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James Baldwin - A Fly in Buttermilk 汉译

2014-08-14    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

A Fly in Buttermilk

James Baldwin

“You can take the child out of the country,” my elders were fond of saying, “but you can’t take the country out of the child.” They were speaking of their own antecedents, I supposed; it didn’t, anyway, seem possible that they could be warning me; I took myself out of the country and went to Paris. It was there I discovered that the old folks knew what they had been talking about: I found myself, willy-nilly, alchemized into an American the moment I touched French soil.

Now, back again after nearly nine years, it was ironical to reflect that if I had not lived in France for so long I would never have found it necessary – or possible – to visit the American South. The South had always frightened me. How deeply it had frightened me – though I had never seen it – and how soon, was one of the things my dreams revealed to me while I was there. And this made me think of the privacy and mystery of childhood all over again, in a new way. I wondered where children got their strength – the strength, in this case, to walk through mobs to get to school.

“You’ve got to remember,” said an older Negro friend to me, in Washington, “that no matter what you see or how it makes you feel, it can’t be compared to twenty-five, thirty years ago – you remember those photographs of Negroes hanging from trees?” I looked at him differently. I had seen the photographs – but he might have been one of them. “I remember,” he said, “when conductors on streetcars wore pistols and had police powers.” And he remembered a great deal more. He remembered, for example, hearing Booker T. Washington speak, and the day-to-day progress of the Scottsboro case, and the rise and bloody fall of Bessie Smith. These had been books and headlines and music for me but it now developed that they were also a part of my identity.

“You’re just one generation away from the South, you know. You’ll find,” he added, kindly, “that people will be willing to talk to you… if they don’t feel that you look down on them just because you’re from the North.”

The first Negro I encountered, an educator, didn’t give me any opportunity to look down. He forced me to admit, at once, that I had never been to college; that Northern Negroes lived herded together, like pigs in a pen; that the campus on which we met was a tribute to the industry and determination of Southern Negroes. “Negroes in the South form a community.” My humiliation was complete with his discovery that I couldn’t even drive a car. I couldn’t ask him anything. He made me feel so hopeless an example of the general Northern spinelessness that it would have seemed a spiteful counterattack to have asked him to discuss the integration problem which had placed his city in the headlines.

At the same time, I felt that there was nothing which bothered him more; but perhaps he did not really know what he thought about it; or thought too many things at once. His campus risked being very different twenty years from now. Its special function would be gone – and so would his position, arrived at with such pain. The new day a-coming was not for him. I don’t think this fact made him bitter but I think it frightened him and made him sad; for the future is like heaven – everyone exalts it but no one wants to go there now. And I imagine that he shared the attitude, which I was to encounter so often later, toward the children who were helping to bring this future about: admiration before the general spectacle and skepticism before the individual case.

That evening I went to visit G., one of the “integrated” children, a boy of about fifteen. I had already heard something of his first day in school, the peculiar problems his presence caused, and his own extraordinary bearing.

He seemed extraordinary at first mainly by his silence. He was tall for his age and, typically, seemed to be constructed mainly of sharp angles, such as elbows and knees. Dark gingerbread sort of coloring, with ordinary hair, and a face disquietingly impassive, save for his very dark, very large eyes. I got the impression, each time that he raised them, not so much that they spoke but that they registered volumes; each time he dropped them it was as though he had retired into the library.

We sat in the living room, his mother, younger brother and sister, and I, while G. sat on the sofa, doing his homework. The father was at work and the older sister had not yet come home. The boy had looked up once, as I came in, to say, “Good evening, sir,” and then left all the rest to his mother.

Mrs. R. was a very strong-willed woman, handsome, quiet-looking, dressed in black. Nothing, she told me, beyond name-calling, had marked G.’s first day at school; but on the second day she received the last of several threatening phone calls. She was told that if she didn’t want her son “cut to ribbons” she had better keep him at home. She heeded this warning to the extent of calling the chief of police.
 
“He told me to go on and send him. He said he’d be there when the cutting started. So I sent him.” Even more remarkably perhaps, G. went.

No one cut him, in fact no one touched him. The students formed a wall between G. and the entrances, saying only enough, apparently, to make their intention clearly understood, watching him, and keeping him outside. (I asked him, “What did you feel when they blocked your way?” G. looked up at me, very briefly, with no expression on his face, and told me, “Nothing, sir.”) At last the principal appeared and took him by the hand and they entered the school, while the children shouted behind them, “Nigger-lover!”
G. was alone all day at school.

酸奶里的一只苍蝇

“你能让孩子离开祖国,”我的上辈人常常这样说,“却不能让孩子忘记祖国。”我时觉得他们是在谈他们那一代的事,这话不可能是对我的告诫。后来,我离开祖国来巴黎,直到这时我方才认识到老人们的话一点也不假。我发现当我的双脚踏上法国的土地,就身不由己地一下子认识到自己是美国人。

将近9年过去了,现在我已归来。如果不是在法国住了那么长时间,我绝不会觉得必要,或者有可能去访问美国南方,想到这里真觉得是莫大的讽刺。以前一想到南方,我就感到惧怕。那个我从未看到过的地方使我产生的恐惧有多么深啊!而当我来到里时曾在我梦魇中出现过的情景又发生得何等迅速?所发生的事促使我重新估量童年的秘密以及令人不可思议之处,并用新的目光思考这一问题。使我难以理解之处是孩子究竟是从哪儿得到的力量,就这次的事件而论,是什么力量使一个孩子有勇气冲破暴民的包围走向学校。

“你应该记住,”华盛顿一位较年长的黑人朋友对我说,“不管你看到什么,或有什样的感想和体会,现在跟25年前,或30年前相比情况好了不知多少。你还记得那些吊死在树上的黑人照片吗?”我不以为然地注视着他,是的,我看到过那些照片,他对也有可能成为吊死的人之一。“我可记得,”他说,“那时候公共汽车售票员带着手枪,并行使警察的职权。”他还记得许多别的事情,譬如,他记得去听布克·T·华盛顿的演说,斯科茨伯勒案件的进展情况,贝茜·史密斯的发迹与惨死。过去,这一切对我长说只是书本、报纸标题和音乐,而现在已逐渐融入了我的生活。

“你只离开了南方30年,你知道。你会发现,”他和善地补充说,“那儿的人非常乐意跟你聊聊……我是说如果他们不觉得你因为自己是北方人就瞧不起他们的话。”

我所遇到的第一个黑人是一位教育家,他没有让我瞧不起他的意思。他一见面就迫使我承认,我从未上过大学;并且承认北方黑人住得很挤,像猪一样给圈在一起;还得承认我们相遇的校园是南方黑人勤俭与意志力的标志。“南方黑人是一个整体。”当他发现我甚至连车都不会开的时候,我的羞愧达到了无以复加的地步。我不能问他任何问题。他使我感到我是那些北方没有骨头的黑人中不可救药的一个。所以,尽管他所居住的城市因白人黑人合校问题上了报纸,但是如果我请他就此发表点儿意见的话,则将意味着我是向他进行可耻的反攻。

同时,我感到最使他担忧的也正是这件事。也许他自己还没有意识到这一点,或者他的思绪过于纷杂。20年后他的校园就会完全变样,它的特殊功能将会消失,而他呕心沥血挣得的地位也将不复存在。未来不属于他。我认为这一点并不使他感到不满,而是令他感到惧怕,并令他忧伤。因为未来正如天堂,那是人人说好而谁都不愿意马上就去的地方。以我猜想,对于那些使未来成为现实的年轻人,他的态度也跟我后来遇到的许多人一样:一般来说表示赞赏,而在具体情况面前则持怀疑态度。

一天晚上我去访问了G,一个15岁的男孩,他是个“合校”的学生。我曾听说过他第一天去上白人学校的情形,他的出现引起的问题,以及他出色的表现。

一开始是他的沉默使我感到他不同凡响。看上去他比与自己同龄的孩子要高,长着一副这个年龄的男孩典型的骨架,诸如胳臂膝盖等处的骨骼都很突出,暗棕色的皮肤,头发很平常。他的脸上毫无表情,以至令人感到不安,只有那双大而又极黑的眼睛不是这样。我产生了这样的印象:每当他抬起这双眼睛的时候,那眼睛虽不能说是在说话,表情也是十分丰富的。而当他垂下眼帘的时候,他便像是又回到图书馆去一样沉静了。

起居室里坐着他的母亲、弟弟、妹妹,还有我。G坐在沙发上做作业,他的父亲上班去了,姐姐也还没有回家。我进门时那孩子抬头看了看我,说了声“晚上好,先生,”然后就把余下的一切留给他母亲了。

R太太是个个性很强的妇女。她漂亮、稳重,穿着一身黑色的衣裳。她说G第一条去学校的时候除了有人骂骂街以外,没有发生其它事情。而第二天却有人打来了好几次恫吓电话,她接了最后一次。电话里说如果她不想让儿子给“剁成肉酱”,就最好把他关在家中,她对此事予以一定重视并给警察局打了电话。

“他叫我只管送孩子去上学。他说他们动手的时候他将在场。于是我打发他去了。“也许更为令人感到惊讶的是G竟然真的去了。

没有人将他“剁成肉酱”,甚至没有人碰他一碰。学生们组成了人墙,站在校门口挡住他的去路。他们的话虽然不多,但是足以表达他们的意图。他们盯着他,把他堵在门外。(我问他:“他们挡着你的路时你感觉如何?”G只抬眼看了我一下,脸上毫无表情地告诉我:“没感到什么,先生。”)最后,校长来了,他拉着他的手走进校园。而学生们却在他们背后喊:“黑鬼迷!”

G在学校里呆了一天都没有人理睬他。

(佳宁 译)



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