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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.















(佳宁 译)

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