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Dark Angle(翻译连载二)

(2009-08-11 09:07:46)





分类: UNCLE赵&他国际事务部的同事们


Wexton, whose attitude to poetry was pragmatic, did not. He gave his lecture; he hunched himself into a human question mark over the unreliable microphone. He pummeled, as was his habit, the great folds and crevasses of his face. He tugged at his hair, so it stood up in wild tufts. He looked like a huge and benevolent bear, bemused that these words of his should produce on his audience the effect they did.


Once the lecture was over, he strolled down from the platform, attended the formal reception in his honor, and annoyed his Embassy hosts by avoiding all the most celebrated guests. He talked for a great deal of time to Mr. Gopal, an earnest and excitable man whose position at the university was a minor one. He talked even longer to the Maharani, a woman of great good nature, mountainously fat, whose days of social eminence were over. The next day, to the consternation of his hosts, he left. Wexton loved trains; we went to the station and, for no very good or planned reason, took a steam train to Simla.


From Simla to Kashmir and a houseboat on the lakes, with curry-scented curtains and a wind-up gramophone. From Kashmir to the Taj Mahal, from the Taj Mahal to a baboon sanctuary where Wexton became beguiled by baboons, and Mr. Gopal, by then a disciple, caught up with us.


“Very brave man, your distinguished godfather,” he remarked to me as Wexton fixed the baboons with a benign gaze. “These creatures give a very nasty bite.” From the baboon sanctuary to the beaches of Goa, from Goa to Udaipur; from there, with numerous side visits to temples, fortresses, and railway stations, we returned to Delhi.














The pace was frenetic, which cheered Wexton enormously.


“Just what we need,” he would say, settling back in another compartment in yet another train. “New places. New faces. Something’s bound to happen eventually.”


Something did, of course, once I’d been to see Mr. Chatterjee – but neither of us knew that then. I would embark on a very different kind of journey. I had been preparing for it, I think, for some time, without being aware of it. My uncle Steenie, and certain things he had said to me when he was dying – things that alarmed me – had pushed me closer to the journey. But it was Mr. Chatterjee who provided the final impetus.


Wexton, when he discovered my intentions, resisted. It was a mistake, he said, to explore the past – that was dangerous territory. He was being evasive, and we both knew why. My past involved Winterscombe (that was fine, Wexton said, though he was wrong). It also involved New York, where I grew up (that was all right, too, provided I did not dwell on the question of a certain man, still living there). Finally, it involved another godparent, in this case a woman. In this case, Constance.


Constance’s name was one Wexton now refused to pronounce. She was his antithesis, of course, and I think he had never liked her. Wexton disliked very few people, and if he did dislike them, he preferred not to discuss them, since he was devoid of malice.


I had once heard him, in discussion with Steenie (who adored Constance) describe her as a she-devil. Such intemperate language from Wexton was exceptional – and it was never repeated. When I was to tell him of my visit to Mr. Chatterjee and the decision I had reached, Wexton never once used her name, although I knew she was uppermost in his thoughts. He became, for him, very gloomy.


“I wish I’d never listened to Gopal,” he said. (Or was it the Maharani?)” I might have known it would be a mistake.” He fixed me with a pleading gaze.” Think a little, Victoria. One hundred rupees on it, any bet you like: Chatterjee’s a charlatan.”


I knew then how keen Wexton was to convince me. He was not a betting man.




















Mr. Chatterjee did not look like a charlatan. It had to be said, he did not look like a fortuneteller either. He was a small man of about forty, wearing a clean nylon shirt and freshly pressed tan pants. His shoes gleamed; his hair oil gleamed. He had confiding brown eyes of great gentleness; he spoke English with an accent inherited from the days of the Raj, the kind of accent that, in England it self, had been out-of-date in 1940.


His shop, compared to that of some of his rivals in the bazaar, was difficult to find and self-effacing. Over its entrance was a painting on cardboard of a crescent moon and seven stars. A small hand-lettered sign said: THE PAST AND THE FUTURE-RUPEES 12.50. This was followed by an exclamation mark, perhaps to emphasize Mr. Chatterjee’s bargain rates; his rivals were charging upward of rupees 15.


Inside, Mr. Chatterjee’s premises were austere. There was no attempt to evoke the mysterious orient. There was one elderly desk, two clerk’s chairs, a metal filing cabinet, and, on the wall, two poster portraits. One was of the present Queen of England, the other of Mahatma Gandhi; they were fixed to the wall with tacks.


The room smelled of the pastry shop next door and, slightly, of sandalwood. There was a multicolored plastic fly-curtain across a doorway, and from beyond that came the sound of sitar music played on a gramophone. The room resembled the bolt-hole of some minor civil servant, perhaps a railway official—and I had seen many of those the past weeks. Mr.Chatterjee sat down behind his desk and assembled charts. He gave me an encouraging nod and a smile. I was not encouraged. Mr. Chatterjee looked amiable, but as a fortuneteller he did not inspired confidence.


Not at first. Mr. Chatterjee took his task very seriously; it was lengthy, and at some point—I am still not quite sure when—he began to win me over. It was when he touched my hands, I think. Yes, probably then. Mr. Chatterjee’s touch, cool, dispassionate, like that of a doctor, had an odd quality. It made me a little giddy—a tipsy feeling, the kind you get when you drink a glass of wine on an empty stomach and finish it too quickly.


I cannot now remember all the details of his routine, but it was both fluent and curiously moving. Herbs were involved—I remember that, for my pal, were rubbed with a pungent substance, during which there was much discussion of birthplaces (Winterscombe) and birth dates (1930).


The stars were involved, too—that was where the charts came in. Mr. Chartterjee examined the charts closely; he put on a pair of spectacles. He drew linking patterns of lucid beauty, joining destinies and planets with a lead pencil that kept breaking. There patterns seemed to displease Mr. Chatterjee; more than that—they seemed to perturb him.


Chatterjee 看上去不像个吹牛的人,应该说他看起来一点也不像是算命的。他是个40来岁长得比较矮小男人,穿着尼龙衬衫和压烫齐整的裤子,头发和脚上的鞋一样闪闪发亮。他那双褐色眼睛充满温情让人不自觉就会产生信任。而且还说着一口早已过时的Raj时代口音的英语。












他还用了星星——这就是那些表格的作用。Chartterjee戴上眼镜仔细地看过那些表格,用一把不停折断的铅笔在上面把命运和行星连起来,画出各种各样的清晰图案。可是那些图案似乎让Mr. Chartterjee感到不快甚至是不安。






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