纽约时报文摘 | 翻译,让文学走出单行道

更多精彩,请关注微信公众号:田间小站

LES EYZIES-DE-TAYAC, France — In college in the 1990s, I happened upon a Brazilian writer so sensational that I was sure she must be a household name. And she was — in Curitiba or Maranhão. Outside Brazil, it seemed, nobody knew of Clarice Lispector.
法国莱塞济-德泰亚克西勒伊——1990年代就读大学期间,我偶然读到一位令我惊为天人的作家,我以为她的名字肯定家喻户晓。的确如此——但只是在巴西的库里蒂巴或马拉尼昂。出了巴西,似乎就没人认得克拉丽赛‧利斯佩克托(Clarice Lispector)了。

My freshman year, I’d abandoned studying Chinese when our professor said it’d be 10 years before we’d be able to decipher a newspaper. I switched to Portuguese, despite zero knowledge of the language or culture.
由于教授说我们得花上十年功夫学习才能解读中文报纸,我在大学一年级便放弃学习中文,转到了葡萄牙语专业,虽然我对这门语言和文化一无所知。

Eventually we started reading short Brazilian works. One of these, a 1977 novella by Lispector called “The Hour of the Star,” changed my life. Though its nuances were lost on me, I sensed the strange beauty in the story of a poor girl in Rio de Janeiro. The author was the book’s most forceful presence, and I wanted to learn everything about her. Who was the woman who peered from the back cover like an exiled empress?
后来我们开始阅读巴西的短篇作品。在这当中,利斯佩克托的《星辰时刻》(The Hour of the Star)改变了我一生。虽然我想不起详细内容,但我从这位里约热内卢贫苦女孩的故事中,感受到奇异的美。作家本人是这本书中最有力的存在,我想要了解她的一切。这个如同被流放的女王一般在封底凝视一切的女人,究竟是谁?

As I later learned, Lispector’s first name was enough to identify her to most Brazilians. But two decades after her death in 1977, she remained virtually untranslated; among English speakers, she was unknown outside some academic circles. One pleasure of discovering a great writer is the ability to share her work, and I was stymied. Lispector’s obscurity reinforced itself. People couldn’t care about someone they couldn’t read. And if they couldn’t read her, they couldn’t become interested.
后来我知道,就算不提利斯佩克托的姓氏,许多巴西人也认得出她的名字。但在她在1977年去世后20年间,她的作品基本上没有被翻译过;英语世界对她有了解的仅限于学术圈内的一些人。发现一个伟大作家的乐趣之一,就是可以分享她的作品,但我遇到了障碍。利斯佩克托晦涩的文风提高了门槛。人们不会关心自己无法阅读的作品,而读者若不去读,更不可能对作者有兴趣。

It took me years to realize that this vicious cycle would not magically be broken. I started writing Lispector’s biography, a project that took five years. The result, “Why This World,” generated interest in a series of English translations of her novels. So far, these have taken another five years. In retrospect, Chinese would have been quicker.
我花了好几年才明白,没有什么魔法可以打破这个恶性循环。我花了五年写作利斯佩克托的传记。过了五年以后,这本传记作品《为何生于此世》(Why This World)让人有兴趣将她的作品译成英文。回想起来,学中文可能更快。

The past decade has given me time to reflect on the main cause of Lispector’s obscurity: the increasing global dominance of English. An international tongue may help tourists, but it is turning literature into a one-way street. Not only does this make life harder for contemporary writers, the situation is even worse for those, like Lispector, who can no longer speak for themselves.
这十年来我得以思考出利斯佩克托作品艰涩难懂的原因:在全球日渐取得主导权的英文。这个国际语言可以让旅客获益良多,却也将文学导向单行道。这不仅让现代作家生活更加困苦,对于像利斯佩克托这类无法发声的已逝作家,更是一个窘境。

Writers who work in English can’t be faulted for profiting from a situation that has developed over centuries. But since we do profit from it, it’s partly up to us to try to remedy it.
在这个进行了几个世纪的过程中,英文作家无疑大为受益。但既然我们是获利的一方,一定程度上就有责任去补救。

In the United States and Britain, translations represent just 3 percent of the book market. In Russia, in contrast, translated titles accounted for 10.5 percent of the market in 2013; in China, they make up around 7 percent. In the Netherlands, some 75 percent of all books produced are translations, according to 2013 statistics — and about 10 percent of all general interest books sold are original, English-language versions. Not only do foreign writers face obstacles to being read abroad, then, they are being crowded out of bookstores in their own countries. The English language, like rats or kudzu, has become an invasive species.
在美国与英国,书市中只有3%的译著。而在2013年的俄罗斯,译著占市场的10.5%。至于中国的比例,则在7%左右。而根据荷兰在2013年的统计,他们有75%的书是翻译作品,又有10%的一般图书是直接贩售英文原版的。外文作家不仅在广泛阅读上困难重重,也被自己国家的书店所排挤。英文就像老鼠与野葛一样,成为侵略性的物种。

Some prominent English-language writers are already fighting this trend. Jonathan Franzen has translated “Spring Awakening,” by the fin-de-siècle German dramatist Frank Wedekind, and the essays of Viennese satirist Karl Kraus. Lydia Davis alternates between French translation and her own writing. Elizabeth Kostova, an American novelist, started a foundation in 2007 to bring Bulgarian writers into English.
许多著名的英文作家已经挺身抵抗这个趋势。乔纳森‧弗兰岑(Jonathan Franzen)翻译了十九世纪末德国剧作家弗兰克‧魏德凯(Frank Wedekind)的《春之苏醒》(Spring Awakening),以及维也纳讽刺作家卡尔‧克劳斯(Karl Kraus)的散文。莉迪亚‧戴维斯(Lydia Davis)轮番进行法文译作与自身写作的工作。美国小说家伊莉莎白‧柯斯托娃(Elizabeth Kostova)也在2007年成立基金会,将保加利亚作家的作品翻成英文。

Because there are so many English-language readers, reaching this market has a powerful effect. Thanks to Ms. Kostova, contemporary Bulgarian writers have a chance at being known internationally. Once Lispector was translated into English, she could be read in other countries, including by editors from China to Ukraine who are trying to get her published locally.
由于英文市场读者众多,与这个市场接轨后自然有庞大的效应。在柯斯托娃的努力下,当代保加利亚作家有了为全球所知的机会。利斯佩克托的作品译成英文后,其他国家也得以阅读她的作品,这其中也包括尝试在中国、乌克兰等地推广作品的当地编辑。

It shouldn’t be assumed, as I long did, that all great foreign writers will eventually reach English-language bookstores. As publication in English becomes more important, even editors open to translations are overwhelmed. (And few read Norwegian.) For every Karl Ove Knausgaard or Elena Ferrante, who are translated almost as soon as they appear in Norwegian or Italian, there are many Lispectors.
我们不能只是想当然地以为,所有伟大的外文作家最终都进入英文书店,我有很长一段时间就是这么想的。随着英文出版的重要性与日俱增,就算是欢迎译作的编辑都会喘不过气。文坛上总会出现一位卡尔‧奥韦‧诺斯加德(Karl Ove Knausgaard)或是埃琳娜‧费兰特(Elena Ferrante)这种母语作品一推出就被翻成其他语言的作家。但在此同时,也有许多作家像利斯佩克托一样,湮没于书海之中。

Taking them on, after all, is an act of faith. At my first publishing job, in New York, I tried to convince my boss that a manuscript that seemed to blend sci-fi with bad porn was the work of an important new writer causing a stir in France. Though unable to read French, one editor took my word for it. The manuscript was “Elementary Particles,” by Michel Houellebecq. Every translation represents a similar leap.
说到底,承担这个任务是出于一种信念。我在纽约做第一份出版工作时,曾试图说服老板相信,一份似乎将科幻与色情融合在一起的手稿,出自一名在法国引起轰动的重要新作家之手。虽然不懂法语,一名编辑相信了我的话。这份手稿就是米歇尔·维勒贝克(Michel Houellebecq)的《基本粒子》(Elementary Particles)。每部译作都是一个类似的跨越。

The dream of a global literary community is not new. But as globalization has not meant greater political or economic equality, cultural cosmopolitanism has not been guaranteed by instant communication and inexpensive travel. These do, however, present significant new opportunities for literary activism.
形成全球文学社区的梦想并不新鲜。但正如全球化并不意味着更多的政治及经济平等,即时通讯和廉价旅行并没有为文化世界主义提供保障。然而这些确实为文学行动主义带来了重要的新机会。

Writers working in English who know another language can help make connections and advocate for their foreign colleagues. Contacts are perhaps writers’ most valuable assets. Only a few people know everybody, but most of us know somebody. Just one or two contacts — an editor, an agent — can make a difference for a foreign writer. This includes links to fellowships, writing programs, and retreats that non-English-language writers haven’t heard about.
那些用英语写作并掌握另一门语言的作家可以帮助建立联系,支持他们的外国同行。人脉或许是作家们最具价值的资产。左右逢源的人是很少的,但我们当中的大多数人都认识某人。只要一两个熟人——一名编辑,一名经纪人——就能让一名外国作家大为不同。比如与协会、写作项目及非英语作家从未听说过的隐居处的关系。

Even writers who beat the odds and are published in English face difficulty finding an audience, largely because they don’t have the networks they do at home. Since translations are less frequently reviewed, people who might be interested are less likely to hear about them. English-language writers can help by reviewing foreign works that make it into English, or interviewing their authors, taking advantage of the amplifying effects of social media.
甚至连那些克服困难,出版英语作品的作家也很难找到读者,这在很大程度上是因为他们没有像国内那样的关系网。由于有关翻译作品的书评越来越少,那些或许会感兴趣的人都不太可能听说这些作品。英语作家可以通过为翻译成英语的外国作品写书评、或采访作者、利用社交媒体放大效果的优势来提供帮助。

Few things are lonelier than the solitary task of confronting the blank page for years on end. Literature, on the other hand, is made by a community: present and past, dead and alive. Everyone loses when books become yet another commodity, produced by a few big names. It’s one thing if everyone wears the same shoes or drinks the same soda. But the world of literature is the last place in which globalization should mean homogeneity.
年复一年地面对一张白纸,写作的清苦是世间鲜有能及的。另一方面,文学是由一个社群造就的:现在与过去,死亡与生存。如果书成为由一种由大品牌生产的商品,对每个人都是不利的。就跟每个人都穿同样的鞋子或喝同样的汽水一样。但文学世界是全球化过程中最不应该同质化的领域。

打赏

微信赞赏支付宝赞赏