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演讲稿:我为何写作

(2006-07-11 19:26:55)
分类: 文学随笔
        我为何写作
                   余 华

  二十年多前,我是一名牙科医生,在中国南方的一个小镇上手握钢钳,每天拨牙长达八个小时。
  在我们中国的过去,牙医是属于跑江湖一类,通常和理发的或者修鞋的为伍,在繁华的街区撑开一把油布雨伞,将钳子、锤子等器械在桌上一字排开,同时也将以往拨下的牙齿一字排开,以此招徕顾客。这样的牙医都是独自一人,不需要助手,和修鞋匠一样挑着一付担子游走四方。
  我是他们的继承者。虽然我在属于国家的医院里工作,但是我的前辈们都是从油布雨伞下走进医院的楼房,没有一个来自医学院。我所在的医院以拨牙为主,只有二十来人,因牙疼难忍前来治病的人都把我们的医院叫成“牙齿店”,很少有人认为我们是一家医院。与牙科医生这个现在已经知识分子化的职业相比,我觉得自己其实是一名店员。
  我就是那时候开始写作的。我在“牙齿店”干了五年,观看了数以万计的张开的嘴巴,我感到无聊之极,我倒是知道了世界上什么地方最没有风景,就是在嘴巴里。当时,我经常站在临街的窗前,看到在文化馆工作的人整日在大街上游手好闲地走来走去,心里十分羡慕。有一次我问一位在文化馆工作的人,问他为什么经常在大街上游玩?他告诉我:这就是他的工作。我心想这样的工作我也喜欢。于是我决定写作,我希望有朝一日能够进入文化馆。当时进入文化馆只有三条路可走:一是学会作曲;二是学会绘画;三就是写作。对我来说,作曲和绘画太难了,而写作只要认识汉字就行,我只能写作了。
  在1983年11月的一个下午,我接到了一个来自北京的长途电话,一家文学杂志让我去北京修改我的小说。当我从北京改完小说回家时,我才知道我们小小的县城轰动了,我是我们县里历史上第一个去北京改稿的人。我们县里的官员认为我是一个人材,他们说不能再让我拔牙了,说应该让我去文化馆工作。就这样我进了文化馆。在八十年代初的中国,个人是没有权利寻找自己的工作,工作都是国家分配的。我从医院到文化馆工作时,我的调动文件上盖了十多个大红印章。我第一天到文化馆上班时故意迟到了两个小时,结果我发现自己竟然是第一个来上班的,我心想这地方来对了。
  这几年很多外国朋友问我,为什么要放弃富有的牙医工作去从事贫穷的写作?他们不知道在八十年代的中国,做一名医生不会比一名工人富有,那时候的医生都是穷光蛋,拿着国家规定的薪水。所以我放弃牙医工作去文化馆上班,没有任何经济上和心理上的压力,恰恰相反,我幸福的差不多要从睡梦里笑醒,因为我从一个每天都要勤奋工作的穷光蛋变成了一个每天都在游玩的穷光蛋,虽然都是穷光蛋,可是文化馆里的是个自由自在和幸福的穷光蛋。我几乎每天都要睡到中午,然后在街上到处游荡,实在找不到什么人陪我玩了,我就回家开始写作。到了1993年,我觉得能够用写作养活自己时,我就辞去了这份世界上最自由的工作,定居北京开始更自由的生活。
  现在,我已经有二十年的写作历史了。二十年的漫漫长夜和那些晴朗或者阴沉的白昼过去之后,我发现自己已经无法离开写作了。写作唤醒了我生活中无数的欲望,这样的欲望在我过去生活里曾经有过或者根本没有,曾经实现过或者根本无法实现。我的写作使它们聚集到了一起,在虚构的现实里成为合法。二十年之后,我发现自己的写作已经建立了现实经历之外的一条人生道路,它和我现实的人生之路同时出发,并肩而行,有时交叉到了一起,有时又天各一方。因此我现在越来越相信这样的话──写作有益于身心健康。当现实生活中无法实现的欲望,在虚构生活里纷纷得到实现时,我就会感到自己的人生正在完整起来。写作使我拥有了两个人生,现实的和虚构的,它们的关系就像是健康和疾病,当一个强大起来时,另一个必然会衰落下去。于是当我现实的人生越来越平乏时,我虚构的人生已经异常丰富了。
  我知道阅读别人的作品会影响自己,后来发现自己写下的人物也会影响我的人生态度。写作确实会改变一个人,会将一个刚强的人变得眼泪汪汪,会将一个果断的人变得犹豫不决,会将一个勇敢的人变得胆小怕事,最后就是将一个活生生的人变成了一个作家。我这样说并不是为了贬低写作,恰恰是为了要说明文学或者说是写作对于一个人的重要,当作家变得越来越警觉的同时,他的心灵也会经常地感到柔弱无援。他会发现自己深陷其中的世界与四周的现实若即若离,而且还会格格不入。然后他就发现自己已经具有了与众不同的准则,或者说是完全属于他自己的理解和判断,他感到自己的灵魂具有了无孔不入的本领,他的内心已经变得异常的丰富。这样的丰富就是来自于长时间的写作,来自于身体肌肉衰退后警觉和智慧的茁壮成长,而且这丰富总是容易受到伤害。
  二十年来我一直生活在文学里,生活在那些转瞬即逝的意象和活生生的对白里,生活在那些妙不可言同时又真实可信的描写里……生活在很多伟大作家的叙述里,也生活在自己的叙述里。我相信文学是由那些柔弱同时又是无比丰富和敏感的心灵创造的,让我们心领神会和激动失眠,让我们远隔千里仍然互相热爱,让我们生离死别后还是互相热爱。
  
    
 
附录:WHY I WRITE
    
            Yu Hua

   Twenty years ago, I was a dentist in a little town in southern China.  Forceps in hand, I extracted teeth for up to eight hours a day.
   In China in the olden days, dentists were in the much the same line of work as itinerant street-performers, more or less on a par with barbers or cobblers.  In some bustling neighborhood they would unfurl an oilskin umbrella and spread out on a table their forceps, mallets, and the other tools of their trade, along with teeth that they had extracted in the past, as a way of attracting customers.  Dentists in those days operated as one-man bands, and they needed no helper.  Like traveling shoe-repairers, they would wander from place to place, shouldering their load on a carrying pole.
   I was their successor.  Although I worked in a state-run clinic, my most senior colleagues had all simply switched from plying their trade under an umbrella to being employed in a two-storey clinic—not one of them had attended medical school.  At the clinic where I worked, tooth extractions were the main order of business.  There were only about twenty of us.  The people who suffered from such acute toothache that they came to us for treatment called our clinic the “tooth shop,” and it was very rare for anyone to think of it as a healthcare facility.  Compared to the career of a dental physician, already such a respectable profession, I felt that I was no more than a shop worker.
   It was during this period that I began to write.  By that time I had worked for five years in the “tooth shop,” and had been given a grandstand view of thousands of gaping mouths.  I was bored out of my mind.  All I knew was, there was one place where you were guaranteed to find the world’s least attractive scenery, and that was inside the human mouth.  I would often stand by a window overlooking the street, and when I saw people from the cultural bureau loafing about on the boulevard at all hours of the day, I was green with envy.  Once I asked someone from the cultural bureau, why did he spend so much time strolling around on the boulevard?  He told me that this was his job.  I thought to myself: that’s the kind of work I would like to do.  So that’s when I decided to write, hoping that one day I would be able to join the cultural bureau.  At the time there only three routes of access to the cultural bureau: you could be a composer, you could be a painter, or you could be a writer.  Composing music and painting pictures were out of my league, while writing just required knowledge of Chinese characters, so for me it was the only option.
   One afternoon in November 1983, I received a long-distance telephone call from Beijing.  A literary journal asked me to go to Beijing to revise one of my stories for publication.  When I returned home later after making the revisions in Beijing, I became aware that our little county town was all in a tizzy, for I was the first person in the history of our district to have been summoned to Beijing to make revisions in a manuscript.  The local officials came to the conclusion that I must be some kind of genius, and they said that they could not have me go on extracting teeth, but should put me to work in the cultural bureau.  That’s how I gained entry to the cultural bureau.  In China in the early 1980s, people were not entitled to look for a job themselves: all employment was assigned by the state.  When I moved from the clinic to the cultural bureau, my transfer authorization was stamped with big red seals of approval, a dozen or so in all.  At my first day of work at the cultural bureau, I made a point of showing up two hours late, only to discover that I was the first to arrive.  I knew then that this was just the place for me.
   In recent years friends from abroad have often asked me why I abandoned the profitable world of dentistry for the paltry remuneration of a writer.  What they don’t realize is that in China in the 1980s a dentist was paid no more than a factory worker.  Medical staff in those days were all as poor as paupers, depending solely on a salary that was dictated by the state.  So when I forsook the dental clinic for my job at the cultural bureau, I did not feel the slightest economic or psychological pressures.  Quite the contrary.  I was so happy that I would practically wake up with a smile on my face, because I had changed from being a pauper mired in drudgery to being a pauper who spent his day having a good time.  Although I was a pauper just the same, at least in the cultural bureau I enjoyed a life of carefree leisure.  Almost every day I would sleep till noon, then saunter all over town, and when I ran out of people who could keep me company, that’s when I would go home and start to write.  In 1993, when I felt I was capable of supporting myself with my writing, I gave up this wonderfully unstructured job, took up residence in Beijing and began a life that was even less regimented.
   By now I have been writing for twenty years.  After twenty years of long, long nights and clear or cloudy days, I have discovered that there is no way I could now separate myself from my writing.  Writing has stirred within me countless desires—desires that I have experienced in my past life or desires that I have never had at all, desires that I have attained or desires that are totally unattainable.  My writing has gathered them all in one place, and in the reality of the imagination they acquire legitimacy.  After twenty years, what I have found is that my writing has forged a path through life, a path that lies beyond real lived experience.  It began its journey at the same time as the path I have taken in my own life, and the two follow a parallel course.  Sometimes the paths intersect, while at other times they go in entirely opposite directions.  This is why, more and more, I believe in the truth of the saying that writing is good for the health.  When desires that are unattainable in real life one after another find fulfillment in the life of the imagination, I feel that my own existence is in the process of becoming more complete.  Writing enables me to claim ownership of two lives, one imaginary, and one real, and the relationship between them is like that between sickness and health: when one is strong, the other is bound to fall into decline.  So as my real life becomes more routine, my imaginary life is brimming with incident.
   I knew that reading other people’s works would have an effect on me, and what I realized later on is that the characters that appear in my own works also influence my attitude to life.  Writing can truly change a person: it can make a strong man tearful, or render a resolute person indecisive, or it can convert a bold man into a timid and apprehensive creature.  Its effect, ultimately, is to transform a living person into a writer.  My point is not to denigrate writing, but rather to show how important to an individual is literature, is writing.  At the very moment when a writer’s senses become more and more alert, his inner self may often feel weak and helpless.  He finds that the world in which he has become so deeply immersed is at some remove from the reality that surrounds him, and may even be incompatible with it.  Then he discovers that the norms he has come to internalize are quite different from those of other people:  they are entirely a product of his own understanding, his own judgments.  He feels that his soul possesses a capacity to penetrate any barrier, and his inner world becomes a land of plenty.  Its abundance derives from a sustained immersion in writing, from the wisdom and observational powers that develop fully in the wake of a physical decline.  It is a fragile resource.
   For twenty years now I have been living inside literature, inside fleeting images and vibrant dialogues, inside descriptions that are compelling and utterly convincing, inside the narratives of many great writers, and inside narratives of my own.  I believe that literature is created by human souls, and weak as these souls may be, they are also incomparably fertile and sensitive.  They enable us to understand things intuitively, and they stir us so deeply that we cannot sleep.  They make us identify with people from whom we are thousands of miles apart, they make us care about those from whom we are separated in life, or separated by death. 
   
   
                 Translated by Allan H. Barr

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