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杨绛《听话的艺术》英译

2015-07-03    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

杨绛《听话的艺术》英译

听话的艺术

杨绛

假如说话有艺术,听话当然也有艺术。说话是创造,听话是批评。说话目的在表现,听话目的在了解与欣赏。不会说话的人往往会听说话,正好比古今多少诗人文人所鄙薄的批评家——自己不能创作,或者创作失败,便摇身一变而为批评大师,恰像倒运的窃贼,改行做了捕快。英国十八世纪小诗人显斯顿(Shenstone)说:“失败的诗人往往成为愠怒的批评家,正如劣酒能变好醋。”可是这里既无严肃的批判,又非尖刻的攻击,只求了解与欣赏。若要比批评,只算浪漫派印象派的批评。

听话包括三步:听、了解与欣赏。听话不像阅读能自由选择。话不投机,不能把对方两片嘴唇当作书面一般拍的合上,把书推开了事。我们可以“听而不闻”,效法对付嚣张的厌物的办法:“装上排门,一无表示”,自己出神也好,入定也好。不过这办法有不便处,譬如搬是弄非的人,便可以根据“不否认便是默认”的原则,把排门后面的弱者加以利用。或者“不听不闻”更妥当些。从前有一位教士训儿子为人之道:“当了客人,不可以哼歌曲,不要弹指头,不要脚尖拍地——这种行为表示不在意。”但是这种行为正不妨偶一借用,于是出其不意,把说话转换一个方向。当然,听话而要逞自己的脾气,又要不得罪人,需要很高的艺术。可是我们如要把自己磨揉得海绵一般,能尽量收受,就需要更高的修养。因为听话的时候,咱们的自我往往像接在盒里的弹簧人儿(Jack in thebox),忽然会“哇”的探出头来叫一声“我受不了你”。要把它制服,只怕千锤百炼也是徒然。除非听话的目的不为了解与欣赏,而另有作用。十九世纪英国诗人台勒爵士(Sir Henry Taylor)也是一位行政能员,他在谈成功秘诀的“政治家”(The Statesman)一书中说:“不论'赛人’(Siren)的歌声多么悦耳,总不如倾听的耳朵更能取悦'赛人’的心魂。”成功而得意的人大概早就发现了这个诀窍。并且还有许多“赛人”喜欢自居童话中的好女孩,一开口便有珍珠宝石纷纷乱滚。倾听的耳朵来不及接受,得双手高擎起盘子来收取——珍重地把文字的珠玑镶嵌在笔记本里,那么“好女孩”一定还有更大的施与这种人的话并不必认真听,不听更好,只消凝神倾耳;也不需了解,只需摆出一副欣悦钦服的神态,便很足够。假如已经听见、了解,而生怕透露心中真情,不妨装出一副笨木如猪的表情,“赛人”的心魂也不会过于苛求。

听人说话,最好效陶渊明读书,不求甚解。若要细加注释,未免琐细。不过,不求甚解,总该懂得大意。如果自己未得真谛,反一笔抹煞,认为一切说话都是吹牛拍马撒谎造谣,那就忘却了说话根本是艺术,并非柴米油盐类的日用必需品。责怪人家说话不真实,等于责怪一篇小说不是构自事实,一幅图画不如照相准确。说话之用譬如衣服,一方面遮掩身体,一方面衬托显露身上某几个部分。我们绝不谴责衣服掩饰真情,歪曲事实。假如赤条条一丝不挂,反惹人骇怪了。难道了个人的自我比一个人的身体更多自然美?

谁都知道艺术品的真实并不指符合实事。亚利斯多德早说过:诗的真实不是史实。大概天生诗人比历史家多。(诗人,我依照希腊字原义,指创造者。)而最普遍的创造是说话。夫子“述而不作”,又何尝述而不作!不过我们糠戏听故事或赏鉴其他艺术品,只求“诗的真实”(Poetic truth)。虽然明知是假,甘愿信以为真。珂立支(Coleridge)所谓:“姑妄听之”(Willing suspense of disbelief)。听话的时候恰恰相反:“诗的真实”不能满足我们,我们渴要知道的是事实。这种心清,恰和珂立支所说的相反,可叫做“宁可不信”(Un willing suspense of belief)。同时我们总借用亚利斯多德“必然与可能”(The inevitable and Probable)的原则来推定事实真相。举几个简单的例。假如一位女士叹恨着说:“唉,我这一头头发真麻烦,恨不得天生是秃子。”谁信以为真呢!依照“可能与必然”,推知她一定自知有一头好头发。假如有人说:“某人拉我帮他忙,某机关又不肯放,真叫人为难。”他大概正在向某人钻营,而某机关的位置在动摇,可能他钻营尚未成功,认真在为难。假如某要人代表他负责的机关当众辟谣,我们依照“必然与可能”的原则,恍然道:“哦!看来确有其事!”假如一个人过火的大吹大擂,他必定是对自己有所不足,很可能他把自己也哄骗在内,自己说过几遍的话,便信以为真。假如一个人当面称谀,那更需违反心愿,宁可不信。他当然在尽交际的责任,说对方期待的话。很可能他看透了你意中的自己。假如一个人背后太热心的称赞一个无足称赞的人,可能是最精巧的馅媚,准备拐几个弯再送达那位被赞的人,比面谀更入耳洽心;也可能是上文那位教士训儿子对付冤家的好办法——过火的称赞,能激起人家反感;也可能是借吹捧这人,来贬低那人。
 

听话而如此逐句细解,真要做到“水至清则无鱼”了。我们很不必过分精明;虽然人人说话,能说话的人和其他艺术家一般罕有。辞令巧妙,只使我们钦慕“作者”的艺术,而拙劣的言词,却使我们喜爱了“作者”自己。

说话的艺术愈高,愈增强我们的“宁可不信”,使我们怀疑,甚至恐惧。笨拙的话,像亚当夏娃遮掩下身的几片树叶,只表示他们的自惭形秽,愿在天使面前掩饰丑陋。譬如小孩子的虚伪,哄大人给东西吃,假意问一声“这是什么?可以吃么?”使人失笑,却也得人爱怜。譬如逢到蛤蟆般渺小的人,把自己吹得牛一般大,我们不免同情怜悯,希望他天生就有牛一般大,免得他如此费力。逢到笨拙的馅媚,至少可以知道,他在表示要好。老实的骂人,往往只为表示自己如何贤德,并无多少恶意。一个人行为高尚,品性伟大,能使人敬慕,而他的弱点偏得人爱。乖巧的人曾说:“你若要得人爱,少显露你的美德,多显露你的过失。”又说:“人情从不原谅一个无需原谅的人。”凭这点人情来体会听说话时的心理,尤为合适。我们钦佩羡慕巧妙的言辞,而言词笨拙的人,却获得我们的同情和喜爱。大概说话究竟是凡人的艺术,而说话的人是上帝的创造。

译文:

The Art of Listening

If speaking is an art, so is listening. Whereas to speak is to create, to listen is to criticize. The purpose of speaking is to express; the purpose of listening to understand and appreciate. A person unable to speak well often can listen well, just like critics – whom writers have despised from the ancient times to the present – who cannot write or fail to write literary works, transform themselves into masters of criticism. This is similar to an unlucky thief who turns into a policeman. William Shenstone, an 18th century minor English poet, says, “A poet that fails in writing becomes often a morose critic; the weak an insipid white wine makes at length excellent lampooning; instead it sets out to understand and appreciate. If compared to criticism, listening at most can be regarded as a kind of criticism that is romantic and impressionistic.

Listening consists of three steps: give ear, understand, and appreciate. Unlike reading, listening has no free choice. Even though you don’t like to listen, you cannot shut the speaker’s mouth as you do a book and put it aside. We may “listen without bearing,” which imitates the method of dealing with the aggressive bores: “Wear a mask and remain expressionless,” whether you are absent-minded or engrossed. But this method has its disadvantage. If the speaker is a troublemaker, he can act according to the principle of “the absence of denial is acquiescence” and take advantage of the weak listener behind the mask. By comparison, “neither listening nor hearing” may be more appropriate. A priest once taught his son etiquette, saying, “When in front of a guest, you don’t hum, or flip your fingers, or tap on the floor with your toes. This kind of act shows you are not paying attention.” However, this kind of act can be used once in a while, to catch the speaker unawares and switch the topic in another direction. Indeed, when listening, it needs a lot of art for you to display your disaffection and at the same time not to offend the speaker.

But it needs an even higher degree of cultivation to temper ourselves into a spouse, soft and capable of absorbing to our full. This is because when listening, one’s self, like a Jack-in-the-Box may suddenly pop out and shout, “Hey, I can’t stand you.” Probably, the self will never be contained, however hard we temper it, unless comprehension and appreciation cease to be the end of listening, which may serve another function. The 19th century English poet Sir Henry Taylor, who was also an able official, speaks about the secret of success in his Statesman, “No Siren did even so charm the ear of the listener, as the listening ear has charmed the soul of the Siren.” Perhaps some successful people have discovered this trick long ago. And what is more, there are many “sirens” who like to pose as the good little girl in the fairy tale; whenever their mouths open, pearls and precious stones roll out. They overflow the ears so with both hands the listener raises a plate to collect them, carefully setting the verbal treasures I a notebook, in the hope that “the good little girl” will surely offer something more substantial. It is unnecessary to take the words of these people seriously, better not to listen at all; just looking attentive will do. Nor is it necessary to understand them, suffice to put on a complaint, admiring look. If unfortunately it is advisable to present a dumb look, the “Siren’s” may not be too severe on you.

At best, the listener should, after the manner of the poet Tao Qian in reading, refrain from probing too closely. It is too trifling to fill in exhaustive notes. But on the other hand, you should catch the general drift. If you yourself, having missed the point, go on to disclaim that which has been said as bragging, flattering, lying, and slandering, then you have forgotten that in essence speaking is an art, not daily necessities such as rice, oil, salt and firewood. To blame the speaker for not speaking truthfully is similar to condemning a novel for being not-factual or a painting for not being as accurate as a photograph. Speaking is like wearing clothes, which on one hand covers the body, and on the other reveals parts of the body. None of us would condemn clothes for cloaking the truth or distorting the facts. On the contrary, we would be shocked if someone wears nothing. Would anyone go so far as to say that one’s self is more beautiful than one’s physical being and deserves more exposure?

Everyone knows that artistic truth is not identical with factual truth. Aristotle said long ago: Poetic truth is not historic truth. Presumably more poets have been born than historians. By “poet”, I refer to the original Greek meaning, “maker.” And the most ubiquitous act of making is speaking. Confucius insisted he “relate but not add anything,” but who dares to argue that the saint related without adding anything! When we watch a play, or listen to a story, or appreciate other works of art, all we are looking for is “poetic truth”; though we know it is false, we are willing to believe it is true. This is what Coleridege calls “willing suspense of disbelief.” In the case of listening, on the contrary, “poetic truth” cannot satisfy us and we want to know the facts. This kind of psychology, just oppose to what Coleridge says, may be called “unwilling suspense of belief.” At the same time, when listening, we cannot help relying on Aristotle’s principle of “the inevitable and the probable” to deduce the facts. Let me give you a few simples. If a lady sighs and says “Ah, my hair is such a nuisance. If only I were born hairless,” who would believe her! According to the principle of “the probable and the inevitable,” we may infer that she has abundant hair. If someone says, “That man wants me to join, but my office will not release me. It’s really hard,” perhaps he is trying to worm his way into that man’s favor, and that his position in the office is shaky. Or perhaps he has yet to court the favor of that man, in which case he is truly in a predicament. Again, if a VIP formally and publicly denies a rumor, then in accordance with the principle of “the inevitable and the probable” we may say with safety that “Ha! It must be true!” If someone boasts excessively, we may deduce that he is unsure of himself and trying to delude himself as well; after several repetitions he will ultimately convince himself. If someone flatters you to your face, you ought to restrain yourself and not believe him. Apparently, he sees through you and is just saying what you expected. If someone extols a person behind his back, though the latter is not praiseworthy, this might be the cleverest way of fawning, designed to be delivered to that person through a few turns, which will be more pleasing than flattering to one’s face. Or this might be what the priest, the same one as mentioned earlier, taught his son – an effective way of coping with an enemy – excessive praise can kindle the enemy’s aversion and the adulation of one person might serve to downplay another.

If we listen too carefully – dissecting every sentence, weighing every word, we will reach that extreme condition of “water absolutely pure where no fish could survive.” So we shouldn’t be over alert. Everyone speaks, but those who can speak are few, just as other kinds of artists are likewise few. Clever works, however, make us admire only the speaker’s art, while clumsy works make us like the speaker as a person.

The more accomplished the art of speaking is, the more we are inclined to the “unwilling suspense of belief,” and we may even experience fear. Clumsy words are like Adam and Eve’s covering their private parts with leaves; it only expresses their sense of shame and their desire to conceal their ugliness in the presence of the angels. It is also similar to a child’s trickery: enticing grown-ups into offering goodies, the child asks roguishly, “What’s this? Is it eatable?” it makes us laugh and endears the child to us. When a toad-sized man pumps himself up as large as an ox, we cannot but feel pity for him and wish he were born the size of an ox, to spare him all this effort. If we come across a clumsy flatterer, at least we know he means well. When a man honestly gives you a piece of his mind, he actually reveals his virtues, there is no malice. One who does noble deeds and is high-minded certainly commands respect, but people are fond of him rather for his weaknesses. A smart person once said, “If you want to be loved, show your faults more than your virtues.” The same person also said, “People never forgive one who doesn’t need to be forgiven.” Thus may the psychology of listening be fathomed. We respect and admire clever words, but it is the person with clumsy words who have our sympathy and affection. In brief, to speak is but human, but a man who speaks is a divine creation.

(金雪飞 译)



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