志的读书会栏目,给拙译《布鲁克林有棵树》做了长达半个月的介绍。在此表示感谢。
 
From Chapter 9, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
 
Katie was glad to see her mother. With the memory of her own birth pangs still lingering, she had knowledge now of what her mother had suffered when she, Katie, was born. She thought of her mother bearing seven children, bringing them up, watching three of them die, and knowing that those who lived were doomed to hunger and hardship.She had a vision that the same cycle was destined for her less than day-old child. She became frantic with worry.
 
“What do I know?” Katie asked her mother. “I can’t teach her anything more than I, myself, know and I know so little. You are poor, Mother. Johnny and I are poor. The baby will grow up to be poor. We can’t be any more than we are this day. Sometimes I think that the year past was the best we will ever know. As the years go by and Johnny andI get older, nothing will grow better. All we have now is that we are young and strong enough to work and that will go from us as time passes.”
 
Then the real truth came to her. “I mean,” she thought, “that I can work. I can’t count on Johnny. I’ll always have to look after him. Oh, God, don’t send me any more children or I won’t be able to look after Johnny and I’ve got to look after Johnny. He can’t look after himself.” Her mother interrupted her thoughts. Mary was saying:
 
“What did we have in the old country? Nothing. We were peasants. We starved. Well, then, we came over here.It wasn’t so much better except that they didn’t take your father for the military the way they would do in the old country. But otherwise, it’s been harder.I miss the homeland, the trees and broad fields, the familiar way of living, the old friends.”
 
“If you could expect nothing better, why did you come to America?”
 
“For the sake of my children whom I wished to be born in a free land.”
 
“Your children haven’t done so well, Mother.” Katie smiled bitterly.
 
“There is here, what is not in the old country. In spite of hard unfamiliar things, there is here—hope. In the old country, a man can be no more than his father, providing he works hard.If his father was a carpenter, he may be a carpenter. He may not be a teacher or a priest. He may rise—but only to his father’s state. In the old country, a man is given to the past. Here he belongs to the future. In this land, he maybe what he will, if he has the good heart and the way of working honestly at the right things.”
 
“That is not so. Your children have not done better than you.”
 
Mary Rommely sighed. “That may be my fault. I knew not how to teach my daughters because I have nothing behind me excepting that for hundreds of years, my family has worked on the land of some overlord. I did not send my first child to the school. I was ignorant and did not know at first that the children of folk like us were allowed the free education of this land. Thus, Sissy had no chance to do better than me. But the other three… you went to school.”
 
“I finished the sixth grade, if that is what is called education.”
 
“And your Yohnny”—she could not pronounce “j”—“ did too. Don’t you see?” Excitement came into her voice.“Already, it is starting—the getting better.” She picked up the baby and held it high in her arms.
 
“This child was born of parents who can read and write,” she said simply. “To me, this is a great wonder.”
 
“Mother, I am young. Mother, I am just eighteen. I am strong. I will work hard, Mother. But I do not want this child to grow up just to work hard. What must I do, Mother, what must I do to make a different world for her? How do I start?”
 
“The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day, I know this is the secret.”
 
“I will read,” promisedKatie. “What is a good book?”
 
“There are two great books.Shakespeare is a great book. I have heard tell that all the wonder of life is in that book; all that man has learned of beauty, all that he may know of wisdom and living are on those pages. It is said that these stories are plays to be acted out on the stage. I have never spoken to anyone who has seen this great thing. But I heard the lord of our land back in Austria say that some of the pages sing themselves like songs.”
 
 “Is Shakespeare a book in the German?”
 
“It is of the English. I so heard our lord of the land tell his young son who was setting out for the great university of Heidelberg long ago.”
 
 “And what is the other great book?”
 
 “It is the Bible that the Protestant people read.”
 
 “We have our own Bible, the Catholic one.”
 
Mary looked around the room furtively. “It is not fitting for a good Catholic to say so but I believe that the Protestant Bible contains more of the loveliness of the greatest story on this earth and beyond it. A much-loved Protestant friend once read some of her Bible to me and I found it as I have said.
 
 “That is the book, then, and the book ofShakespeare. And every day you must read a page of each to your child—eventhough you yourself do not understand what is written down and cannot sound the words properly. You must do this that the child will grow up knowing of what isgreat—knowing that these tenements of Williamsburg are not the whole world.”
 
“The Protestant Bible andShakespeare.”
 
 “And you must tell the child the legends I told you—as my mother told them to me and her mother to her. You must tell the fairy tales of the old country. You must tell of those not of the earth who live forever in the hearts of people—fairies, elves, dwarfs and such. You must tell of the great ghosts that haunted your father’s people and of the evil eye which a hex put on your aunt. You must teach the child of the signs that come to the women of our family when there is trouble and death to be. And the child must believe in the Lord God and Jesus, His Only Son.” She crossed herself.
 
 “Oh, and you must not forget the Kris Kringle.The child must believe in him until she reaches the age of six.”
 
“Mother, I know there are no ghosts or fairies. I would be teaching the child foolish lies.”
 
Mary spoke sharply. “You do not know whether there are not ghosts on earth or angels in heaven.”
 
 “I know there is no Santa Claus.”
 
“Yet you must teach the child that these things are so.”
 
 “Why? When I, myself, do not believe?”
 
“Because,” explained MaryRommely simply, “the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of theSaints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.”
 
 “The child will grow up and find out things for herself. She will know that I lied. She will be disappointed.”
 
 “That is what is called learning the truth. It is a good thing to learn the truth one’s self. To first believe with all your heart, and then not to believe, is good too. It fattens the emotions and makes them to stretch. When as a woman life and people disappoint her, she will have had practice in disappointment and it will not come so hard. In teaching your child, do not forget that suffering is good too. It makes a person rich in character.”
 
“If that is so,” commentedKatie bitterly, “then we Rommelys are rich.”
 
“We are poor, yes. We suffer.Our way is very hard. But we are better people because we know of the things I have told you. I could not read but I told you of all of the things I learned from living. You must tell them to your child and add on to them such things as you will learn as you grow older.”
 
“What more must I teach the child?”
 
“The child must be made to believe in heaven. A heaven, not filled with flying angels with God on a throne”—Mary articulated her thoughts painfully, half in German and half inEnglish—“ but a heaven which means a wondrous place that people may dream of—asof a place where desires come true.”
 
节选自《布鲁克林有棵树》第九章
 
凯蒂看到妈妈很高兴。生孩子的疼痛她还记忆犹新,她现在知道了妈妈生她自己的时候,不也有过一样的遭遇?她想到妈妈一共生了七个孩子,给抚养大,然后白发人送黑发人,看着三个孩子夭折,活下来的几个挨饿的挨饿,受苦的受苦。她这时候就预见到,自己这个生下来一天不到的孩子,日后一定也是这个命。她又慌又怕。
 
“我懂个什么呢?”凯蒂问她妈妈。“我只能够教她我会的,可是我会个什么呀?你穷了一辈子,妈妈。约翰尼和我也穷。这孩子长大了还是穷命。我们就这个样子,也翻不了身。有时候我我总想,自己是一年不如一年。日子这么往下过,等约翰尼和我都老了,情况也好不起来。现在还年纪轻,做得动,时间一久,这些都持续不了。”
 
接着她想到真正揪心的事情来。“我是说,”她心里想,“我能够做工。我指望不了约翰尼。我总得去照应他。啊,老天,别再让我生了,不然我照应不了约翰尼了,我不照顾他不行啊。”她的妈妈玛丽开口,打断了她的思绪:
 
“在我们老国家, 我们有什么?什么都没有。我们都是农夫。我们都常挨饿。好了,到这里了,也好不了多少,只不过你爸不像在老国家那样,要去当兵打仗。除此之外,我看日子过得更难。我想念老国家,想念那些大树,开阔的田野,熟悉的日子,还有那些老朋友。”
 
“要是你不指望这里日子好转,那你来美国干什么呢?”
 
“为了孩子啊,希望孩子生在一个自由的国家。”
 
“你的孩子也不怎么争气啊,妈妈,”凯蒂露出了苦涩的微笑。
 
“不过老国家没有的,这里有。别看这里面苦,什么都不熟悉,可是这里有希望。在老国家,人再努力,顶多也就是做到他父亲的水平。如果父亲是木匠,儿子搞得好也是木匠,不会变成老师、牧师。他或许能够进步,但是只能进步到父亲的水平。在老国家,人属于过去。这里人属于未来。在这片土地上,人要是有颗好心,肯老老实实做事,不走邪路,都能达到自己的目标。”
 
“也不是这样啊,你这几个孩子都没有超过你呢。”
玛丽·罗姆利叹了口气。“也许是我的错。我不知道怎么教育女儿。我们家祖祖辈辈几百年都给地主干活。我没有送我的长女上学。我无知啊,不知道我们在这个国家像我们这样的人可以免费送孩子上学。就这样,茜茜哪里有机会超过我。另外三个呢,你们都上过学。”
 
“我上完六年级了,如果这也算教育的话。”
 
“还有你家约尼”(她老将约翰尼说成约尼)“也上过学,明白了吧?”她的话音激动起来。“你看,总算起了个头,会越来越好的。”她抱起孩子,举得高高的。“这孩子父母亲识文断字,”她平淡地说,“在我看来,这就是个大奇迹了。”
 
“妈妈,我还年轻。妈妈,我刚十八岁。我还有力气。我会努力做事。不过我不想孩子长大以后,只靠力气赚钱。妈妈,我们应该怎么做,才能改变她的命运呢?从哪里下手?”
 
“秘诀是读书写字。你识字啊。你可以找本好书,每天给孩子读一页。一天不落,一直读到孩子自己能读书为止。到了那时候,可以让孩子自己读。我知道这个就是秘诀。”
 
“我会读的,”凯蒂答应。“什么书是好书呢?”
 
“有两部好书。莎士比亚是好书。听人说,书上写尽了人世间的百态。人类知道的所有的美,所有的智慧,所有的生命,都在这书里记着呢。听人说,这些故事都是能拿到舞台上去演的。我从来不认识任何看过这好书的人。但是听我老国家的地主说,这些书里有些内容都能当歌唱呢。”
 
“莎士比亚是不是德语书?”
 
“是英语的,这是我听那时候的地主说的。他正要送儿子上那个著名的海德堡大学呢,都是好久以前的事情了。”
 
“另外一本书是什么?”
 
“是新教教徒看的圣经。”
 
“我们有自己的圣经啊,天主教的。”
 
玛丽偷偷看了看房间四周。“一个好天主教徒不应该这么说,不过我相信新教圣经把耶稣这个世上最伟大的故事说得更好,更活泼些。我有个很要好的新教朋友,给我念过她们的圣经,所以我才这么说的。”
 
“那就看这个,还有莎士比亚的书。每天你给孩子读一页,哪怕你自己也看不明白书上的话,或是发音发错。你必须坚持这么做,这样孩子长大后,就会见识过世面,知道世界并不是布鲁克林的出租屋这么大。”
 
“新教的圣经和莎士比亚。”
 
“你还得把我讲过的民间故事讲给孩子听,过去我妈妈也是这样传给我,我外祖母也是这样传给我妈妈的。你要跟孩子们讲讲老国家的神话故事,说说那些仙女、小精灵、侏儒,等等,他们不住在凡界,却住在人们心中。你还得跟孩子讲一讲缠着你父亲一家的那些厉鬼,还有你婶婶那邪恶的眼睛,那是中了邪才这样的。你还要跟孩子讲,我们家里出事,要死人的时候,总会有些征兆显给家里的女人。这孩子还要相信上帝,还有他唯一的儿子耶稣。”说着,她划了个十字。
 
“对了,别忘了还有圣诞老人。孩子六岁之前都必须相信圣诞老人。”
 
“妈妈,我知道世上没有鬼怪和仙女。你这不是让我跟孩子撒谎吗?”
玛丽立刻尖锐地反驳:“你哪里会知道地上有没有鬼怪,天上有没有天使?”
 
“我知道没有圣诞老人啊。”
 
“但是你必须把这些东西教给孩子。”
 
“为什么啊,我不相信还教她?”
 
“因为,”玛丽·罗姆利简简单单地说,“孩子得有想象力,想象力是无价的。孩子得有一个隐秘的世界,里头住着从来不存在的东西。她得相信,这很重要。她先得相信这些不属于人世的东西。这样一来,等世道艰难了,孩子就可以回去,住到想象里头。我都这一把年纪了,还觉得很有必要回顾圣徒的生活,回顾过去发生的各种神迹奇事。有了这些想象,以后日子不好过,也不会钻牛角尖困在日子里头。”
 
“孩子会长大,自己明白事理,那时候发现我撒谎了,会很失望的。”
 
“这就是开悟啊。自个儿开悟这不是好事吗?首先全心相信,后来又不相信,这也是好事。这样七情六欲变得更饱满,更绵长,跟着一起长呢。等她长成了女人,要是有人对她不好,让她失望,她都经历过失望了,这样也就不会经不起事了。教孩子的时候,别忘了苦难也是好事。苦难磨练人哪,让人性格饱满起来。”
 
“真是这样的话,”凯蒂苦闷地说,“我们罗姆利家人都是富人了。”
 
“是的,我们很穷。我们受苦受难。我们日子很艰难。可是我们知道我刚才跟你说的那些,所以更出色。我不识字,我告诉你的这些,都是生活上的实际体会。你得教孩子这些,另外,随着年龄的增长,你自己的阅历也越来越丰富…这个你也要教给他们。”
 
“还得教孩子什么?”
 
“孩子得相信天堂。这个天堂不是上帝坐在宝座上,天使四处在飞的天堂,”玛丽痛苦地表达着自己的思想,德语和英语夹杂,“而是一个可爱的地方,人们梦想的地方,一个欲望实现的地方。”
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