漫谈爱丽丝·门罗及其短篇小说“寂静”

【爱丽丝·门罗荣获诺贝尔文学奖之后,各种介绍性文章不少。我也给我的学生布置了一篇,让她从分析短篇小说“寂静”(Silence)入手,谈谈门罗的独到之处。作业完成得不错。拿出来与大家分享】

2013年10月10日下午1时(北京时间10月10日19时),瑞典学院宣布本年度诺贝尔文学奖获得者是被誉为“当代短篇小说大师”的加拿大女作家爱丽丝·门罗(Alice Munro)。

Canadian author Alice Munro

诺贝尔文学奖评审委员会认为门罗“以其精致的讲故事的方式著称,表达清晰与心理现实主义是她的写作特色”。门罗的小说世界主要展现普通女性的爱情和家庭生活:“表达清晰”是因为门罗的作品语言朴实,句式简短,故事发展脉络极为清楚;“精致”是因为门罗的作品“轻情节、重细节”,于细微的内心活动的描写就能展现出人物的挣扎与困境。如此,门罗就将故事娓娓道来,为读者提供极大的空间去深思故事中的每一个人物、每一处情节,由此获得更加深刻的人生感悟。

尽管门罗的作品早已蜚声世界文坛,获奖无数,但是对于更加注重长篇小说的中国读者来说,这位曾在上世纪80年代来过中国的短篇小说大师还是相当陌生的。有关门罗的相关译介和研究也相当匮乏。在她的十四部作品中,仅有2004年出版的短篇小说集《逃离》,由翻译家李文俊先生于2009年翻译出版。

作为门罗在中国最知名的作品集,《逃离》由八个短篇小说组成,从不同角度讲述了一群女人的“逃离”经历。《沉寂》就是其中较为经典的一篇。

《沉寂》以全知的视角描绘了四位女性的悲情沉寂。朱丽叶 (Juliet)原本是一位极有名气的主持人,在经历了女儿离家出走、好友离世等变故后,变得愈发否定现有的生活状态,她最后远离公众视线,埋头于书本,湮没于人流之中。女儿Penelope(佩内洛普)原本离家是要到“精神平衡中心”去追求纯粹而崇高的精神生活、远离充满铜臭气的物质世界的,但最终她还是回到了物质生活之中,过上了相夫教子的生活,只是她在母亲的世界中渐渐沉寂陌生。好友Christa(克里斯塔)原本乐观开朗,总是能够开解朱丽叶,但是在病痛的折磨下,她越来越郁郁寡欢,最后病重离世。最后一位女性是诱导着佩内洛普到“精神平衡中心”的琼安,她总是以一副领导者的姿态感化年轻人以宗教信仰为中心,远离世俗生活。但是到了最后,为了生存,琼安只能到商店当一名普普通通的理货员,“精神平衡中心”早已不复存在。

虽然故事情节简单,门罗的用词也不复杂,但是在故事结束之际,读者们会被故事中所营造出来的悲伤而无奈的氛围所感染,不自觉的投入到角色之中,体味到人生的许多不得已。这正是门罗寥寥数笔就勾勒出人物复杂的心理变化的魅力所在。

以朱丽叶为例,她的沉寂过程体现在多个方面。就信仰而言,她从开始的极其渴望自由、张扬个性、不屑宗教到最后成为虔诚的宗教拥趸的过程,门罗只描写了朱丽叶对一个词语的截然不同的态度,spirituality(性灵)。一开始,朱丽叶听到这个词语只会觉得恶心作呕;最后,朱丽叶却总希望人们重视自己的性灵,在宗教中获得从容与平静。就佩内洛普对她的意义而言,门罗只用了几个形容词就将各个阶段朱丽叶的情感跃然纸上。在佩内洛普离家之前,朱丽叶认为女儿给她带来的是delight (欢乐);最初知道女儿离家出走时,朱丽叶也只是哀求地哭出声来;女儿断绝与其所有联系的时候,朱丽叶觉得狂怒;到了最后,朱丽叶接受了女儿离她远去的事实,表面上采取着无所谓的态度,她连有女儿的事情都不愿意再与亲近之人提起,可见哀莫大于心死。读者们随着门罗的精妙用词会深深体会到朱丽叶的悲伤、无可奈何以及最终对生活的妥协。

那么,小说的主题意义到底在于何处?我们应当将小说的标题“沉寂”与小说集的标题“逃离”结合起来一起分析。小说题目 “silence” 一词,不仅是指几位女性的沉寂,更是她们梦想或是幻想的破灭,也是其自我意识的不断衰弱。而文中女性之所以沉寂,是因为她们逃离而不得:朱丽叶与琼安都想逃离平凡生活而终归于平凡;佩内洛普想逃离物质生活而最终被物质所牵绊;克里斯塔想逃离疾病却最终为其所缠。这正是现实生活中女性,或是所有人的无奈。因此,读者们也意识到了生活的无情,只能与角色们一起困于沉寂之中,屈服于世俗生活的要求之下。这种读者与角色的情感互通与互动正是门罗小说的精髓之处。

因此,虽然门罗自己也坦承其写作风格并不华丽,但是她的创作却胜在用词精确,在不多的篇幅中充分运用平实的语言描绘了普通人的小事,却又极其细致的捕捉到了每一位角色的每一丝心理变化,使得读者切身体会到了许多共同的人生困境,在小说中也体味着自己的经历。文字平实而意义深远,这正是瑞典学院将门罗赞誉为“当代短篇小说大师”的原因之一吧。【作者:韩晓萌】

【RT】Alice Munro: Her subject is ‘simply life itself’

The following is a repost from The Washington Post:

Alice Munro: Her subject is ‘simply life itself’

By Ben Dolnick, Friday, October 11, 12:40 AM

Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize for literature: Alice Munro, “a master of the contemporary short story,” receives the prestigious award from the Royal Swedish Academy. The Canadian is the 13th female literature laureate in the 112-year history of the Nobel Prizes.

In describing Alice Munro, the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood once wrote: “She’s the kind of writer about whom it is often said — no matter how well known she becomes — that she ought to be better known.”

Atwood’s dictum is about to be put to the test: Munro, the revered 82-year-old Canadian writer, has just won the Nobel Prize.

In awarding her the prize — which comes with 8 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.2 million — the committee has made official what Munro’s legions of fans have been saying for years: She is the master of the contemporary short story.

Fans won’t be surprised to hear that Munro, famously modest, responded by asking that the attention be immediately shared. “When I began writing there was a very small community of Canadian writers and little attention was paid by the world,” she said. “Now Canadian writers are read, admired and respected around the globe. I’m so thrilled to be chosen as this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature recipient. I hope it fosters further interest in all Canadian writers. I also hope that this brings further recognition to the short-story form.”

In recent years, the Nobel Prize in Literature has become an occasion, at least in North America, for sheepish shrugs and head-scratching. Herta Müller, Mo Yan, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Cl éz io — for many of us, the Nobels have become doubly educational: We simultaneously learn of an author’s existence and find out that we ought to have been reading him or her all along.

This year, then, came as something of a relief. Those rumored to be under consideration — Haruki Murakami, Philip Roth, Munro — were all household names, more likely to be found on our bookshelves than in our crossword puzzles.

And even among those authors, none inspired quite the reverence among readers — and writers — that Munro does. Mention to a serious bibliophile that you like her and the conversation will shift to a solemn, almost embarrassingly private register, as if you’d interrupted cocktail party chatter to reveal a family secret.

This love seems always to be revealed with a certain hesitancy. This has mostly to do with the fact that Munro is explicitly a writer of short stories. Until she retired this year, her collections had been issuing from Canada as steadily as weather bulletins.

Beginning with “Dance of the Happy Shades” in 1968 and ending with “Dear Life” in 2013, her career has been a shower of stories. Thus, there is no single mountain peak — no “Beloved,” no “American Pastoral” — to which one can assuredly point and say: Read this and you’ll understand. Ask Munro fans which book to start with, and they’ll say, “Well, have you read ‘The Beggar Maid’? Oh, but what about ‘Open Secrets’? Or maybe ‘Hateship, Friendship’?” Pretty soon your suitcase is brimming with her essential works.

Munro’s publishers have tried, at various points, to cull the field. Everyman’s Library published a handsome volume of her selected stories in 2006. Vintage had done the same in 1997, and then again, more sparingly, in 2005.

Prize committees have done their parts to introduce her to the world, as well: She won the Man Booker International Prize in 2009, the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998 and enough Giller prizes that she decided a few years ago to take herself out of the running.

But her books are just as much at home on the favorite paperbacks table as on the dais. She’s an author you read on the train, you read in bed, you read in happiness, you read in grief. She is, perhaps more than any writer since Chekhov (with whom she is constantly, and aptly, compared) an author whose subject is simply life itself.

In her second book, “Lives of Girls and Women” (1971), she wrote something like a credo for those who cherish this type of writing: “People’s lives, in Jubilee as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing, and unfathomable — deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.”

Even among writers — a notoriously discontented lot — there was none of the typical carping or ­second-guessing going on Thursday. In fact, the news of her prize set off a virtual round of toasts.

Among the revelers was the short-story writer Jim Shepard, who said: “I imagine fiction writers everywhere today are celebrating the Nobel Committee having gotten it exactly right. There’s probably no one alive who’s better at the craft of the short story, or who has done more to revolutionize the use of time in that form, the result often being a 20-page story that demonstrates the breadth and scope of a novel.”

And Elizabeth Strout, author of “Olive Kitteridge”: “Alice Munro taught me things about writing that are immeasurable; she has dared in a quiet, steady way, to go to places of deep honesty. I will always remember the first time I read her story ‘Royal Beatings.’ I thought: ‘Look what she did — she has told the truth completely.’ And reading her story ‘White Dump’ for the first time — I remember that, too. I thought, ‘Look what she does, she goes wherever she wants, and I go with her.’ The authority she brings to the page is just lovely.”

Jonathan Franzen wrote in a 2005 paean: “Reading Munro puts me in that state of quiet reflection in which I think about my own life: about the decisions I’ve made, the things I’ve done and haven’t done, the kind of person I am, the prospect of death. She is one of the handful of writers, some living, most dead, whom I have in mind when I say that fiction is my religion.”

It’s somehow incongruous to imagine, but Munro will travel to Stockholm in December, climb onto the stage, and give a gracious, fitting speech.

Literature is one of those realms in which giving out prizes can seem not merely dubious but positively obtuse. Books like Munro’s are so deeply personal and idiosyncratic that it feels like a violation to subject them to the crude business of committee meetings and PR releases; you might as well storm a butterfly den with a klieg light.

But today, and from now on, that den will be a good deal more crowded. Alice Munro is a Nobel laureate, and the only natural response is delight. And then, of course, once the euphoria of justice done has passed, to pay the tribute that is beyond the power of any prize committee, even the one in Stockholm, to issue: to read her.

Dolnick is the author of “At the Bottom of Everything.”

英美文学琐记【0911】

1. 从2009年11月6日起至2010年3月14日止,在纽约的摩根图书馆博物馆(Morgan Library & Museume)特别开始一个专题展览,题为“妇女的智慧:简·奥斯丁的生平及遗产”(A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy),纪念英国历史上最伟大的小说家之一,简·奥斯丁。在过去的20多年里,根据其作品改编的电影、电视作品可谓层出不穷。显示出人们对奥斯丁的热爱再次出现高潮。摩根图书馆博物馆组织的这次展览包括奥斯丁的100多部作品——她的手稿、私人信件,以及其他相关材料。其中有不少展品为半个多世纪以来的首次展出。点击这里,可以看到更为详尽的介绍。

The Origin of Laura2. 本月,弗拉基米尔·纳博科夫的遗作《劳拉的原型》[The Original of Laura: (Dying Is Fun)]终于在一片喧嚷声中推出了。各方评说不一,褒贬不一。为什么纳博科夫生前不愿意出版,甚至授意他的太太将其手稿毁掉?他的儿子迪米特里出版了这部作品到底有无功德,意义何在?对这样问题,恐怕永远只会是公说公有理、婆说婆有理,不会有什么定论的。也许只有你看过了这部作品之后,才会有你自己的看法。点击这里查看相关介绍。

3. 唐纳德·哈灵顿(Donald Harington)是一位超现实主义作家。在他的十多部小说中创造了一个虚构的位于阿肯色州斯戴莫市的欧扎克村,一个超现实的乡村小世界。11月7日,这位超现实主义作家在阿肯色州的斯普林戴尔去世,享年73岁。点击这里查看更多相关介绍。

4. 《一切为了自由》(Free for All: Joe Papp, the Public, and the Greatest Theatre Story Ever Told)不仅仅为读者展示了约瑟夫·帕普(Joseph Papp)作为戏剧家的一生;还通过他之口,讲述了戏剧大师、导演麦克·尼科尔斯(Mike Nichols)对戏剧家们所产生的深远影响。这部由肯尼斯·图兰(Kenneth Turan)和约瑟夫·帕普共同完成的作品为研究美国戏剧的学者们提供大量的历史素材和一手资料。尤其能够让我们得窥美国戏剧在1960s、70s、80s年代的发展概貌。

5. 毫无疑问,菲利普·罗斯(Philip Roth)是当今美国文学界的大红人。他的每一部作品都会引起评论界的热烈讨论。自然,他的新作《卑微》(The Humbling)一经推出便理所当然地成为美国文学界和批评界的大事。这里有篇文章,不妨看看。至少可以对罗斯的这部新作了解。

6. 好像我们还拥有不少卡佛迷。那么新版雷蒙德·卡佛(Raymond Carver)传记及其最新短篇小说集的出版无疑是卡佛迷们的福音了。这两部最新推出的作品也应该被列入美国文学的学习者和研究者,以及卡佛的研究者们的必读书目。这里还有稍微详细一点的介绍

7. 畅销书作家迈克尔·克赖顿(Michael Crichton)去世已经一年多了。最近却又有新作推出:这部题为《海盗纬度》(Pirate Latitude)的作品据称是从克赖顿的手稿中发现的。似乎专家们的看法不太统一,有人怀疑其可能为赝品。反正有人关心那些问题。我倒不是很在意。无论如何,这部新作有可能会成为很好的电影素材。

8. 当代加拿大大师级短篇小说作家艾丽丝·门罗(Alice Munro)推出了她的最新短篇小说集《幸福“死”了》(Too Much Happiness)。这部作品集堪称近年来门罗作品的精华版。几乎其中的每一篇小说都能够让读者领略到作者的创作才华及其精湛的契可夫式的艺术风格。近10年来,加拿大作家玛格丽特·阿特伍德(Margret Atwood)在我们的外国文学批评界掀起过小小的热潮。个人以为,下一位能够在我们的外国文学批评界掀起热潮的加拿大作家应该使这位一直坚持只写短篇小说的艾丽丝·门罗吧?

9. 2009年,美国作家埃德加·爱伦·坡(Edgar Allan Poe)诞辰200周年、逝世160周年。世界各地都有形式各异的纪念这位文学大师的活动举行。坡的家乡里士满更是有一系列的活动来纪念他们的英雄——多台纪念坡的戏剧的上演,以及埃德加·爱伦·坡纪念馆的隆重揭幕。在这里,借用爱伦·坡的一首小诗,谨表对大师的敬意吧:

To One in Paradise

Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine —
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,
And all the flowers were mine.

短篇女王艾丽丝•门罗获布克国际奖

艾丽丝·门罗(Alice Munro)也许是世界上最好的在世短篇小说女作家之一。第三届布克国际奖她赢得毫无争议。

Munros writing has established her as one of our greatest contemporary writers of fiction, our Chekhov.

Munro's writing has established her as one of our greatest contemporary writers of fiction, our Chekhov.

5月26日晚,77岁的门罗女士获得了价值6万英镑的布克国际奖,评委之一、美国女作家、普利策奖得主简·斯迈利(Jane Smiley)大赞,门罗的作品“既精妙又准确,几近完美”。

加拿大短篇女王的确是个追求完美的人,始终以严谨的态度对待文学,努力去写伟大的小说。她写30页短篇所用的心力,如斯迈利女士所言,足可抵得上某些作家写出整本长篇。

她在文坛的地位,好比当代的契诃夫。在40余年的文学生涯中,门罗女士始终执著地写作短篇小说,锤炼技艺,并以此屡获 大奖,其中包奖三次加拿大总督奖,两次吉勒奖,以及英联邦作家奖、欧亨利奖、笔会/马拉穆德奖和美国全国书评人奖等。每年秋天的诺贝尔文学奖猜谜大赛中, 她的大名必在候选人之列。

门罗女士娘家姓莱德劳(Laidlaw),1931年生于安大略省温格姆镇,少女时代即开始写小说,同时上大学,课余做女招待、烟叶采摘工和图书馆员。年仅20岁时,她便以大二女生之身,嫁与詹姆斯·门罗,为此退学,此后连生四女,但二女儿出生后不到一天,便不幸夭折。

门罗女士忙里偷闲,趁孩子睡了,菜也烧完,赶紧写上一句半句。这样的创作环境,料也难以出产长篇。她克服了年青妈妈的抑郁,顽强地拓展 纸上空间。1968年,37岁时,她终于出版了首部短篇小说集《好荫凉之舞》(Dance of the Happy Shades)。晚熟的果子格外香 甜,这本迟到的处女作为她一举赢下加国最高文学奖——总督奖。此后一帆风顺,三年后再出《女孩与女人们的生活》(Lives of Girls and  Women),由于所收篇目内容连贯,因此一度作为“长篇小说”发行。

1972年,门罗夫妇离婚。四年后,艾丽丝再嫁杰拉德·弗雷林,他以她收到的第一封书迷来信展开追求之旅,并同意新妻保留前夫的姓 氏。1978年和1986年,门罗女士先后以《你以为你是谁?》(Who Do You Think You Are?)和《爱的进 程》(TheProgress of Love),获得了她第二及第三个总督奖。

她本来无意专营短篇,写了几年后,终于痛感长篇过于松弛,缺乏她面对短篇时所感受到的那种张力,索性就此放弃。

她总是将目光流连于平凡女性的生活,从自己和母亲身上寻找灵感,精确地记录她们从少女到人妻与人母,再度过中年与老年的历程,尤擅贴近女性之性心理的波折与隐情,以及由此而来的身心重负,细致入微,又复杂难解,看似脆弱,却又坚忍顽强。

远在北美的门罗女士表示了对获奖的“极大喜悦”。6月25日,她将出席在都柏林三一学院举办的颁奖典礼。

布克国际奖每两年颁发一次,所有作家,无论国别,只要其作品曾以英文或英文译本发表,均有资格获得此奖。

布克国际奖不是作品奖。根据规定,每位作家只能获得一次布克国际奖。2005年的第一届得主是阿尔巴尼亚作家伊斯梅尔·卡达莱,2007年该奖颁给了尼日利亚作家奇努阿·阿奇贝。

本届布克国际奖的其他13位入围名流来自世界各地,他们是:彼得·凯里(澳大利亚)、伊万·康奈尔(美)、马哈斯维塔·德维(孟加 拉)、EL·多克特罗(美)、詹姆斯·凯尔曼(英)、马里奥·巴尔加斯·略萨(秘鲁)、阿尔诺什特·卢斯蒂格(捷克)、VS·奈保尔(特立尼达)、乔伊 丝·卡洛尔·奥茨(美)、安东尼奥·塔布奇(意大利)、恩古吉·瓦·西安戈(肯尼亚)、杜布拉夫卡·乌格雷西奇(克罗地亚),以及柳德米拉·乌利茨卡娅 (俄)。