Feb 17

By Bruce Humes (http://www.bruce-humes.com/)
原文链接:http://paper- republic.org/newsletters/china-publishing-news-0217/fk-afbe938cbec0fe65f295/

Back in the 1950s until the mid-1980, all China exports had to pass through state-run trading firms. Manufacturers did not export, period; only I/E firms could, and that made them very profitable (if bureaucratic) monopolies. It was only with the rise of Deng Xiaoping and economic reform that makers and Sino-foreign joint ventures gradually won the right to handle their own export business. And things worked pretty much the same for selling into China.

You will be forgiven if you think that it’s not all that different today in China’s publishing world. If you hold the rights to a foreign book and want to get it published in Chinese in the PRC, an ISBN—often called a shūhào or kānhào —is a must.

The catch is that the government grants an ISBN only to state-run publishers who are empowered to publish under their own imprint or “co-publish” as they see fit. So it’s hardly surprising that rights-holders cue up to get their foreign books published by big-name state-owned publishers like Yilin Press, People’s Literature Publishing House, Zhejiang Literature & Art Press, Shanghai Literature & Art Press, Nanking University Press and South Sea Publishing.

Estimates are that the top 15 percent publishers account for 80 percent of foreign books published in the PRC.

So what, you might ask? The answer: the rights holder (foreign publisher, agent, author, etc.) might well be able to get a better deal—and ensure the China edition is better packaged, translated and more sensibly marketed—if able to “shop around.”

In fact, since 2009 a variety of alternative channels have emerged. Call them what you will: middlemen, agents, “content providers,” co-publishers. Yes, all of them must eventually negotiate with a state-run publisher in order to obtain an ISBN, but they are a different breed; because large state-run publishers have long enjoyed a profitable monopoly on both ISBNs and traditional distribution channels, until recently they have had little incentive to invest precious resources in the books themselves.

Chu Chen Books is an example of these new-fangled hybrids that are beginning to challenge the monopoly of the state-run publishers. Dedicated to producing books in the arts and humanities fields, it is a new Beijing-based joint venture with Chongqing University Press founded in mid-2010.

General manager Chu Chen explains that thanks to its state-owned partner, obtaining an ISBN is not a problem, so he can focus on sourcing quality works—he employs an American scout in Beijing—and handling translations in-house via his team of bilingual editors. He can then take advantage of his partner’s longstanding industry connections and marketing muscle. As a small firm allied with a big player, Chu Chen Books arguably offers advantages to rights holders who want more attention to their book than they would get at a much larger state-run publisher.

To further explore the options that are emerging for getting published in China, we interview publishing professional Li Jihong (李继宏), co-founder of Shanghai Silk Books (上海帛书文化传播). In his former life as a freelance translator, he translated 19 different titles into Chinese—including the huge best-seller, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini—numbering 15 in mainland China, two in Taiwan, and three to launch in 2011. But as co-founder of Silk Books, he is now engaged in each of the key steps for publishing a foreign work in the PRC.

Below, italicized words are questions posed by Bruce Humes on behalf of Paper-Republic’s China Publishing Newsletter , while Li Jihong’s responses follow in the standard font.

You began your career in China publishing as an English-to-Chinese translator, and worked briefly for Big Apple Agency. What made you want to strike out on your own?

Early in my career, what annoyed me most was the way my translations were sometimes changed without my permission. There are many translators in China who don’t care how the editor handles their work, but I’m not one of them. For me, my name on the title page means I take responsibility for translation quality.

I don’t mean my translations are perfect; I’m not that arrogant. There were always dozens of typos or misinterpretations in my first drafts, but I caught them on the proofs. A few editors were considerate enough to highlight copy and request my input. But not all were so thoughtful and some even lacked the necessary bilingual skills. They misread the source text and arbitrarily replaced correct renditions with flawed, even absurd ones.

The literary translator rarely reaps major economic rewards, but being offended by inept publishing executives makes it worse. And that’s basically why I left my position as Content Director at Century Horizon (世纪文景) in 2007 when ridiculous changes were proposed to my translation of Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns .

As a freelance translator, I was still prone to such maltreatment, plus my income was unstable. In 2008 I did a stint as a literary agent for Big Apple, but the legwork was tedious and the Shanghai subway commute miserable.

So when my friend Xie Fangwei proposed launching a small publishing business, I thought: Why not? So we set up Shanghai Silk Books Publishing (上海帛书文化传播有限公司), and formed a strategic partnership with Oriental Morning Post (东方早报). This newspaper is the second largest in Shanghai in advertisement revenue, and we benefit from this tie-up mainly through capital that we can use to pay advances.

What’s the mission of your new firm? And how do you position yourself: As a literary agent? As an “independent” publisher?

Our mission is to introduce high-quality translations of English literature and works in the ‘New Age Movement’ genre. We believe that Silk Books can differentiate itself by providing healthier, more spiritually nourishing reading matter to its Chinese readership.

Silk Books cannot be defined as a literary agent or an independent publisher. It’s something new that I might label “content provider”. We secure the translation rights for a title we have targeted, render it in Chinese, and sell the translated texts to state-owned publishers for a certain percentage of the royalties. We decide the cover design in conjunction with the publisher. Crucially, the text cannot be altered unless I approve it. Silk Books determines the marketing plan and implements it, typically via book reviews and advertising. Printing and distribution are handled by the publisher.

Take us briefly through the major steps that a foreign book must undergo prior to publication in the PRC. Which are the most difficult to navigate, and why?

In our case, there are six key steps: (1) Acquiring the translation rights through negotiations with a literary agent; (2) Seeking an appropriate state-owned publisher and signing a publishing contract with it; (3) Application by the publisher to the local Press and Publication Administration Bureau for a Rights Contract Registration Number (版权合同登记号) and an ISBN, without which a book cannot be published in the PRC, and which can only be granted to an approved state-run publisher; (4) RCRN in hand, we pay income tax to the authorities on behalf of the literary agent; (5) Transferring advances to the account of the literary agent; and (6) Initiating the translation process. Thereafter, things proceed pretty much as in the US or the UK.

The first challenge we confront is proving that Silk Books is a trustworthy firm. For example, we tried to buy The Pillars of the Earth and World without End by Ken Follett and What Is the What by Dave Eggers a couple of years ago, but our offers were rejected by their agent, the Bardon Chinese Media Agency. Bardon advised us to find a state-owned publisher to sign the contracts on behalf of Silk Books. But we wouldn’t do that, or we would have lost control over the translated texts. So we have had to give up some good titles. Fortunately, there are agencies willing to cut deals with us, such as Andrew Nurnberg Associates, Penguin China and Grayhawk Agency.

The second challenge is to arrange a publishing contract with a state-owned publisher. Believe it or not, it took me almost eight months to conclude the final agreement on publishing Conversations with God (Book One) with Shanghai Bookstore Publishing House. The reason is simple: the role we play is, as I have said, utterly new. No one had done such a thing. Hence I must manage to convince each business partner that our approach is sound and potentially profitable.

To ensure publication within China, as I understand it foreign copyright-holders have three main options: directly approach a state-owned China publisher; select a foreign agent such as Big Apple to market their book to a China publisher; or work through a firm such as your own. Are there other options besides these three? What are the pros-and-cons of each approach?

There is another choice now. France’s Hachette and Phoenix Publishing & Media Group in China have formed a Beijing-based joint venture publishing firm, Hachette-Phoenix Cultural Development. We can safely say that more and more joint ventures will appear in the publishing industry in China.

As for the pros-and-cons of the approaches you’ve mentioned, by choosing to directly approach a big publisher or work through a small firm like ours, foreign rights holders can save on the costs they would normally pay to a large marketing-driven agency like Big Apple. But if they choose to work via an international agent, there is no real guarantee of getting a quality Chinese rendition. For example, Stephen King is a bestselling author in the US, but his works are unwelcome in the China market, because the translations are worse than bad!

You were recently featured in a New York Times article that identified you as the translator of “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsch. Tell us a bit about this project.

When Mr. Xie and I resolved to extend our friendship into business, he suggested that perhaps Conversations with God as our starting point, for he had read the traditional Chinese edition translated by Wang Jiqing, and he loved it. One night I downloaded the original English text and was astounded by how inspirational it was. After a thorough read, my inner voice firmly told me I should share it with my compatriots. Luckily, the simplified Chinese translation rights were still available, and several months later we signed the contract with Andrew Nurnberg Associates.

Eventually I realized that the existing traditional Chinese edition was full of misinterpretations and unclear phrasing, and so I determined to render it myself. I negotiated the contract, finalized the paper type, size and design of the book, and arranged for reviews and media promotion.

Before I undertook this project, I already had eleven translated titles to my name, and three years in the publishing field itself. So I was confident that it would be a classic, and my gut instincts didn’t fail me— Conversations with God (Book One) was the Number 10 best-seller on Amazon.cn in 2010.

Unbeknownst to most authors and their agents outside China, many global best-sellers are significantly altered when they appear in Chinese. Some publishers commission translations from an English translation, rather than the original language, but hide this fact; others heavily censor sensitive text; and almost all pay miserable wages to their translators, refuse to share any royalties, and insist on the briefest of deadlines. In your opinion, how bad is the situation, and what advice can you give?

What you describe is commonplace in China. For example, my translation of La Caverna de las Ideas by Jose Carlos Somoza was based on its English version, The Athenian Murder , translated by Sonia Soto. But the publisher chose to omit any reference to Ms. Soto on the title page, even though I credited her in the Afterword to the Chinese edition.

Censorship in China is so notorious that it hardly rates a mention. The most famous case is Hillary Clinton’s Living History . Its Chinese Publisher—Yilin Press (译林出版社)—censored so much that the rights owner of original text was infuriated and insisted that Yilin recall all 200,000 copies from the market. But the situation is improving now. In a sense the real enemy of the integrity of the original work is not the infamous General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), but the internal self-censorship carried out by the publishers themselves.

As for your last question, I think what foreign publishers, agents or authors can do is to pray—may God place their works in the hands of a qualified and responsible translator!

Please name 3-4 firms that, like yours, are not large state-run publishers, but are in the business of helping foreign rights holders get published in China.

Thinkingdom House (新经典文化) for popular fiction, Tobebooks (立品 图书) for books in the religion/spirituality genre, and Huawen Tianxia (华文天下) for popular fiction and non-fiction all come to mind.

Feb 12


近 期美国风头最劲的图书,莫过于《虎妈妈的战曲》(Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,1月11日——出版日 期,下同),作者是闽南裔的美国教授蔡美儿。本来这只是蔡美儿写她过去十几年养育两个女儿的回忆录,但经过媒体的热炒,已经俨然成为中美家庭教育比较的典 型样本。1月31日的美国《时代周刊》更是以蔡美儿及其女儿蔡思慧的照片作为封面,并刊登了专题报道,标题噱头十足:“蔡美儿的育儿经引起美国的恐惧”。 在美国普通民众对中国的兴趣与日俱增的当下,《虎妈妈的战曲》可谓生逢其时,迅速占据各大畅销书排行榜。相比之下,蔡美儿的丈夫贾德·鲁本菲尔德的历史悬 疑小说《死亡本能》(Death Instinct,1月20日)就没那么风光,尽管从内容来看,它是很精彩的,尤其是在再现历史细节方面,但销售可以用 惨淡来形容。

五花八门的欧美1月热点新书 - 李继宏 - 李继宏的博客


在美国,和金钱有关的书似乎比较容易畅销,比如有本叫做《投资答案》(The Investment Answer,1月25日)的小书,出版 当天就名列亚马逊图书排行榜榜首。作者丹尼尔·古迪在加利福尼亚开设了一家投资顾问公司,在这本只有九十六页却要卖十八美元的小册子里,他试图解答下面五 个问题:投资时单干比较好还是应该寻求专业人士的帮助?如何配置投资中股票、债券和现金的比例?投资组合应该侧重于哪类资产?投资策略应该是积极进取的, 还是消极被动的?何时应该卖出持有的资产,何时应该买入更多?这其实是每个投资者都有的疑惑,所以《投资答案》的畅销是情理之中的事情。

当然,美国读者也没有那么俗气,尽管指导中年女性如何减肥的《永远性感》(Sexy Forever,2010年12月28日)和宣称可以让读 者成为超人的《四小时健身法》(The 4-Hour Body,2010年12月14日)之类的图书很有市场,但《隐秘的真实:平行世界和宇宙的深层定 律》(The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos,1 月25日)和《一千种礼物》(One Thousand Gifts,1月17日)同样受欢迎。前者的作者是哥伦比亚大学的理论物理学教授布里安·格林, 也是当今世界顶尖的弦理论专家,曾在卡拉比-丘成桐流形研究上作出重要贡献。《隐秘的真实》是他写的科普书,用通俗易懂的文字向读者介绍宇宙里存在平行世 界的可能性。《一千种礼物》则是由基督教福音派的出版公司Zondervan推出,虽然重弹的是人们要在生活中感恩的老调,但因为作者安·福斯卡普的特异 经历和优美文笔,依然一纸风行,并且好评如潮。

相形之下,英国新年的热点新书就显得有文化多了,比如说《耶路撒冷考略》(Jerusalem: The Biography,1月27日)。 众所周知,在地缘政治的视域里,耶路撒冷是当今世界最重要的地方,但这个地处偏僻的城市是如何成为“圣地”和中东和平的关键的呢?西蒙·萨巴格·蒙特费尔 试图用这部皇皇巨著——厚达六百九十六页——追本溯源地给出一个清晰的答案。蒙特费尔早年毕业于剑桥大学,在传记写作领域素来享有盛名,尤其擅长还原俄国 政治人物的生平,他所著的《叶卡捷琳娜二世与波将金》、《红色沙皇斯大林》曾获得许多重要的奖项。这次他为一座城市立传,可谓别开生面。

另外一本值得专门介绍的畅销书是《长歌》(The Long Song,1月6日)。严格来说,它不能算新书,因为它的精装版是去年2月4日出 版的,而且入围了上届曼·布克小说奖的决选名单,这次新推的是平装版。它的作者安德丽雅·利维祖籍牙买加,是当代英国第一流的女作家,她的第四部小说《小 岛》(Small Island)先后斩获橙子小说奖、惠特布莱德小说奖、惠特布莱德年度图书奖、英联邦作家奖,并被推举为历届橙子小说奖最佳作品。《长 歌》讲述了生活在十九世纪牙买加某个甘蔗种植园的黑人女奴的悲惨命运,通过这个微观的切入点反思大英帝国长达三百年的黑奴贸易,称得上是血泪淋漓的杰作。

五花八门的欧美1月热点新书 - 李继宏 - 李继宏的博客


黑人的历史成为文学主题由来已久,从斯托夫人的《汤姆叔叔的小屋》到哈伯·李《杀死一只反舌鸟》,从托妮·莫里森的《宠儿》到凯瑟琳·斯托克特 的《相助》,相关的优秀作品层出不穷,但大多数是美国作家在讲述美国的故事。安德丽雅·利维的《长歌》讲述的主题较为新奇,小说主角“七月” (Miss July)的身份也有异于其他黑奴:种植园的白人奴隶主强奸了她母亲,导致了她的出世。在十九世纪,像她这样的私生子固然得不到白人家庭的认 可,但可以从事劳动强度较低的家务工作,不用到田地里去干粗活。于是黑奴阶层内部也因为肤色深浅的不同而产生了分化,这在以前是不广为人知的。从这个方面 来说,《长歌》有点像美国作家爱德华兹的《已知的世界》(The Known World),算是拓展了黑人文学的疆土。实际上,有关加勒比海地区殖民史 的小说并不稀见,只是目前尚未引起广泛的关注。比如说,格林纳达出生的英国作家雅各·罗斯在2008年出版的《派特·本 德》(Pynter Bender)就是一部异常出色的作品。

其实英国的大众阅读跟美国的差异并不是太大,教读者如何做面包、蛋糕、饼干等的《简易烘培术》(Baking Made Easy,1月6日) 出版后一直盘桓在畅销书排行榜的前三名。而且英国读者的阅读趣味也表现出追随时尚的倾向,例如石黑一雄的《永别让我 走》(Never Let Me Go)和马克·罗格等的《国王的演讲》(The King’s Speech)等旧书则因为近期同名电影的上映而再次大 卖。

法国的热点新书就更加五花八门了,畅销榜单上有理财图书《省钱宝典》(Sauvez votre argent,1月20日),有人物传记《法 兰莎》(Frankgoise,1月19日),也有译为法文的美国小说《曲溪镇的最后一 夜》(Dernière nuit à Twisted River,1月20日),更有批判现行税务制度的《税务革命:二十一世纪该如何征收所得 税》(Pour une révolution fiscale : Un impt sur le revenu pour le XXIe siècle,1 月27日)。

《法兰莎》讲述的是前法国文化部长法兰莎·纪贺(Frankgoise Giroud)的生平。纪贺女士既是传媒人,也是作家:她早年在 ELLE杂志当编辑,后来自立门户,创办了新闻周刊《快报》(L’Express),此外还著有《居里夫人传》等图书。《法兰莎》的作者劳尔·阿德勒本身 也是著名的媒体人和作家,他曾为玛格丽特·杜拉斯、汉娜·阿伦特等著名女性立传。

《曲溪镇的最后一夜》则是约翰·欧文在2009年的新作。近年来,英美文学作品的法文译本往往卖得很好,而在美国和英国的图书市场上,则很少见 到英译的法国作品能够卖得好,这是个奇怪的现象,也许是因为英语世界变得越来越封闭,而法国读者的心态则越来越开放,而在从前,法国人在文化上的傲慢是举 世皆知的。

法国的福利非常好,每年用于福利保障的财政支出约为五千亿欧元,占GDP的30%以上,相应地,该国的税负也很高,根据《福布斯》杂志的调查, 是全球税负最高的国家。萨科齐上台之后大力推动医改,但见效甚微,政府的财政赤字依然居高不下。在这样的背景下,《税务革命》的热卖也就不难理解了。该书 的三位作者痛陈法国的税务制度既不民主,也不平等,更没有做到与时俱进,号召发起一场税务革命。其实法国政府可以请这三位作者到中国生活一段时间,那样他 们就会明白,高福利高税负并不是最糟的,总比低福利高税负强一万倍。

Feb 12


1975年,有着五十三年历史的芬兰 《时代周刊》(Viikkosanomat)在广告客户争夺战中不敌强势的新兴电视媒体,准备关门大吉;三 十三岁的阿尔托·帕西林纳因之失去工作,随后中断多年的记者生涯,卖掉他热爱的帆船,开始创作一本叫做《兔 年》(The Year of the Hare)的小说——按照中国的生肖纪年法,那年正是兔年。当时帕西林纳怀着什么样的心情,现在的读者已经无从知 道。但是当《兔年》的主角瓦塔南抱着那只被撞伤的兔子,躲在小城赫因诺拉,打电话把他心爱的帆船卖给同事时,那份义无反顾的绝然却是在字里行间表露无遗。

瓦塔南是渐近中年的文字记者,和摄影师同事出差途中,他们开的车撞到一只野兔。他下车去照顾断腿的小兔,迟迟不肯回到车上,同事眼见夜幕将临, 情急之下,自行开车走了。于是这起偶然的事件成为瓦塔南生命中的转折点:他陪小兔在野外度过了美好的一夜,次日决定逃离原本熟悉的生活,包括体面的工作、 不菲的收入和感情破裂的妻子,带着野兔踏上漫无目的的流浪之旅。随后,瓦塔南和野兔远离城市文明,经历了离奇的一年:在熊熊燃烧的森林大火中狂欢,差点毁 掉一对新人的婚礼,伴尸骨未寒的死者在仓库中共度一宿,与狡猾贪婪的渡鸦斗智斗勇,碰巧发现大批深埋河底的二战时期德国部队遗留的军火,和若干到访芬兰的 外国武官共同见证了一场疯帽匠风格的宴会,为了替野兔疗伤而重返赫尔辛基期间认识一名女律师并与之订婚,接连十几天冒着风雪捕杀一只伤害野兔的黑熊,因越 境而被苏联卡累利阿共和国的士兵逮捕却成为他们的座上宾,被遣送回芬兰之后身陷囹圄却凭借流浪期间无意获悉的政界大秘密而得到释放。瓦塔南的这个“兔年” 在出狱之后戛然而止,其后的生活怎么样,帕西林纳并没有直接挑明,只是简单地提到那名女律师在瓦塔南神秘消失之后再也没有消息——这当然是在暗示他们“从 此过着幸福的生活”。

从写作技巧来判断的话,这本小说——真的是“小”说,英译是小三十二开本,尚不足两百页——是乏善可陈的。帕西林纳这部作品分为二十四节,每节 用平铺直叙的方式展示瓦塔南到某个地方的经历,彼此之间几乎是完全独立的。换言之,《兔年》缺乏精致的长篇小说所需的巧妙布局,它采用了简单的线性叙事模 式,情节跟着瓦塔南逐渐从赫因诺拉向北极圈进发的步伐直线展开。

比如第十三节“渡鸦”,它讲述了瓦塔南在拉普兰南部的波西奥遭遇渡鸦的故事;到了紧接着的第十四节“祭品”,占据了前面整整七页篇幅的渡鸦被瓦 塔南使计弄死之后便彻底消失,取而代之的是有着怪异宗教信仰的滑雪教练卡尔迪南。卡尔迪南跟渡鸦相同,他到了第十五节就无影无踪了,让位给一只黑熊。

就语言风格而言,帕西林纳也没有展现出足够的修辞技巧,《兔年》中基本上缺乏别出心裁的比喻、妙笔生花的摹绘、一气呵成的排比或者画龙点睛的通 感。总的来说,虽然帕西林纳在此之前已经出版过《芬兰行动》(Operaatio Finlandia)和《天堂岛的囚 徒》(Paratiisisaaren vangit),《兔年》依然很像文坛新手的处女作。

但正是这本貌似不成熟的小说,过去三十六年来长销不绝,被翻译成二十四种语言。它在芬兰、瑞典和法国已被视为经典,2006年法国导演马克·里 维埃还拍摄了以其为蓝本改编的电影《瓦塔南的野兔》(Le Lièvre de Vatanen),三个兔年的流逝丝毫没有影响读者对它的 热爱。这到底是 为什么呢?

答案要到以写作技巧来评价小说的窠臼之外去找。因为有时候,就衡量小说的价值而言,语言学、文体学、修辞学的准绳是不完备的,还需要用上其他学 科的标尺。具体到《兔年》这部小说,在社会学的视野中,它最大的价值所在,或者说使它成为经典的要素,是作者帕西林纳准确地抓住了现代城市生活最深刻的问 题。


代城市生活最深刻的问题是,正如德国社会学家格奥尔格·齐美尔在其早已成为经典文献 的《大城市与精神生 活》(Die Grosstdte und das Geistesleben)一文开宗明义地指出的,个人如何在遭受各种社会束缚、背负历史传统和生活 方式的重压的同时,维护其存在的独立性和独特性。在齐美尔看来,城市,尤其是大城市,并不是那些“拒绝在社会-技术体制中沉沦”之人的理想住所。《兔年》 的主角瓦塔南则恰恰是这种人。

帕西林纳如此描述人到中年的瓦塔南:满腹牢骚、愤世嫉俗,年轻时的梦想并没有实现,欺骗过自己的妻子、也被妻子欺骗,有胃溃疡的初期症状,还有 其他许多生活的忧虑。但年轻时的瓦塔南并不是这样的,当初他很高兴能够在一家大媒体供职,尤其热衷于采访那些受到政府压迫的人,他觉得这其实等于在做善 事。然而多年之后,他终于发现,这家周刊永远只关注无关痛痒的事件,刻意对重要的社会丑恶现象保持缄默。于是他“不再认为自己取得了什么成就”(第11 页),他只是按部就班而已,如果说有什么值得欣慰的,那就是他个人没有参与制造假新闻。他供职的杂志取得成功,但并非由于“传播了信息——而是由于稀释了 它,抹杀它的重要性,将它炒作成茶余饭后的八卦”(第11页)。

瓦塔南这种由于个人理念和社会环境脱节而引起的不适几乎是所有生活在现代大城市的成年人的通病,原因在于,非人格化是现代城市生活的本质特征之 一,社会机构的运作有其自身的逻辑,并不以个人的情感和好恶为依归。在齐美尔看来,个人的智力发展远远跟不上社会整体的客观文化的进步,因为社会的劳动分 工日趋细密;劳动分工要求个人掌握单一的技能,而对单一技能的过度追求则往往导致主体性的匮乏。也就是说,面对日益增长的客体文化,个人丧失了控制能力, 仅能充当庞大的社会组织的齿轮。对那些极端个体主义的布道者来说,这种个体文化的萎缩和客体文化的膨胀 (Die Atrophie der individuellen durch die Hypertrophie der objektiven Kultur) 正是他们憎恨大城市的重要原因。

也许曾入读拉普兰人民大学(Lapin kansankorkeakoulussa)的帕西林纳并不知晓这种城市社会学理论,至少他没有让瓦塔 南成为弗里德里希·尼采或者约翰·拉斯金(John Ruskin)那样拥有高度文化自觉的人物,但是他展现出了敏锐的直觉和艺术的洞察,用旁观者的视角 对日常琐事作出冷静的叙述,以此来取代附带有强烈情感色彩的内心独白和自我反省,成功地通过文学的途径抵达了社会学进路的终点——对现实的剖析和再现。 《兔年》旺盛生命力的来源,正在于书中随处可见的这种叙事艺术与学术理论的殊途同归。

例如,在帕西林纳笔下,尽管瓦塔南的薪水完全不能算微薄,但要维持体面的生活并不容易,常常陷入捉襟见肘的窘境。赫尔辛基的房租太高,每个月要 花掉他几百马克,这导致他没有办法存钱买自己的房子。甚至连他的业余爱好也受到金钱的制约:“他设法给自己买了一艘帆船,但这也是借钱买来的。”(第11 页)同样地,瓦塔南的这种境遇也是几乎每个现代城市人必须面对的:生活中的一切,从日常的吃穿住行,到人际交往和业余爱好,无不与金钱挂钩。按照齐美尔的 说法,这是货币经济发展的结果。在大城市,经济交换的集中程度和多样化程度极高,所以交换手段极其重要,作为一般等价物的金钱因而获得了统治地位,它能够 将质的差别转化为量的多寡。在货币经济的影响下,现代城市人的各种生活问题归根结底都是钱多钱少的问题。和许多现代城市人一样,瓦塔南内心深处是抗拒这种 货币经济的统治的,这是促使他逃离城市生活的第二个缘由。

尽管城市生活是如此单调无趣,如此泯灭个人的独立性和独特性,但现实中几乎没有城市居民会像瓦塔南那样选择另外一种生活。即使是仇恨大城市的尼 采,也矛盾地热衷于居住在城市里。这主要是因为城市提供了极大的便捷,诚如齐美尔所说,人们在城市里只要随波逐流即可,完全无需自己游泳。除此之外,大城 市的客观环境让其居民变得麻木不仁(Blasiertheit),这也是大多数人能够如鱼得水地生活在今日的北京、上海等大城市的原因。齐美尔认为,较之 于农村人,城市人的神经系统对外界刺激作出反应的阈值要高得多,否则就会崩溃。一个简单的例子是,在安宁的乡村,人们相遇往往会面带微笑,寒暄几句。但是 在大城市,比如说上海,朝九晚五的上班族和比沙丁鱼罐头更加拥挤的地铁车厢里每个乘客相视而笑当然是不可想象的。这种阈值的提高既是自我保护,也是自我禁 锢:它将城市人拘押在逼仄狭窄的精神空间之内,促使城市人将注意力集中在各种和金钱有关的事务上,而忽略了心灵的需求和个性的发展。


猜想帕西林纳会写《兔年》,很大程度上是因为他厌倦了机械冷漠的城市生活,却又对现 代城市人的这种命运感到无能为力,于是只好诉诸虚构的艺 术,用一个梭罗式或者说高更式的故事来为自己压抑的情绪寻找宣泄的出口。

有充足的理由表明,帕西林纳很大程度上把瓦塔南当成自己的化身。瓦塔南的年纪、职业无不和帕西林纳相同,爱好也是一样,只不过瓦塔南卖掉帆船, 是为了有钱去流浪,而帕西林纳卖掉帆船,却是为了能够专心创作《兔年》。甚至连他们的婚姻状况也如出一辙。当年帕西林纳和他第一个妻子貌合神离的婚姻已经 走到即将劳燕分飞的末路。瓦塔南的妻子深受消费主义之害,热衷于购买各种过时的奇装异服,而且买回来没几天就会将它们弃若敝屣。这让瓦塔南觉得她要是能找 到合适的新男人,也一定会离自己而去。他们在情感上也并不相互忠实;在小说末尾,瓦塔南被羁押在彼得罗扎沃茨克,芬兰政府提供给苏联当局的报告就指证瓦塔 南犯有通奸罪。而在小说的开头,瓦塔南的妻子由于怀上别人的孩子而去堕胎,面对瓦塔南的质疑,她竟然说:“连死去的胎儿都要妒忌啊?不会吧你!” 

只有深刻地理解帕西林纳对城市生活的憎恨和创作《兔年》时的生活状态,读者才不会像英译本最新版序言作者彼科·伊耶(Pico Iyer)那 样,错误地感觉到这部小说是“轻快的”和“欢乐的”。《兔年》诚然采用了匆促的叙事节奏,也不乏令人解颐的诙谐描写,但正如莎士比亚在《哈姆雷特》中借波 洛尼厄斯之口说出的,“这看似狂乱,但内中自有理路”:《兔年》荒诞不经的情节背后,是作者帕西林纳跃然纸上的苦闷和抑郁。真正用心去感受——而不是用眼 睛去看——《兔年》的读者,会发现它其实从开篇就弥漫着淡淡的忧伤,随着瓦塔南对现代城市文明越逃越远,这种令人伤感的气氛逐渐增强。在小说快结束的时 候,当瓦塔南不惜在冰天雪地中长途跋涉,锲而不舍地来到白海岸边,将满腔的愤恨灌注在子弹里,扣动扳机打死伤害他和兔子的黑熊,终于达到了最高潮,如山洪 暴发般地倾泻而出:

“他哭了,他不知道为什么,但眼泪流了下来。他抚摸着熊的皮毛,抚摸着野兔,而野兔正闭着眼睛,躺在他的背包 里。”(第185页)

帕西林纳的情绪得到发泄之后,他为瓦塔南安排了一个童话式的美满结局,他本人也因为《兔年》的大获成功,而摆脱了早已让他厌倦的记者生涯,成为 全职的作家。他并没有像瓦塔南那样逃离城市文明,而是继续居住在芬兰第二大城市:赫尔辛基附近的埃斯泊市(Espoo)。但这并不意味着帕西林纳找到了解 决现代城市生活最深刻的问题的办法,从他后来的遭遇来看,事实恰好相反:这位当代芬兰最成功的作家似乎从没有向吞噬个性的“社会-技术体制” (gesellschaftlich-technischen Mechanismus)屈服,晚年的他因在酒吧斥责服务员或恶意驾驶等举动而屡次为芬兰 小报贡献花边新闻。在精神病理学的定义中,迟暮的帕西林纳是患者,但是从社会学的角度看,生病的也许是现代城市文明。关于这位作家,最新的消息 是,2010年12月29日,其儿子彼得向芬兰媒体《晚报》(Iltalehti)表示,他父亲脑梗塞之后康复状况良好,但失去了写作的能力,只好在未到 古稀之年宣布从此休笔。

帕西林纳和他的《兔年》共同证明了个体对现代城市文明的反抗和胜利只能在虚构的小说中找到,现实生活里是不存在的。然而这恰恰强化了《兔年》这 部小说的现实意义,因为现代的城市读者或许早已忘记日出的壮丽和晚霞的绚烂,可是许多人有时候——无论是午夜梦回抑或独处静思——必定会像瓦塔南或者毋宁 说帕西林纳那样,忆起自己曾经有过的理想,并为现实生活和它的差异感到无奈或哀伤。但不管怎么样,面对令人爱憎交织的城市文明,绝大多数人唯一的选择是认 同齐美尔的说法:“我们的任务不是去指责,也不是去原谅,而只能是去理解。”