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《纽约时报》:盛可以

(2011-12-02 22:12:18)
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  • 中澳文学论坛西悉尼大学演讲稿删节版

    (论坛由澳大利亚西悉尼大学写作与社会研究中心举办)


     原名《从一条卑微的河流说起》
     翻译:潘维真  马丁

  • New York Times
IHT MAGAZINE | GLOBAL AGENDA 2012

A River's Gifts

By SHENG KEYI
Published: December 2, 2011

When I was younger I was ashamed to admit I came from a remote village, yet I lacked the courage to claim I was from a city, so I usually said simply that I came from an outlying township. Now I must tell the truth, that I was born in an isolated village.

Charlotte Gastaut

 

Global Agenda 2012

International Herald Tribune Magazine looks back at 2011 and forward to the year ahead.

Let me start from the banks of a humble river where my life began and which is the true source of my writing. My fellow villagers live and while away their time in a monotonous environment completely cut off from the outside world. I know their lives only too well. If I had not harbored a distant dream from a very young age I would have shared their fate.

In the northeastern part of Hunan Province in an area called Yiyang a river passes a place that is not found on maps and is only known to the people who live there. This humble river passes through the ancient township of Lanxi, so, like the haphazard naming of village children, the river is called the Lanxi River.

All my memories of a joyful childhood and the pains of growing up are intertwined with the river. She keeps all of my secrets.

To this day I have never seen such a beautiful river as the Lanxi River, with its sweet translucent waters, verdant embankments and weeping willows gently sweeping the water’s surface. In the 1970s, skiffs with white sails still languidly glided by while barefooted boat trackers trudged along the sandy verges. Poverty and poetic beauty are inseparable twins — whenever this image resurfaces in my conscience, more often it is the sorrow of life that comes to my mind.

The Cultural Revolution, the “smashing of the Gang of Four,” the reform and opening up — these momentous events did not make much impression on me as I grew up in this isolated rural setting. I just remember my mother scrounging for rice to feed her family and the look of despair on her face whenever she returned empty-handed; I remember the exquisite aroma of pork and lard; I remember going to school barefoot, and the chill in the air as my bare feet squished in the muddy roads is as vivid today as it was back then; I remember every semester my school fees were in arrears until my mother was able to sell off a basket of eggs. But at the time, I was too young to worry about the hardships of life. The river brought me unlimited childish pleasure — swimming, fishing, catching shrimps, sailing.

I cannot agree with people who praise the poetic beauty of the countryside. I cannot agree with them because I know, in reality, life in the countryside is all about poverty and hunger.

The cruel and harsh elements in my literary works often stymie the romantic feelings people have for rural life. I can’t help that. It’s the reality I grew up with and I don’t want to dress it up with a layer of poetic beauty.

Of course, I was blessed to be born in that remote village, and to spend my childhood by the crystal clear river. Looking back at my path from the village gives rise to a complicated happiness. The river gave me a humble yet unique life experience — as if it was preparing me for my literary journey. Whatever life has given me, be it poverty, hunger, misfortune or tragedy, for me, they are treasures. I will be forever grateful for, and feel blessed by these treasures.

Having a complete set of textbooks was a dream for schoolchildren in the isolated countryside. My first two encounters with literature and reading were not honorable events and I will never forget them.

The first took place when I was 6 or 7. One day, Mother and I were on our way back from a visit to my grandmother. We were in the Yiyang county seat waiting for a boat to take us back to Lanxi. I stood at a bookstand reading comic books. I was only halfway through when the boat arrived. My heart began to race because I knew what I was about to do. I was horrified with my decision. We got on to the boat, and for a long while I lost my voice. In my pocket, my hand was clenching the thin copy of the comic book version of The Three Kingdoms, a classical Chinese novel written in the 14th century. That was the first time I was captivated by drawings because at the time I could read very few words.

Sheng Keyi was born in Hunan Province, moved to Shenzhen in 1994 and now lives in Beijing. She started her literary career in 2002. In her novel “The Northern Girls,” she writes about women, like herself, who left small villages for large cities after sweeping economic reforms in the late 1970s. Her other works include “Death Fugue” and “House on Fire,” as well as a novella and short story collections.

A version of this special report appeared in print on December 2, 2011, in The International Herald Tribune with the headline: A River's
 
New York Times

IHT MAGAZINE | GLOBAL AGENDA 2012

A River's Gifts

Published: December 2, 2011

(Page 2 of 2)

 

 

The second encounter relates to my grandfather’s treasure box. My grandfather turned 100 this year but he is still very healthy. He is an aloof figure. He never paid attention to the younger generation, and never helped us with our studies. He was rarely home. Even when he came home, he would take a chair outside and just read, regardless of whether or not it was busy in the fields. After reading, he would put the book back in his treasure box, lock it and then take to the road again.

Global Agenda 2012

International Herald Tribune Magazine looks back at 2011 and forward to the year ahead.

It was when I was in high school. One day he stepped out of his room without locking the door. I sneaked in and opened his treasure box. There were some bottles and a few well-read books. The book I randomly picked up was a kung fu novel by Louis Cha, a famous Hong Kong writer. I flipped through the book and selectively read the passages about romance and kung fu fighting. After I finished, I carefully returned the book. The reading experience was satisfying. That was probably the first time I felt the magical power of words and literature.

If I were asked to identify the moment of my literary enlightenment, I would have to refer to these two stolen literary encounters.

Despite having lived in big cities for many years, I still consider myself a village girl from Lanxi. Nine years ago when, in a large city, I decided to write a novel, I first of all thought of the Lanxi River and the people whose livelihoods depend on the river. I wrote of women whose fates were in the hands of others, I wrote of men who lost their lives to the constraints of tradition, I wrote of women who battled inequities to achieve better lives, and those silent and obedient souls who live and die unnoticed.

Since China began economic reforms in 1978, countless girls like Qian Xiaohong, the protagonist of my first novel, Northern Girls, have left the rural areas for the big city lights. Their struggles to find their place in the new world brought dramatic social changes, affecting family relationships, fashion trends and moral values. Northern Girls reflects the life experience of these women and the process of urbanization. While I still consider myself a village girl from Lanxi, I am conflicted because I shudder to think that I could become one of my fellow villagers and live that dreadful life of theirs. I am constantly driven by a desire to break away and escape to an even more distant place.

When a lonely river flows out of the village, it flows past a variety of landscapes along the way, winding and twisting, and its relation with the world changes and its loneliness grows. Three years ago I started to work on my new novel, Death Fugue. My perspective is different, but the loneliness and despair remain the same. Death Fugue is a twisted fable about revolution, faith, sexual taboos and utopia, how the desire for freedom brings only confinement and how an initial rebellion against the ruling power was transformed into a ruling power. I want to write about how intellectuals face the destruction of faith after social turmoil, their passiveness and their struggles. Through my book, I want to retrieve the historical memories that are about to be washed away by the river of time.

I had thought life would be better and people would be happier and friendlier when they had more money. However, I was wrong. A section of the Lanxi River has been carved off for fish farming and turned into a filthy ditch almost 10 kilometers long. The river water is no longer suitable for drinking or swimming. Worse, the water now is full of blood flukes. No one dares to get into the water any more.

When a river stops flowing, its beauty dies, the tranquil and simple country life disappears and people start to change. I feel the most precious thing in my life has been destroyed. Destroyed by what? I don’t know. No one can truly understand my sadness. What happened? I put my questions and sighs in my novels. Several kilometers of my journey home are alongside the Lanxi River. I always sit on the side with a river view. All kinds of feelings well up when I gaze at the water, when I gaze at the disappearing country life and when I gaze at myself in the past. Slowly, an idea began to grow — I will use my pen to write about the beauty of a living river, to revive the crystal clear Lanxi River and realize its dream of joining the ocean.

I believe there are many similar humble villages and rivers in this world, and many ordinary people being neglected, forgotten and abandoned; I believe every one of us is a humble river, being carried forward by loneliness, and we move forward, regardless of whether we have dreams or not, regardless of whether we have ambition or not; I believe no life deserves to be forgotten and that is what I believe is the value of my writing.

Adapted from a speech and translated by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz.

Sheng Keyi was born in Hunan Province, moved to Shenzhen in 1994 and now lives in Beijing. She started her literary career in 2002. In her novel “The Northern Girls,” she writes about women, like herself, who left small villages for large cities after sweeping economic reforms in the late 1970s. Her other works include “Death Fugue” and “House on Fire,” as well as a novella and short story collections.

A version of this special report appeared in print on December 2, 2011, in The International Herald Tribune with the headline: A River's Gifts.

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