【媒库文选】悲伤无二致

2020-05-20 14:44   参考消息网  

Over the past 15 years Yiyun Li, a Chinese-American author, has read “War and Peace” at least a dozen times. Her hardback copy of Leo Tolstoy's 1,200-page saga bristles with coloured notes, like some exotic lizard's spine. The novel is not just a masterclass in fiction, Ms Li believes, but a remedy for distress. At the most difficult times in her life, she says, she has turned to it again and again, reassured by its “solidity” in the face of uncertainty.

So large is Tolstoy's world, Ms Li reckoned, that there could be no better companion for people trapped in isolation. She conceived of a virtual book club to sustain readers through the lockdown. Participants around the globe would plough through this doorstopper together and share their thoughts on social media.

Other book clubs have sprung up to discuss great literature during the pandemic. Some are reading Boccaccio's “Decameron”, a story cycle set amid the Black Death; others, “The Plague”, an allegorical tale by Albert Camus. But Tolstoy's novel reflects the atmosphere of life in quarantine better, if more obliquely. Its alternating structure, toggling between battlefields and the salons of Russian high society, mirrors the disorienting split in readers' own attention—between their own personal, stilled states and the calamity unfolding outside. Those who have begun the book before might have skimmed the war sections; now they seize the foreground, the main and awful action which, like the news from Wuhan, Bergamo and New York, overshadows the drawing-room intrigues.

Parallels with today's crisis are inescapable. On the very first page, Anna Pavlovna, a St Petersburg hostess, comes down with “la grippe”—a flu—but holds her soirée nonetheless. Amid talk of Napoleon and war, she exclaims: “Can one be calm in times like these if one has any feeling?” Pauline Holdsworth, a reader in Toronto, shared the quote on Twitter, noting drily that it cut “a bit close to the bone”.

The rhythm of the readathon, too, is analogous to the woozy movement of epidemic time. At a prescribed 30 minutes a day (some 12 to 15 pages), readers move at a peculiar, slowed pace through battles and duels, deaths and marriage proposals and balls. If, as Ms Li claims, the book “contains everything about life”, it also mimics the temporal experience of real lives. She has planned the readings to last for three months. And though the endpoint of the fictional action may be distant, it is still somehow plausible, like the eventual lifting of the lockdown.

Most strikingly, readers have instantly recognised themselves in the seesawing emotions that course through all Tolstoy's characters. None is ever really stable: Prince Andrei Bolkonsky swings abruptly between arrogance and euphoria; Pierre Bezukhov is forever thinking one thing and saying another; young Nikolai Rostov, enamoured of the tsar, is eager to die, then bolts away like a terrified hare.

“The amplified extremities of emotion during extreme times,” tweeted Kristin Boldon, a reader in Minneapolis. “I can relate.” Tolstoy's genius is to capture these confused internal battles, which are never more evident than amid the cabin fever of quarantine—the oscillating closeness and exasperation with loved ones, claustrophobia jostling with odd hints of liberation.

As great art can, the novel is helping its readers adjust to their own uncertain reality. As George Saunders, another American novelist, puts it, Tolstoy observes humankind “the way God sees us”, with empathy and forgiveness, implicitly encouraging readers to view themselves with the same generosity. The book club itself embodies the common humanity that the coronavirus has pointed up: a paradoxically rich connection with strangers who are widely dispersed yet linked by their predicaments and imaginations.

Whether listening to an audiobook while walking or curling up at the end of an exhausting homeschooling day, thousands of isolated souls are on the same page. It is not too late to start: there are still hundreds of pages to go.

15年来,美籍华裔作家李翊云读了不下12遍《战争与和平》。她手里这部列夫·托尔斯泰的鸿篇巨著是一本1200页的精装书,里面密密麻麻地标注着不同颜色的笔记,仿佛某种奇异蜥蜴的脊背。李翊云觉得,这部小说不仅是由大师授课的文学创作讲习班,还是治疗忧伤苦痛的良药。她说,在人生中那些最艰难的时期,她曾一次又一次地埋首这部著作,用书中传递的“坚强”安抚自己对未知的焦虑。

托尔斯泰笔下的世界恢弘开阔,李翊云认为,与外界隔绝时用这部作品来陪伴自己大概再好不过了。她萌生一个念头,组织一家虚拟读书俱乐部,帮助读者度过封城时期。世界各地的参与者将一起来啃这部大部头,并在社交媒体上交流感想。

这种用讨论文学名著打发疫期生活的读书俱乐部冒出了许多。有的阅读薄伽丘以黑死病为背景创作的故事集《十日谈》;有的阅读阿尔贝·加缪的寓言故事《鼠疫》。但托尔斯泰的小说更能反映隔离时期的生活氛围,虽然这种反映比较间接。小说采用交替结构,在战场与俄国上流社会沙龙之间来回切换场景,这正是读者自身心神涣散割裂的写照,他们一面关注平静下来的个人生活,一面关注愈演愈烈的外界灾祸。有些人以前就读过这部书,对其中描写战争的章节或许一掠而过;这回它们成了重头戏,那些可怕的大战就像武汉、贝加莫和纽约传出的消息那样,盖过了上流社会客厅里阴私勾当的风头。

书中许多情节与当前危机相似,让人难以忽视。翻开书中第一页,圣彼得堡某场聚会的女主人安娜·帕夫洛夫娜就染上“流行性感冒”,但晚会照办不误。议论起拿破仑和战争,她感叹道:“这年头,但凡有血有肉,谁能做到处变不惊?”多伦多的读者保利娜·霍尔兹沃思把这句话分享到推特上,冷冷地点评说:“有些戳心了。”

再者,这是一场马拉松式的读书活动,堪比旷日持久的疫情,让人头晕脑胀。以每天30分钟(即大约每天12页到15页)的推荐阅读量来算,读者是用一种特殊的、慢吞吞的速度阅读,一会儿是战场与决斗,一会儿是死亡与求婚,一会儿又是舞会。如果照李翊云所说,这部著作“包罗生活万象”,那么它连现实生活里时间的流逝感也一并营造了出来。李翊云给这次阅读活动定了3个月的期限。即便读完的那一天遥遥无期,总归是有影的事情,正如封城措施终有解除的那一天。

最叫人震惊的地方是,读者看到托尔斯泰笔下人物无一不是情绪多变,立即从中看到了自己。没有一个角色从头到尾一成不变:安德烈·博尔孔斯基公爵忽而傲慢自负,忽而心花怒放;皮埃尔·别祖霍夫老是脑子里想着一回事,嘴上说着另一回事;年轻的尼古拉·罗斯托夫为沙皇的魅力所倾倒,渴望为沙皇效死,结果却像吓坏了的野兔那样掉头狂奔。

明尼阿波利斯的读者克丽斯廷·博尔登在推特上说:“这种情绪在极端时期更加偏激的情形,我心有戚戚。”托尔斯泰的天才之处在于捕捉到这些说不清道不明的内心冲突。居家隔离烦躁不安时,这种内心冲突再明显不过了——与亲人们一时亲密无间,一时又愤然反目;刚刚因为禁锢在家透不过气来,忽然又发觉解禁的苗头,来回折腾。

伟大的艺术作品能够帮助读者适应无常,这部小说也在发挥这样的作用。用美国另一位小说家乔治·桑德斯的话来说,托尔斯泰观察人类,“就像上帝审视我们一样”,心怀同情与宽恕,委婉地鼓励读者用同样宽宏的眼光打量自己。这个读书俱乐部本身就体现了此次疫情凸显的共同人性,那就是:天各一方却由困境和想象连接起来的陌生人反而彼此心意相通。

千千万万禁锢了的灵魂,或者一边散步一边听有声书,或者上完一整天令人疲惫的居家课程后惬意地窝起来读书,终归在同一部书中徘徊。现在开始读也不晚:还剩好几百页呢。(于晓华译自英国《经济学人》周刊4月25日文章)

0 条评论
来说两句吧。。。
最热评论
最新评论
来说两句吧...
已有0人参与,点击查看更多精彩评论
加载中。。。。
表情