2013年美国国家图书奖获奖作品《上帝鸟》

“我们需要找到一种方法,让我们在讨论过去时,能有自己发挥的空间,也允许错误的存在。即使我们对所探讨的主题缺乏足够的了解和智慧,我们仍然可以磕绊前行。如果不这样的话,就不存在对话。如果没有对话,话语就会枯竭,学习就会停止,相互理解的能力也就烟消云散了。”

—— 詹姆斯・麦克布莱德

James McBride and his The Good Lord Bird

美国国家图书奖,这一美国文学界的最高奖项之一,于当地时间11月20日在纽约举行的晚宴上揭开了其获奖者的神秘面纱……

始于1950年的美国国家图书奖,至今已有64年的历史了。而此次获得该奖(小说类)的既不是之前短名单中的两大热门小说:《前沿》和《十二月十日》,也不是刚刚与英国布克奖失之交臂的茱帕・拉希里的小说《低地》,而是——詹姆斯・麦克布莱德的《上帝鸟》。对于如此出人意料的结果,读者可能都早已有些心理准备了。文学界的获奖结果总是让人充满期待,而又不乏惊喜。

也许大部分读者都对詹姆斯・麦克布莱德及其获奖作品《上帝鸟》感到比较陌生。而此次其能一举夺得美国文学界最高奖,虽说是在意料之外,却也是在情理之中。

现年56岁的麦克布莱德是美国作家兼音乐家,生长于布鲁克林。他的父亲是一位非裔美国人,母亲是一位来自波兰的犹太移民。1979年麦克布莱德于欧柏林学院获得音乐创作学士学位,此后又在哥伦比亚大学完成了新闻学的学习,并获得硕士学位。作为新闻记者,他是多个知名出版物的撰稿人,其中包括《华盛顿邮报》、《纽约时报》、《人物》周刊等。目前麦克布莱德是纽约大学著名的名誉驻校作家。

在发表此次获奖作品《上帝鸟》之前,麦克布莱德已有多部小说以及剧本问世。他于1996年出版的自传体小说《水的颜色》,连续两年跻身于纽约时报的畅销书名单,并成为了美国经典文学作品之一。其早期小说作品还包括《圣安娜奇迹》、《歌声悠扬》,前者经好莱坞黑人导演斯派克·李改编为同名电影,后者入围有色人种促进协会形象奖和代顿文学和平奖决选名单。

麦克布莱德此次的获奖小说《上帝鸟》出版于2013年8月。小说以十九世纪五十年代末美国废奴运动为背景,讲述了美国南北战争爆发前夕的一段故事……

1857年,堪萨斯领地正陷入如火如荼的奴隶制度存废之争。小说的叙事者亨利·沙克尔福德是一个生活在这里的年仅12岁的黑奴。当史上著名的废奴运动领导者约翰·布朗抵达此地之后,与亨利的主人发生争执,并最终演变成暴力冲突。也就是在那个下午,亨利的父亲被杀害。变成孤儿的亨利最后被迫随布朗一道离开该地。由于亨利弯曲的头发、纤细的身躯以及柔弱的声音,布朗误认为他是个女孩,并把他叫做“小洋葱”;而亨利为了更好地生存下去也将错就错,隐瞒了自己的真实性别,以一个女性的身份一直跟随布朗辗转各地:在密苏里,他住进了妓院;在费城,他惊叹于那里的拥有自由的黑人公民,他们就同白人一样拄着拐杖,带着胸针和戒指,而对奴隶制毫不关心;在波士顿,他出席了一个废奴主义者集会,在会上每个人都会就黑人问题发表演讲,除了黑人。直到1859年,两人到达弗吉尼亚州的哈珀斯费里,布朗在那里发动了起义。亨利最后也找回了自己。

对于约翰·布朗这一历史人物以及其在美国弗吉尼亚州的哈珀斯费里发动起义这一历史事件,想必读者们并不陌生。《上帝鸟》也显然不是第一部关于约翰·布朗的文学作品,赫尔曼·麦尔维尔、兰斯顿·休斯、罗素·班克斯等都曾描写过这个历史人物。

但是麦克布莱德对该历史人物和事件的重塑却独具创新:他将虚构的人物——年轻黑奴亨利加入到布朗的一小群跟随者中,并通过他的视角以及夸张、搞笑、讽刺的叙事手法让我们看到了不一样的历史人物与事件。

麦克布莱德说:“关于约翰·布朗的作品已经有很多了。他们都是严肃的作品。……我想写一部让人们发笑同时也让他们思考的作品。同时,这种夸张搞笑的手法更容易接近于真实,而且不压抑。”

的确,《上帝鸟》是一本轻松的读物,其中充满了各种逗笑的情节。对于历史小说来讲,尤其是关于奴隶制和内战的小说,这是不同寻常的。但是,《上帝鸟》绝不是对约翰·布朗的挖苦。恰恰相反,对这位英雄的“戏说”,不是一种讽刺而是另一种尊崇。在麦克布莱德的笔下约翰·布朗是一个伟大的战士,但同时,他也激进、偏执,他也有缺点,也有会做出荒谬的事。他仿佛就是我们身旁的一个朋友,栩栩如生。当我们读到小说末尾,看到监狱中的布朗,仍在不停说道,我们不禁为他感到悲哀。他是那么独特,就如书名所指的“上帝鸟”一样——如此的罕见,以至于谁见到它都不禁惊叹一声“上帝啊!”。麦克布莱德通过这种让约翰·布朗更人性化的手法,给约翰·布朗献上了自己的赞歌。

在小说中,约翰·布朗是一个疯狂不羁的老人,但他却比以往任何时候更具英雄的魅力。也许该书最大的意义就在于:它再次让人们思考历史书写与小说之间的关系。

麦克布莱德无疑是尊重历史的。他煞费苦心地加入了诸多历史细节,如和哈丽特·塔布曼的会面、道格拉斯和布朗最终的分道扬镳等。尽管“书中夸张的人物做着滑稽的事情,但它确是建立在真实的事件之上。” 其实,《上帝鸟》中所讲述的大部分的事件都是真实发生过的,但是如何证明这一点呢?无法证明。我们对于约翰·布朗的了解都是从别人的讲述中得来的。麦克布莱德认为:“研究约翰·布朗的历史学家根据一系列标准频繁改变他们书写的目的。这些标准在今天看来可能是不相关的,或者不是那么值得信赖。事实上,决定写什么而忽略什么这一行为本身就让人对所有的非小说写作产生质疑。这样说来,小说也可以更加接近真实。”

对于历史书写和小说的关系,麦克布莱德给出了自己的答案。他的小说《上帝鸟》无疑是对其观点的实践。在该小说中,他将历史和幻想相糅合,立足小人物的视角让我们对约翰·布朗的传奇故事有了新的理解和看法。《上帝鸟》通过小说的形式实现了历史书籍不曾实现的效果。也许只有时间能说明它是否能够成为经典,但就其主题和写作手法而言,《上帝鸟》无疑是2013年最重要的小说之一。【陈妍颖/文】

On the Writer’s Elusive Self

【转帖自:The Washington Post

Joyce Carol Oates Interviews Herself

By Joyce Carol Oates, Published: September 13

All right, let’s cut to it — our audience, curiosity whetted by the ubiquitous social media, wants avidly to know: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you lately?

Do you mean as a “writer” — or just more generally?

 
 
Don’t be circumspect! Interest in you, at least minimal interest, derives from your being a “writer.”

Well — I was in the grocery store yesterday, in the dairy section, when a woman who’d been staring at me quizzically asked, “Are you some kind of writer?” Vaguely, I shook my head no, as if I might not have heard the question, and eased away without glancing back . . .

And then?

And then someone who knew me breezed by saying in a loud voice, “Hello, Joyce!” — and the woman must have overheard . . .

That is embarrassing! Denying your own writer-self, and even as the cock began to crow, someone comes along and outs you! Is this some kind of absurd modesty?

I could not explain to the woman: “I am not ‘Joyce Carol Oates’ right now, but a shopper in a grocery store. And the dairy section is freezing.”

If police had arrived and demanded your I.D., you’d have had to confess — what?

My driver’s license, passport, social security — are all in the name “Joyce Carol Smith.”

Why not “Oates”? Continue reading

In Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon takes on technology, 9-11 and so much more

【转帖自USA TODAY: Don Oldenburg, Special for USA TODAY 6:06 a.m. EDT September 14, 2013】

by Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon’s latest period piece, Bleeding Edge (4 stars out of 4) takes place in Manhattan’s “Silicon Alley” in the spring of 2001, during the calm between the dotcom collapse on Wall Street and the terrorist atrocities of 9/11.

Who better to fictionally address that surreal time than the author who, 40 years ago, in his masterpiece Gravity’s Rainbow, penned the opening line, “A screaming comes across the sky….”

Pynchon’s latest detective caper revolves around the picaresque adventures of Maxine Tarnow, young Jewish Upper West Side mother of two elementary-school boys, sort of divorced from her ex. She is a wisecracking, fearless beauty who runs her own uncertified anti-fraud agency and carries a purse heavy with a Beretta.

Like Pynchon’s past gumshoes (Oedipa Maas in The Crying of Lot 49), Maxine is quite the character. Her clientele of low-stakes hustlers elevates quickly when she investigates a suspicious computer-security company called hashslingrz. Its insidious geek billionaire founder Gabriel Ice may be skimming millions to fund Arab terrorists. But why?

That mystery opens the floodgates for the kinds of offbeat characters Pynchon is known for: Russian mobsters, a foot-fetish hacker, a black-ops killer, a self-made Zen master, a sleazebag pornographer, a professional scent sniffer—all while Maxine is yearning to be Angela Lansbury “dealing with class tickets.”

Of course, there are Pynchonesque names—Eric Outfield, Nick Windust, Conkling Speedwell, Bernie Madoff (oh, right, he’s non-fiction, but in here briefly because, hmmm, what’s that Maxine investigates?).

The Internet is a core character, too, from the underground Deep Web where online criminals hang, to the brilliant DeepArcher (think “departure”) alternative-reality, to alpha hackers who think that destroying the Internet means saving humanity. In fact, Pynchon’s powerful reasoning concerning the Internet should be cauterized into warning labels for websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest of it.

But Pynchon is no troglodyte. While embedding the book with concerns about the proliferation of technology, violence, media-saturated consumer culture and omniscient bureaucracy, he also fills it with telling mass-cultural references — from Kenan and Kel, Jennifer Aniston’s “Friends”-circa hair and Dragonball Z to Ally McBeal, eight-megabyte flash drives and the Macarena. “Nostalgia lurks,” as Pynchon writes..

As he often does, the author targets a grim, dark zeitgeist like some truth-seeking Stinger missile. He remarkably handles that disturbing day of Sept. 11, tilting the story and everyone in it, stunning the reader into an alternative strange-times reality where Pynchon comfortably dwells. Yet he spends no more than a couple of pages on the actual attacks, reflecting instead on its effect on his characters.

The truth is, Pynchon writes like no one else. He somehow injects love and humanity as the antidote to the dehumanization he fears and obsesses about.

He convincingly warp-speeds from one setting and characters to another within the same sentence. Even in his hyper-narrative ways, he remains the master of phrasing — cool, hip, explosive narrative fragments overstuffed with meaning.

Readers scarred by Gravity’s Rainbow, still muttering “incomprehensible,” will find this lucid dream far more accessible. This is not a start-and-then-put-down novel. It’s an exceptional literary novel that’s nonetheless a linear, joyous read set in extraordinary times.

Look, either you buy into Pynchon or you don’t.

If you’re willing to enter this bleeding-edge (def: more advanced and riskier than cutting-edge) novel, figure to come out the back page a different reader, probably better off.

At the end of the book’s advance proof sent to reviewers, the “About The Author” page is blank except for “TK.” That’s newsroom and printers’ lingo for “to come,” as in, “more content coming.” For Pynchon fans, it’s what you hope for — more heights of literary experience TK.

《大宅》的后现代历史叙事及其犹太寻根主题

【妮可·克劳斯是美国文坛升起的一颗新星。《大宅》是其广受赞誉的一部最新的力作。本文从情节构建的虚构与真实、话语转义以及小说文本的多重叙事视角这三个方面分析了《大宅》中的后现代历史叙事技巧与犹太寻根主题。指出小说作者克劳斯巧妙地运用后现代叙事技巧,重述了一段艰辛的犹太寻根历程,并提醒人们注意到直面过去和反思历史的重要性。文章已发表于《当代外国文学》2013年第三期。】 

《大宅》的后现代历史叙事及其犹太寻根主题
(On the Post-modern Historical Narrative and the Theme of Root-Searching Jews in Great House)

作者:马红旗  张雪

美国年轻女作家妮可·克劳斯(Nicole Krause)曾被《纽约时报》评为“美国最重要的小说家之一”。因其前两部作品,《走进房间的人》(The Man Walks into a Room, 2002)和《爱情史》(The History of Love, 2004),而于2007年被授予“美国格兰塔最佳年轻小说家”称号。2010年,《纽约客》评选出20位“40岁以下最优秀的小说家”,克劳斯位列其中。《大宅》(Great House)是克劳斯发表于2010年的第三部长篇小说,并成功跻身当年年度美国“国家图书奖”评选的最终短名单。但是,迄今为止,除美国《纽约时报》和英国《卫报》等英美报刊刊载过访谈和书评,并给与高度评价之外,有关克劳斯和《大宅》的深度剖析和批评尚未出现。这不能不说是一种缺憾

小说《大宅》的所有故事围绕一张书桌展开,分上下两部,分别由四个小故事组成,叙述了发生在上世纪40年代、70年代以及90年代间的一系列历史传奇。而由书桌所引发出来的则是二战期间德国人对犹太人的血腥屠杀,以及犹太人漫长而又艰辛的寻根史。《大宅》的叙述风格独特:叙述者的思绪在过去和现实间的游移穿梭增加了文本表现历史的复杂程度;后现代文学叙事嵌套大屠杀叙事则增加了文本多重解读的可能性,更使作品呈现出一种“元文本”的深度。基于此,本文拟从情节构建的虚构与真实、话语转义以及小说文本的多重叙事视角这三个方面来分析《大宅》中的历史叙事技巧以及犹太寻根话题。

一、犹太寻根:虚构与历史的真实

通常人们认为对实际发生过的事件的记载即为历史,即为真实;而文学创作则是与之相对立的虚构。然而,后现代主义史观已经摒弃了这种二元对立关系,认为“文学就是历史;文学深陷于历史之中”(Griffith 199)。当然,这并不是说文学创作完全等同于对实际发生过的事件的记录,而是说文学创作会不可避免地反映出某一段历史的真实,能够对通常被视为历史的解读起到补充和深化的作用。海登·怀特也曾指出,“历史与虚构的区分已不像是从前那样:虚构是对想象的再现,历史是对事实的再现。目前,这种区分必须让位于这样一种认识:我们只能通过将事实与想象对照或者将事实比喻为想象才能了解事实”(190)。历史和虚构相互交融,交相辉映。小说《大宅》很好地体现了这种虚构和历史的关系。围绕书桌的命运,小说《大宅》很快将读者关注的焦点引向第二次世界大战期间针对犹太人的大屠杀这一沉重的历史背景,引向一段漫长的犹太寻根史。克劳斯在创作中并不拘泥于所谓的历史的真实记载或卷宗,而是将大量零散的历史史实与斑驳的艺术虚构融合在一起。她利用后现代历史叙事模糊历史与现实、事实与虚构之间的界限的理念,在一幅历史的画布上塑造了一群形象各异的犹太人。通过这些虚构的人物,小说更好地突显了犹太寻根的主题。 Continue reading

“巴特比”与麦尔维尔的左派激进主义思想

【这篇文章提供了又一种解读赫尔曼·麦尔维尔小说“巴特比”的视角。至少,将麦尔维尔与左派激进主义思想联系在一起,这一提法是新的。期待方家指正。该文已在《外国语文》(Foreign Language and Literature)2013年6月第三期上发表。】

“巴特比”与麦尔维尔的左派激进主义思想 (“Bartleby” and Melville’s Left Radicalism)

作者:马红旗  吴艳虹

引言

有关麦尔维尔的经典短篇小说“抄写员巴特比——一个华尔街的故事”(以下简称“巴特比”)的研究在西方历久不衰、成果丰硕。批评家兹洛噶尔对西方“巴特比”研究做过非常全面而又精辟的概括。根据兹洛噶尔的综述,对巴特比的解读主要包括以下几个方面:首先,巴特比代表着不愿意迎合大众商业小说的作家,是作家麦尔维尔在小说中的再现;第二,巴特比是被“异化”的工人,对资本主义社会中的剥削表示强烈不满;第三,巴特比是一位精神分裂症患者,把自己与这令人难以理解的“正常”社会隔绝开来;第四,巴特比是基督的化身,表明反对基督教教义中为了显示对主的忠诚而过分的慈善[1]502-529。相比之下,我国“巴特比”研究的成果极少。迄今为止,仅有大约10篇论文出现在各类刊物上,主要观点也不外乎上述几个方面。

尽管不乏运用马克思主义异化论观点的解读,但是还未曾有旗帜鲜明地指出麦尔维尔的左派激进主义立场的论述。因此,笔者试图对已有的有关异化问题的讨论做进一步的拓展,将着眼点放在麦尔维尔在小说中所体现出来的左派激进主义思想方面。通过对作家在作品中处理历史事件的独特方式的分析,以及细致的文本解读,指出麦尔维尔在“巴特比”中的左派激进主义思想的具体体现。

一、不仅仅是“一个华尔街的故事”

产生“巴特比”的时代正是美国资本主义飞速发展的时代。十九世纪五十年代的美国,工业革命如火如荼,仅仅经过数十年的时间便完成了飞跃式的发展。发表于1853年的短篇小说“巴特比”不可避免地会受到那一时期的社会影响,打上了深深的时代烙印。发生在19世纪4、50年代的一些真实的历史事件也在小说中得到再现。而麦尔维尔在作品中对这些事件的顺序安排却非同寻常。 Continue reading

Ursula K. Le Guin: Giants of sci-fi and fantasy

The below is an article posted in USA Today. I’m just a bit curious about why The Left Hand of Darkness is not included inLe Guin’s best work.

A roundup of Ursula K. Le Guin’s best work.

 by Robbie Olson (March 27, 2013)

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of those rare sci-fi and fantasy authors whose fiction is widely viewed as literature, while still maintaining the magic and adventure sought by genre fans. Her fantastic and futuristic settings are the backdrop for her take on topics from psychology to sociology; Le Guin first gained widespread recognition with her 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, considered by many to be the first major work of feminist science fiction.

Le Guin’s work has also seen its share of film adaptations, though Le Guin herself has been disappointed by many of them. When the miniseries Legend of Earthsea came out, Le Guin responded in her article A Whitewashed Earthsea: How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books:

“In the miniseries, Danny Glover is the only man of color among the main characters (although there are a few others among the spear-carriers). A far cry from the Earthsea I envisioned. When I looked over the script, I realized the producers had no understanding of what the books are about and no interest in finding out. All they intended was to use the name Earthsea, and some of the scenes from the books, in a generic McMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence.”

Race has always been an integral part of Le Guin’s stories. Writes Le Guin, “Fantasy heroes of the European tradition were conventionally white–just about universally so in 1968–and darkness of skin was often associated with evil. By simply subverting an expectation, a novelist can undermine a prejudice.”

So far in her career, Le Guin’s novels have reeled in a total of five Hugo awards, six Nebulas, the Gandalf–and SFWA Grand Master awards, and 19 Locus awards–more than any other author. Here are some of her best:

A Wizard of Earthsea: Earthsea is a world of islands, a vast archipelago surrounded by an uncharted ocean. Magic in Earthsea involves speaking the True Speech the language of dragons. Knowing something’s true name, in the True Speech, gives you power over whatever–or whoever–it is. A boy called Sparrowhawk (whose true name is Ged) learns bits of the True Speech from his aunt, a witch from the small, northern island of Gont. Craving more knowledge, he leaves for the island of Roke to attend the school of magic there, not knowing was destined to unleash an evil shadow upon the world, save villages from dragons, become one of Earthsea’s most powerful mages and travel to the Dry Lands of the dead to save life itself. Le Guin puts it best, saying Earthsea is “about two young people finding out what their power, their freedom, and their responsibilities are.”

The Dispossessed: Thousands of years ago, the planet Hain colonized the galaxy, spreading humanity to hundreds of worlds, including Earth. But the Hainish empire collapsed, and the colonies forgot their origins. This is the universe of the Hainish Cycle, of which The Left Hand of Darkness is a part, and it is in this science fiction series that Le Guin gives her sociological and anthropological explorations full reign. The earliest novel in the ‘Hainish’ chronology, The Dispossessed, examines the stagnation of an anarchist utopia, how language can influence culture, and the physics and philosophy of time.

Lavinia: Lavinia is a character from Roman mythology, invented by Virgil, with no life outside his poetry–and in Le Guin’s novel, she knows it. Set in a time when Roma was nothing more than a backwaters village, the princess of the Latins learns through prophecies and portents that she is destined to marry a foreign warrior, that she will be the cause of a brutal war and that her husband must soon die. That man is Aeneas, hero of Virgil’s Aeneid. In Virgil’s epic poem, Lavinia is almost an afterthought, the prize at the end of a long quest; she is mentioned in only a few lines and never speaks. Le Guin’s novel gives her full life, self-conscious and aware of her existence in the imaginings of Virgil.

The Lathe Of Heaven: Thirty-one years in the future, in 2002 (since the book was written in 1971), the United States is impoverished, while Israel and Egypt are locked in a devastating war with Iran. In an intensely overpopulated Portland, Oregon, a man named George Orr constantly abuses drugs to prevent him from dreaming. Orr is plagued with “effective” dreams, which have the ability to completely restructure reality. When he dreams of a world without racism, he awakes to find everyone’s skin a uniform grey; he dreams a solution to overpopulation, and wakes to the aftereffects of a massive plague. At the prompting (and sometimes, hypnosis) of his psychiatrist William Haber, Orr sets out to dream a better world–but each attempt he makes to conjure utopia has its own disastrous side effects.

Gifts: This YA trilogy imagines a world where people possess wondrous and terrible gifts. But, unlike a typical tale of magic and excitement, Le Guin’s heroes struggle to cope with their power. A young girl named Gry, who has the gift of communicating with animals, refuses to aid hunters by luring wild animals to their deaths, and Orrec takes to wearing a blindfold, lest his power of unmaking accidentally destroys everything around him. Together, they abandon their backwater villages for the wider world, meeting Memer, a girl who falls in love with her people’s ancient writings, banned by her country’s brutal occupiers; and Gavir, a slave with the ability to see the future, who suffers greatly on his quest to find a better life. The first book, Gift, won the PEN 2005 Children’s Literature book, and Powers, the third book, was awarded the 2009 Nebula award for best book.