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那些由已逝者写作的讣告

更新时间:2017-9-26 11:13:00 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

An Obituary Written From Beyond the Grave? Not Quite
那些由已逝者写作的讣告

Elizabeth Taylor holds the distinction.

伊丽莎白·泰勒(Elizabeth Taylor)享有盛誉。

So, too, do Ted Williams, and Bob Hope, and Harold Pinter.

还有特德·威廉姆斯(Ted Williams)、鲍勃·霍普(Bob Hope)和哈罗德·品特(Harold Pinter)。

The latest addition to the list? Lillian Ross, the longtime New Yorker reporter whose obituary ran in Thursday’s paper.

最新加入该名单的是谁?《纽约客》(New Yorker)的资深记者莉莲·罗斯(Lillian Ross),她的讣告出现在周四的报纸上。

What binds these people together, if only in their afterlives? Each was the subject of a New York Times obituary that was written from beyond the grave.

还有什么能把他们联系到一起呢,哪怕是在身后的世界?他们每个人在《纽约时报》上的讣告都是由已过世的人写的。

Well, not exactly — but it may appear that way at first blush. Mel Gussow, a longtime critic and cultural reporter at The Times, had been dead for six years when his obituary of Ms. Taylor was published in 2011. Ms. Ross outlived the author of her obituary, Michael T. Kaufman, a distinguished foreign correspondent and editor, by more than seven years. And the obituary for James A. Van Allen, who discovered the radiation belts that bear his name, was published more than 10 years after the death of its writer, Walter Sullivan.

其实,也并不能完全这么说——但大致看上去似乎是这样的。2011年时报资深评论人兼文化记者梅尔·古索(Mel Gussow)所写的泰勒讣告发表时,他已经去世六年。罗斯比她的讣告作者、著名外国记者兼编辑迈克尔·T·考夫曼(Michael T. Kaufman)多活了七年多。还有发现以自己名字命名的辐射带的詹姆斯·A·范·艾伦(James A. Van Allen),他的讣告是在它的作者沃尔特·沙利文(Walter Sullivan)去世十多年后发表的。

Post-mortem bylines are a rare and admittedly peculiar feature of the obituaries section of The New York Times, but they occur for a straightforward reason: Some obituaries are “advances” — written in anticipation of the death of a notable person who, at the time of writing, is very much alive.

已故作者是《纽约时报》讣告栏的一个罕见的、可以说奇怪的特点,但它出现的原因很简单:有些讣告是“提前写好的”,是在预测一位名人可能去世时写的——虽然此人当时还活得好好的。

“It’s a practical matter,” Bruce Weber, a former obituary reporter for The Times, wrote in a 2016 essay for the Sunday Review. “You can’t write the comprehensive life story of a president or a pope or a movie star in an hour or even a day.”

“这是个很实用的做法,”前时报讣告记者布鲁斯·韦伯(Bruce Weber)在2016年“周日评论”版块(Sunday Review)的一篇文章中写道。“你不可能在一个小时、甚至一天内写好一位总统、教宗或电影明星一生的完整故事。”

And so, when possible, the obituaries desk produces some of its material in advance — sometimes long in advance. An initial draft of Fidel Castro’s obituary, for example, was prepared in 1959.

所以有可能的话,讣告组会提前写好一些素材,有时提前了很久。比如,菲德尔·卡斯特罗(Fidel Castro)最初的讣告是1959年写好的。

And, since death is often unpredictable, for obituary subjects and their writers, the former sometimes outlive the latter, leading to a post-mortem byline.

由于死亡通常是不可预期的,所以有时讣告的写作对象比作者活得还久,因此就会出现作者已故的情况。

“We don’t do it routinely,” explained William McDonald, editor for obituaries. “We don’t have many advances that were written by people who are no longer with us.”

“我们并不经常这样做,”讣告编辑威廉·麦克唐纳(William McDonald)说。“我们并没有很多讣告是那些已经离世的人提前写好的。”

“If the obituary lingers too long, we may have to write a fresh version,” he added. “But if we have a piece that’s sound — if the reporting is exhaustive and the writing is fine — then why throw it away just because the author has died?”

“如果讣告写好太久,可能就得重写,”他还说。“但是如果我们有一篇很完整的讣告——如果报道非常详尽,写得也很好——那为什么要因为作者已去世就把它扔掉呢?”

The Times has about 1,900 advances on hand; roughly a dozen of them were written by reporters who have since died. (On average, two or three obituaries written in advance are published in a given week, and the stock is replenished at about the same rate. The rest of the obituaries are written on deadline, as breaking news items.)

时报手头约有1900份事先写好的讣告;其中大约有十几份是由已经去世的记者撰写。(平均来说,时报每周会发表两三份事先写好的讣告,并以相同的速度补充库存,其他见报的讣告则是作为突发新闻,在截稿时间之前写好。)

But many of the advances are written by older reporters — and they often sit on file for years before publication. It’s an arrangement that occasionally allows death to creep from an obituary’s headline to its byline.

但是,许多由年长的记者事先撰写的讣告经常被封存多年后才得以见报。在这样的情况下,死神偶尔也会从讣告的标题栏悄悄来到作者栏。

In the case of Ms. Ross’s obituary, the original was filed in 1999 — an advance that she dramatically outlived. (Advances are routinely edited and updated; Ms. Ross’s had been refreshed as recently as 2009.)

至于罗斯的讣告,初稿是在1999年写好的——后来她的寿命远远超过了这个年限。(事先写好的讣告会做例行编辑与更新;罗斯的讣告最近期的更新是在2009年年初。)

On Wednesday, after learning of Ms. Ross’s death, Mr. McDonald and Daniel Slotnik, a senior news assistant on the obituaries desk, took one last look.

周三,得知罗斯逝世后,麦克唐纳和讣告版资深新闻助理丹尼尔·斯洛特尼克(Daniel Slotnik)最后检查了一遍这份讣告。

“We pulled the advance and updated some of the details — the cause of death, the survivors,” Mr. Slotnik said. Also added was a reference to a collection of Ms. Ross’s journalism, “Reporting Always,” which was published in 2015, after Mr. Kaufman’s death.

“我们拿出预先写好的讣告,更新了一些细节——死因,尚在世的亲属,”斯洛特尼克说。此外,检查时还补充加入了罗斯的新闻报道合集《始终在报道》(Reporting Always),该书是在2015年考夫曼去世后才出版的。

And when the obituary appeared in print the next day, there was Mr. Kaufman’s byline, resurrected in service of the dead.

翌日讣告见报之时,作者栏赫然署着考夫曼的名字,逝者的作品又得以重见天日。

For the obituaries desk, though, it’s all part of the routine.

不过,对于讣告版来说,这一切都只是日常工作的一部分。

“There isn’t anything specifically different with the process,” Mr. Slotnik said. “Except that obviously there’s no writer to send a final draft to.”

“这个过程没有任何特别不同寻常之处,”斯洛特尼克说。“只不过显然不用给作者发送最终稿了。”

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