乔治·桑德斯和《林肯在中阴界》

【野马絮语】中断了一段时间的“研究生专栏”重新登场。这篇是我安排给研究生的一篇作业。经过我的修改,已经全文在《天津日报》“满庭芳”版(2017年12月13日)上发布。

乔治·桑德斯和《林肯在中阴界》

南开大学  朱志远  蔡媛媛

现年58岁,素有“天才怪诞作家” 之称的美国作家乔治·桑德斯凭借其第一部长篇小说《林肯在中阴界》荣获本年度英国文学大奖曼·布克奖。

桑德斯一直以来以短篇小说享誉世界。早在1994年桑德斯就开始陆续发表中、短篇小说并多次获得国家杂志奖。1996年,37岁的桑德斯发表了他的第一部短篇小说集《衰败时期的内战疆土》并入围海明威奖。此后桑德斯又陆续发表了三部短篇小说集:《天堂主题公园》(2000)、《在信仰国》(2006)、《十二月十日》(2013),并斩获故事奖、弗里欧奖等多个奖项。此外他的作品还包括中篇小说《菲尔短暂而恐怖的王朝》、童书《浮丽村固执的怪皮虱》以及小说《有关未来的两分钟笔记》等。

桑德斯是一位反乌托邦主义的讽刺小说家,其作品多选择荒诞的超现实主义背景并且充满罪恶、暴力等黑暗元素,他善于用幽默风趣的语言、古怪荒诞的小说设定和出人意料的情节铺陈揭示美国资本主义发展中的各种社会问题。但和一般讽刺作家不同,桑德斯的作品在揭露社会问题的同时也会隐约流露出他悲天悯人的人文关怀。比如他的短篇故事集《十二月十日》中的《逃出蜘蛛头》:故事背景是一个蜘蛛状的实验室,“蜘蛛头”是控制中心。一些科学家正在研制可以改变人情绪的各种药剂,并拿囚犯作为实验对象,企图控制人类的七情六欲。故事的主人公杰夫也是实验对象之一。多次实验之后,他醒悟到这些肆意操纵别人感情的实验是疯狂而不人道的,而自己即使袖手旁观也会间接使一些实验对象牺牲,最终他选择了自杀来救赎自己。

桑德斯荒诞的故事背景多来源于被放大的社会问题,他善于把社会发展中的矛盾放大到不合理的程度以引起人们的警觉,这样的超现实主义本身就有警世意味。在小说《逃出蜘蛛头》中,桑德斯就一针见血地指出了科技发展和人道主义背道而驰的社会问题。

尽管桑德斯通过作品所揭示的社会问题往往沉重而尖锐,但他幽默风趣的语言风格和别出心裁的情节设定却依旧俘获了不少读者的心。

回顾美国短篇小说的发展历史就会发现,桑德斯的作品延续了马克·吐温的幽默辛辣的语言风格,库尔特·冯内古特的超现实主义理念和唐纳德·巴塞尔姆的离经叛道的创作思想。要说桑德斯的不同,那大概就是他始终“善心未泯”,这也是他的小说中的救赎色彩的来源。据2015年3月13日的北京晨报消息,十多年前桑德斯乘坐的航班在从芝加哥飞往雪城途中与一群大雁相撞并险些坠毁,死里逃生让他觉得“世界美好到了极致”。随后桑德斯还修习了宁玛派佛教文化(藏传佛教四大传承之一),他说佛教的“本善”思想对他的创作思路和写作风格很有影响。2013年,桑德斯在雪城大学做了以“与人为善”为主题的毕业演讲(后被印刷成书),并说“我一生中最后悔的事就是没有及时表达对他人的善意”。从他自身经历可以看出,这些就是《十二月十日》较之其前三部短篇小说集有较为浓厚的救赎色彩的原因。其中该书的同名故事《十二月十日》正是桑德斯悲悯情怀的代表作。总之,“救赎色彩”已经成为了典型的桑德斯风格,既不同于乔治·奥威尔的冷峻也不同于冯内古特的愤世嫉俗。

一般而言,悲悯色彩是讽刺小说家避之不及的。因为它会淡化故事本身的讽刺意味。然而桑德斯的故事中的救赎情节一般都发生在最后千钧一发的时机,这样的情节处理会引发读者思考:如果最后主人公没有这样抉择会导致怎样的结局?这会让读者在感慨之余多一份“警醒”,也就达到讽刺小说的“警世”目的,这可以说是这位天才作家的“法宝”。

纵观桑德斯的作品,不难发现桑德斯的创作经历了从对前人写作手法的继承到形成自己独特创作风格的转变。作为一个辛辣的讽刺作家、一个德累斯顿大轰炸的目击者,桑德斯从未原谅人类的种种罪行,但作为一个经历丰富的智者,桑德斯又不愿意放弃对所有人的希望,他在书中写道:“继续活下去,与亲人保持联系,生活中依然可能有很多点点滴滴的善良”。

由此看来,《林肯在中阴界》今日的成就应在意料之中。该书在2月份一经出版就轰动文坛,被《纽约时报》、《纽约客》、《华盛顿邮报》等三十多家权威媒体争相报道。据《华尔街日报》消息,这部小说的灵感来源于二十多年前关于林肯的幼子威利(11岁)不幸夭折的一则传闻。传说林肯在葬礼之后独自返回墓地抱着儿子的尸体痛哭,这个画面在桑德斯的脑海中一直挥之不去,最终促使他落笔成书。

桑德斯在书中进行了一场大胆的文体实验:整本小说仿佛是在一个由对话组成的电影剧本中穿插了各种关于林肯的新闻剪报——一些是真实的历史新闻,一些则是桑德斯的杜撰。他在自己第一部长篇小说中尝试如此新颖的叙事手法,颇有点向先锋小说致敬的意味。

故事基于真实历史事件:1862年正值南北战争焦灼时期,2月20日,林肯感染伤寒的幼子威利在林肯夫妇举办宴会时病情恶化去世,后被葬在橡树公墓。小说中威利死后灵魂出现在公墓,并结识了故事的几个主要叙述者:汉斯·沃尔曼(中年印刷工,在和自己年轻貌美的妻子圆房前不幸被房梁砸死)和他的好朋友罗杰·贝文三世(年轻的同性恋者,在遭到情人抛弃后自杀身亡)。两人死去都已20余年,却坚持认为自己只是生病了,不肯进入轮回。他们称自己的棺材为“病匣”,称自己所在的公墓为“医院的院子”,公墓里的鬼魂有些还没有准备好死去,有些根本不知道自己已经死去,因此逡巡不散,他们所在的空间就是藏传佛教所谓的“中阴界”。

小说中出现的幽魂多是悲惨者、被剥削者和无产者的形象,他们之中有士兵、杀人犯、名誉扫地的银行职员、强奸受害者、猎人等。借众多鬼魂之口,桑德斯得以把美国资本主义发展中各种尖刻的社会问题,如性别歧视、种族歧视、后殖民主义等,揉合到一本书中。通过幽魂林肯这一角色的串联,桑德斯多角度地展示了美国内战时期处于战争压力下的美国现实,以及“处在普通和非凡压力下的人类自我。”

桑德斯通过这部作品也向世人宣告了他对“包容融合”的和谐社会的信仰。甚至可以说,这是桑德斯的政治主张。他相信“共情”(即“同理心”)就是解决美国众多社会问题,维护国家统一的办法。正如他自己所说:“我们正生活在一个奇特的时代,核心问题非常简单:我们是否抱持着那份古老的信仰,并努力以爱意回应他人?并且是否相信这么一个理念:那些看似是他者的并不是别人,只是另一个时候的我们自己。”

回顾桑德斯历年的作品可以发现,这位传统的讽刺小说家逐渐由一个批判者转变成了一个呼吁者。如今桑德斯已经把《衰败时期的内战疆土》和《海橡树》搬上了银屏,《逃出蜘蛛头》的版权也卖给了康泰纳仕制片公司,而且这位天才作家的创作热情依旧高涨,他的下一部作品值得期待。

 

“手不释卷“之扎迪·史密斯

Zadie Smith: By the Book

【野马絮语】《纽约时报》(The New York Times)“书评栏目”(Book Review)里的一个非常有意思的专栏“手不释卷”(By the Book:Writers on literature and literary life)。每期一位知名作家谈文学、阅读及其创作生涯。转载于此。分享给不便翻墙的文学爱好者们。

原文见:The New York Times >Nov. 17, 2016

The author, most recently, of “Swing Time” says the best gift book she ever received was from her dying father, who “gave me his copy of ‘Ulysses,’ along with the confession he had never read it.”

What books are on your night stand now?

I’m on a reading jag after a long period of only writing, so there’s a towering “to read” pile: “Sudden Death,” by Álvaro Enrigue; “Using Life,” a novel by the imprisoned Egyptian Ahmed Naje; “Homegoing,” by Yaa Gyasi; “Heroes of the Frontier,” by Dave Eggers; “The Underground Railroad,” by Colson Whitehead; “Diary of the Fall,” by Michel Laub; “The Good Immigrant,” edited by Nikesh Shukla; “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson; “Birth of a Bridge,” by Maylis de Kerangal; “Known and Strange Things,” by Teju Cole; “The Little Communist Who Never Smiled,” by Lola Lafon; “The Fire This Time,” edited by Jesmyn Ward; “At the Existentialist Café,” by Sarah Bakewell; “Time Reborn,” by Lee Smolin; “Moonglow,” by Michael Chabon; and let’s say the last four or five novels by Marías, several by Krasznahorkai, and — as always — unfinished Proust. I much prefer reading to writing: I can’t wait.

What’s the last great book you read?

I’ve been unusually lucky recently; I’ve read quite a few. Obviously the final volume of Ferrante, then Ottessa Moshfegh’s razor-sharp short stories “Homesick for Another World,” and Alexandra Kleeman’s stunning “You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine.” I tore through two volumes of “The Arab of the Future,” by Riad Sattouf — it’s the most enjoyable graphic novel I’ve read in a while. I was moved, agitated and inspired by Kathleen Collins’s rediscovered “Whatever Happened to Interracial Love”; Hisham Matar’s “The Return”; an early manuscript of Hari Kunzru’s “White Tears”; and Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Here I Am.” I’ve been meaning to read Dana Spiotta for years, and I’m so glad I finally did: “Innocents and Others” is terrific. John Berger’s “Portraits” is among the greatest books on art I’ve ever read. I had a sort of spiritual experience with it. No, let’s not be coy — I did! It was totally spiritual! But if I have to choose only one, then it’s “Lincoln in the Bardo,” by George Saunders. A masterpiece.

Tell us about your favorite overlooked or underheralded writer.

A Jamaican writer called Andrew Salkey, who wrote a Y.A. novel called “Hurricane” before Y.A. was a term. I remember it as the book that made me want to write. He was the most wonderful writer for children. I just found what looks to be a sequel, “Earthquake,” on an old-books stall on West Third, and I intend to read it to my kids. He died in 1995.

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鲍勃·迪伦诺贝尔奖获奖致辞

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

【野马絮语】2016年度的诺贝尔文学奖颁给以歌手身份闻名于世的鲍勃·迪伦。这一事实在文学及文学研究界引发了不小的震动。有人说,迪伦的获奖重新诠释了文学的界限。但是无论如何,人们对迪伦给人类文明所做出的贡献还是一致认可的。如人们所预料的,鲍勃·迪伦并未出席任何诺贝尔颁奖典礼活动。他只是发来了这份演讲辞,由人代读。我们一起来体味欣赏一下:

Bob Dylan has not attended any events in Stockholm related to the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Good evening, everyone. I extend my warmest greetings to the members of the Swedish Academy and to all of the other distinguished guests in attendance tonight.

I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize. Being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is something I never could have imagined or seen coming. From an early age, I’ve been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway. These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken of in reverent tones have always made a deep impression. That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words.

I don’t know if these men and women ever thought of the Nobel honor for themselves, but I suppose that anyone writing a book, or a poem, or a play anywhere in the world might harbor that secret dream deep down inside. It’s probably buried so deep that they don’t even know it’s there.

If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I’d have about the same odds as standing on the moon. In fact, during the year I was born and for a few years after, there wasn’t anyone in the world who was considered good enough to win this Nobel Prize. So, I recognize that I am in very rare company, to say the least.

I was out on the road when I received this surprising news, and it took me more than a few minutes to properly process it. I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn’t have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken, not read. When he was writing Hamlet, I’m sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: “Who’re the right actors for these roles?” “How should this be staged?” “Do I really want to set this in Denmark?” His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. “Is the financing in place?” “Are there enough good seats for my patrons?” “Where am I going to get a human skull?” I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question “Is this literature?”

When I started writing songs as a teenager, and even as I started to achieve some renown for my abilities, my aspirations for these songs only went so far. I thought they could be heard in coffeehouses or bars, maybe later in places like Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium. If I was really dreaming big, maybe I could imagine getting to make a record and then hearing my songs on the radio. That was really the big prize in my mind. Making records and hearing your songs on the radio meant that you were reaching a big audience and that you might get to keep doing what you had set out to do.

Well, I’ve been doing what I set out to do for a long time now. I’ve made dozens of records and played thousands of concerts all around the world. But it’s my songs that are at the vital center of almost everything I do. They seem to have found a place in the lives of many people throughout many different cultures, and I’m grateful for that.

But there’s one thing I must say. As a performer I’ve played for 50,000 people and I’ve played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried. The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.

But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life’s mundane matters. “Who are the best musicians for these songs?” “Am I recording in the right studio?” “Is this song in the right key?” Some things never change, even in 400 years.

Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, “Are my songs literature?” So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.

My best wishes to you all, Bob Dylan.

“手不释卷”之安娜·肯德里克

Anna Kendrick: By the Book

【野马絮语】《纽约时报》(The New York Times)“书评栏目”(Book Review)里的一个非常有意思的专栏“手不释卷”(By the Book:Writers on literature and literary life)。每期一位知名作家谈文学、阅读及其创作生涯。转载于此。分享给不便翻墙的文学爱好者们。

原文见:The New York Times >Dec. 1, 2016

The actress, singer and author of “Scrappy Little Nobody” would love to be a bath reader, “but the Parisian charm wears off after five minutes, and then I just want to be dry.”

anna-kendrick-15944What books are currently on your night stand?

Taraji P. Henson’s memoir, “Around the Way Girl.” I was a little sneaky and asked my editor to get me a copy before it came out. I’m only a chapter in and I already love it.

Do you read self-help? What’s your favorite self-help book of all time?

I don’t read a lot of self-help books, but I buy a lot of them. I usually give up when the first chapter hasn’t magically transformed me into someone wonderful. The one exception is Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear.” It should be required reading for all women, and men for that matter. Maybe men would then get why we reject their advances in poorly lit parking lots — it’s not because we’re bitches, it’s because we don’t want to get murdered.

How and when do you read? Electronic or paper? Bath or bed?

I prefer paper. I wish I could claim that’s because I’m so delightfully old-fashioned, but it’s just because I keep forgetting how to use my electronic reader — wherever that thing is. I would also love to be a bath reader, but the Parisian charm wears off after five minutes, and then I just want to be dry.

How do you prefer to organize your books?

I put the most impressive ones where people are most likely to see them, AMIRITE?! (No, but I do do that.)

What do you like to read on the plane? On the set? On vacation?

On a plane I like to read something light and fluffy to counteract flying anxiety. On set, reading nonfiction is especially fun, because I get to share little factoids between takes (whether my co-workers like it or not). On vacation, I like books that are dark and engrossing, like “All Quiet on the Western Front” or Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” because the beach makes me feel too content and I don’t like it.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations.” I kind of thrive on stress, so I’m almost embarrassed by how comforting I find this book. I don’t even agree with everything in it, but when philosophy is described in such practical language, it’s soothing.

The best book you’ve read about Hollywood?

“Writing Movies for Fun and Profit,” by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, is hilarious, but more than that, it’s insanely accurate — right down to what your parking assignment when visiting a studio “really” means.

What’s the last book that made you laugh out loud?

There’s a joke in “Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships,” by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, about the commonly held belief that women choose their sexual partners based on a man’s ability to “provide.” Essentially the punch line is that Darwin thinks your mother is a whore. Anyway, the patriarchy, good stuff.

The last book you read that made you furious?

I only read “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood, very recently. On the night of the first presidential debate, Patton Oswalt tweeted, “We’re moments away from the prequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’” and I think I messaged him, “O.K., that is not funny!”

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

More serious than I am now. The year I turned 12, I read “The Crucible,” “Jane Eyre” and “The Great Gatsby,” and after I finished each one I was beside myself with rage. Abigail Williams and Daisy Buchanan never get their comeuppance, and Jane never gets to go off (Jerry Springer style) on the Reed family? I’m still mad about it.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

“A History of the Wife,” by Marilyn Yalom. It’s one of those books that I read with a highlighter in hand, because there was so much great information in it. Maybe plenty of people already know all of this stuff, but it definitely wasn’t covered in my history classes.

If you could befriend any author, dead or alive, who would it be?

Steve Martin.

anna-kendrickWhom would you want to write your life story?

Jon Ronson. “The Psychopath Test” and “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” were both a great balance of horrifying and fun. However, the people he writes about are subjected to this super-perceptive honesty that I might not survive, so as long as this is my fantasy, I’d prefer he wait until I’m dead.

What do you want to read next?

My brother keeps going on about “Ready Player One,” by Ernest Cline, so I think I’d better read it before the holidays or I’ll end up in a headlock.

“手不释卷”之阿摩斯·奥茨

Amos Oz: By the Book

【野马絮语】《纽约时报》(The New York Times)“书评栏目”(Book Review)里的一个非常有意思的专栏“手不释卷”(By the Book:Writers on literature and literary life)。每期一位知名作家谈文学、阅读及其创作生涯。转载于此。分享给不便翻墙的文学爱好者们。

原文见:The New York Times >Nov. 23, 2016

The Israeli author, whose most recent novel is “Judas,” would like to meet Chekhov, if only to gossip with him. Gossip, after all, is “a distant cousin of stories and novels,” although they are “embarrassed by this member of their family.”

amos-ozTell us about some of your favorite writers.

You see, I don’t have a bookshelf with my eternal beloved ones on it. They come and go. A few of them come more often than the others: Chekhov, Cervantes, Faulkner, Agnon, Brener, Yizhar, Alterman, Bialik, Amichai, Lampedusa’s “Il Gattopardo,” Kafka and Borges, sometimes Thomas Mann and sometimes Elsa Morante and Natalia Ginzburg.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

The short answer is that when a work of literature suddenly makes the very familiar unfamiliar to me, or just the opposite, when a work of literature makes the unfamiliar almost intimately familiar, I am moved (moved to tears, or smiles, or anger, or gratitude, or many other, different, kinds of excitement).

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

Omnivorous, I read everything. Anything at all. I read the user’s manual of the electric heater, I read novels that were way above my grasp, I read poetry which could only offer me the music of its language while the meaning was still far from me. I read newspapers and magazines of all sorts, leaflets, ads, political manifestoes, dirty magazines, comics. Anything at all.

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

Almost every good book changes me in a small way. But I may have not gathered the courage to send an early story to a literary editor were it not for what I learned from Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” and from Agnon’s “In the Prime of Her Life” and from M. Y. Berdyczewski’s short stories. “Winesburg, Ohio” taught me that sometimes the more provincial a story is, the more universal it may become. I wrote about these early literary epiphanies in “A Tale of Love and Darkness.”

What author, living or dead, would you most like to meet, and what would you like to know?

I would very much wish to spend half an hour with Anton Chekhov. I would buy him a drink. I would not discuss literary issues with him, not even bother to interview him or ask him for some useful tips, just chat about people. Even gossip with him. I love Chekhov’s unique blend of misanthropy and compassion. (And gossip — which is a mixture of both — is, after all, a distant cousin of stories and novels, although they don’t say hello to each other in the street, as novels and stories are embarrassed by this member of their family.)

What books are currently on your night stand?

A few weeks ago a beloved friend and colleague, the Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua lost his wife to an illness. Rivka Yehoshua was a leading psychoanalyst, and both of them were close friends for more than five decades. Thirty years ago, Yehoshua published “Five Seasons,” a wonderful novel about a delicate man losing his wife in the prime of their lives. “Five Seasons” describes the first year of the protagonist’s life as a widower. I am rereading it now with awe, in tears, and with admiration. I can’t help shuddering at the thought that rather often life imitates literature.

What are a few of the last great books you read?

I read “Lenin’s Kisses,” a fierce, funny, painful and playful novel by a great Chinese writer, Yan Lianke. It is much more than just a poignant, daring political parody: It is also a subtle study of evil and stupidity, misery and compassion. I reread Anita Shapira’s biography of David Ben-Gurion rediscovering the greatness of this founding father of Israel who, as early as the beginning of the 1930s, recognized the rise of Palestinian nationalism and its fierce resentment toward Zionism, and conducted a series of painstaking meetings with Palestinian leaders, trying in vain to formulate a far-reaching compromise between two legitimate national movements, both rightly claiming the same tiny homeland.

Who are some underappreciated or overlooked authors? Are there Israeli writers who aren’t as widely translated as they should be whom you’d recommend in particular?

Two great Israeli writers, S. Yizhar and Yehoshua Kenaz, are hardly known outside the realm of Hebrew. Yizhar’s work has an almost Joycean quality about it, while Kenaz at his heights makes you think of Marcel Proust.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

Recently, I’ve developed a growing addiction to well-written memoirs and biographies, whether they relate to artists, statesmen or failed eccentrics: “Stalin,” by Simon Sebag Montefiore; “Kafka,” by Reiner Stach; “Nikolai Gogol,” by Nabokov.

Do you have a favorite fictional hero or heroine? A favorite antihero or villain?

Don Quixote. The hero and the antihero of the first modern novel, which is also the first postmodern novel, and also the first deconstructionist novel. Don Quixote’s genes can be found in thousands and thousands of literary and cinematic figures created since. Maybe some of his genes are in every post-Quixotean human being.

amos-oz1If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be? The Israeli prime minister?

Unfortunately, there are many political leaders in today’s world, including my country, who would pleasantly surprise me if they read any book at all. To President Obama I would give, as a farewell present, with admiration, my “Tale of Love and Darkness.” Prime Minister Netanyahu may perhaps benefit from reading “Richard III.”

Whom would you want to write your life story?

All my children are very fine writers. Any one of them could tell my story with the right blend of kinship, empathy and irony.

加拿大哲学家荣获贝尔格如恩奖

Canadian Philosopher Wins $1 Million Prize

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The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has been named the winner of the first Berggruen Prize, which is to be awarded annually for “a thinker whose ideas are of broad significance for shaping human self-understanding and the advancement of humanity.”
The prize, which carries a cash award of $1 million, will be given in a ceremony in New York City on Dec. 1. It is sponsored by the Berggruen Institute, a research organization based in Los Angeles and dedicated to improving governance and mutual understanding across different cultures, with particular emphasis on intellectual exchange between the West and Asia.
Mr. Taylor, 84, is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading philosophers, and a thinker whose ideas have been influential in the humanities, social sciences and public affairs. His many books include “Sources of the Self,” an exploration of how different ideas of selfhood helped define Western civilization, and “A Secular Age,” a study of the coexistence of religious and nonreligious people in an era dominated by secular ideas.
He was chosen for the prize by an independent nine-member jury, headed by the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah. The jury cited Mr. Taylor’s support for “political unity that respects cultural diversity,” and the influence of his work in “demonstrating that Western civilization is not simply unitary, but like all civilizations the product of diverse influences.”
Mr. Taylor’s previous honors include the 2015 John W. Kluge Prize for the Achievement in the Study of Humanity (shared with Jürgen Habermas), the 2007 Templeton Prize for achievement in the advancement in spiritual matters and the 2008 Kyoto Prize, regarded as Japan’s highest private honor. Both the Templeton and Kluge prizes also carry cash awards of more than $1 million.