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谭恩美自传,一本无意中写就的回忆录

更新时间:2017-10-18 13:20:21 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Amy Tan, the Reluctant Memoirist
谭恩美自传,一本无意中写就的回忆录

Amy Tan really, truly did not want to write a memoir.

谭恩美(Amy Tan)真的不想写回忆录。

Her editor, Daniel Halpern, really wanted her to write one, but knew she would never agree to it. So he urged her to write a nonfiction book about her creative process — a collection of essays, perhaps, or a compilation of emails she’d written to him.

而她的编辑丹尼尔·哈尔彭(Daniel Halpern)真的很想让她写,但他知道她永远也不会同意。所以,他敦促她写一本关于自己创作过程的纪实小说——一个随笔集,也可能是她写给他的电子邮件汇编。

Reluctantly, she agreed. They made a pact requiring Tan to send him a minimum of 15 pages a week. The accelerated pace unlocked something, and soon, she was sending journal entries, deeply personal reflections on her traumatic childhood and harrowing family history, and candid passages about her creative struggles and self-doubt.

她虽然不大情愿,但还是同意了。他们达成一致,谭恩美需要每周至少发给他15页文字。加快的速度释放了某种东西,很快,她开始发送日记片段、对她痛苦童年和悲惨家族历史的深刻个人反思,以及关于她的创作挣扎和自我怀疑的坦率文字。

“I wrote this in a fugue state, not realizing what I was writing,” Tan, 65, said. “It wasn’t until I was done that I became a little distressed and thought, wait a minute, this is going to be published?”

“我是在神游的状态下写的,没有意识到自己在写什么,”65岁的谭恩美说。“直到写完了,我才有点沮丧,心想:等一下,这是要出版吗?”

Tan realized she’d unintentionally written a memoir.

谭恩美意识到她无意中写了一本回忆录。

The resulting book, “Where the Past Begins,” isn’t a conventional narrative autobiography. The disjointed chapters feel fragmentary and experimental, more like a collage or a scrapbook than a standard chronological excavation of the past.

最后的成书《过去的起点》(Where the Past Begins)不是传统的叙事自传。章节之间不太连贯,断断续续的,具有试验性,更像是拼贴画或剪贴簿,而不是按照时间顺序对过去的标准挖掘。

Tan tossed in entries from her journals — she labels shorter ones “quirks” and longer ones “interludes” — where she muses on nature, fate, aging and mortality. There’s an excerpt from a ponderous essay she wrote when she was 14, and a drawing of a cat she sketched at age 12. She exhumes two fictional outtakes from discarded novels, including one about a linguistics scholar that she wrote more than 20 years ago.

谭恩美在书中加入了一些思考自然、命运、衰老和死亡的日记片段——她把较短的称为“花絮”,较长的称为“插曲”。里面有她14岁时写的一篇颇为沉重的散文的片段,以及她12岁时画的一个素描小猫。她从被放弃的小说中发掘出两个虚构故事,其中一个是她20多年前写的一个关于一位语言学家的故事。

Tan, who has published seven novels, also reflects on her writing life, and describes how she cried the day her debut novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” was published — not out of happiness, but out of dread and fear of criticism.

谭恩美出版过七部小说,她也反思了自己的写作生活,还提到她的处女作《喜福会》(The Joy Luck Club)出版那天她大哭的事——她不是喜极而泣,而是出于对批评的恐惧。

Most books come into being through a mysterious alchemy between writer and editor, but Halpern, a published poet and the publisher at Ecco, has helped to shape the careers of novelists like Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Ford, Robert Stone, T.C. Boyle and Jorie Graham. But he’s never been so visible in one of his writer’s books.

大部分书都是通过作家和编辑之间的神秘炼金术塑造而成的,但哈尔彭是一位出版过作品的诗人,也是伊珂出版社(Ecco)的出版人,曾帮助塑造了乔伊斯·卡罗尔·欧茨(Joyce Carol Oates)、理查德·福特(Richard Ford)、罗伯特·斯通(Robert Stone)、T·C·博伊尔(T.C. Boyle)和乔丽·格雷厄姆(Jorie Graham)等小说家的职业生涯。但他在自己塑造的任何一位作家的书中,都没有像在这本书中这么引人注目。

In Tan’s memoir, Halpern becomes a central, recurring character. She dedicates “our book” to him. His notes appear as interjections in the introduction. Later in the book, a chapter titled “Letters to the Editor” consists of dozens of email exchanges between the two. He sends her a poem he wrote. She tells him about attending a screening of a Woody Allen movie. In most of their exchanges, Halpern plays the role of muse and cheerleader as Tan oscillates between earnest reflection on her work and crushing self-doubt. “I keep asking myself how the hell I wrote such a long and bloated book,” she writes about her last novel in one message to him.

在谭恩美的回忆录中,哈尔彭成为了一个反复出现的中心人物。她把“我们的书”献给了他。他的评语在引言中以插入语的形式出现。书的后面部分有一章名为“给编辑的信”,里面有他俩的几十封电子邮件往来。他给她发了自己写的一首诗。她跟他谈起参加了伍迪·艾伦(Woody Allen)的一部电影的试映会。在大部分交流中,哈尔彭扮演缪斯和啦啦队员的角色,而谭恩美则在认真反思自己的作品和沮丧的自我怀疑之间摇摆。“我一直在问自己,我怎么会写出这么一本冗长而臃肿的书,”她在给他的一封邮件中提起自己的最后一部小说时写道。

In another, after seeking Halpern’s opinion on a scene, she writes: “Never mind. I deleted it. It was bad."

在另一封邮件中,她在询问哈尔彭对一个场景的观点后写道:“别管了。我把它删了。它很糟。”

Halpern and Tan have a warm, teasing relationship, which is on display in their email messages and even more evident in person. They got together two months ago in Manhattan, where Tan and her husband of 43 years, Louis DeMattei, a retired tax attorney, have a loft in Soho. Over a bottle of wine at a restaurant on Park Avenue South, they discussed how the memoir came together.

哈尔彭和谭恩美之间存在一种温暖、调侃的关系,这从他们的电邮往来中能看出来,在他们的见面互动中更是明显。两个月前,他们在曼哈顿相聚——谭恩美和结婚43年的丈夫路易斯·德马泰(Louis DeMattei)在曼哈顿Soho区有一个loft敞开式公寓,德马泰是一名退休税务律师。在公园大道南的一家餐厅里,他们一边品尝葡萄酒,一边谈论这本回忆录的孕育过程。

They disagreed about whether the original book was supposed to be a book of essays or a collection of their emails to one another, but they concurred on other points.

关于这本书本来是要做成一本散文集还是电子邮件汇编,他们有不同的看法,但他们在其他问题上观点一致。

“You never asked for a memoir,” Tan said.

“你从来没让我写回忆录,”谭恩美说。

“I knew you would never do it,” Halpern replied. “If you had thought that it was going to be a memoir, you never would have written it.”

“我知道你永远不会写,”哈尔彭回答道。“如果你知道这会变成一本回忆录,你就不写了。”

“The test is going to be the book,” he later continued. “Do you think that you will ultimately regret writing this book?”

“这本书会是一个考验,”他后来又说。“你觉得你最终会为写这本书而感到后悔吗?”

“You know, it’s not regret,” Tan said. “My reluctance is always casting something out there that will be in the public and will be subject to public interpretation. I want nothing of that. It’s like taking the mask off, taking your clothes off, and having people say, ‘Oh my God. It’s nonfiction,’ and people can make fun of the way you think or say, ‘Oh that was trivial.’”

“你知道,这与后悔无关,”谭恩美说。“一直以来,我是不愿意把一些东西抛到公众面前,任由他们解读。我真的不喜欢那样。那就像是摘下面具,脱掉衣服,听人们说,‘哦,我的天哪。这可不是虚构的’,人们会取笑你的思维方式,或者说,‘哦,那太不值一提了。’”

In a way, it’s surprising that it took Tan this long to write about herself. Her fiction, which often features Chinese mothers and daughters, is full of family lore and semi-autobiographical material. Her 1989 debut novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” which has sold nearly 6 million copies in the United States, is an intergenerational epic about Chinese mothers and daughters. Her second novel, “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” features a Chinese-American girl in California who learns about dark secrets from her mother’s past, and is modeled partly on her own family.

从某种意义上讲,令人惊讶的是,谭恩美过了这么长时间才写关于自己的东西。她的小说通常是关于中国的母亲和女儿,充满家族传说和半自传素材。她1989年的处女作《喜福会》在美国销售了近600万册,是一部关于中国母亲和女儿的跨代史诗。她的第二部小说《灶神的妻子》(The Kitchen God’s Wife)讲述的是一个加州华裔美国女孩得知母亲从前的黑暗秘密的故事,这部小说在一定程度上以她自己的家庭为原型。

There’s no shortage of dramatic material from Tan’s past, and she could have easily mined her childhood to write a traditional account of her life. Born in California in 1952 to Chinese immigrants, she grew up in fear of her volatile mother. Tan’s late mother, Daisy, was depressed and unstable, and repeatedly threatened suicide. She once tried to throw herself out of the car when the family was driving on the highway. When Tan was 16, her mother brandished a meat cleaver and threatened to kill her.

谭恩美的过去不乏戏剧化的素材,她可以轻松地挖掘自己的童年,用传统手法叙述自己的生活。她1952年出生在加州的一个中国移民家庭,她从小就害怕自己情绪不稳定的母亲。谭恩美已故的母亲黛西(Daisy)经常情绪低落、不稳定,多次威胁要自杀。有一次,她一家人在高速公路上开车时,黛西试图从车里跳出去。谭恩美16岁时,她的母亲挥舞着一把菜刀,扬言要杀了她。

When she was 14, Tan’s family was struck by a double tragedy: her older brother Peter developed a brain tumor and died at age 16. Then her father, an electrical engineer and Baptist minister, was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and died not long after Peter. Her mother believed the family was cursed.

谭恩美14岁时,她的家庭遭受了双重悲剧:她的哥哥彼得(Peter)患上了脑瘤,年仅16岁就去世了。后来,她的父亲——一位电气工程师和浸礼会牧师——也被诊断出患有脑瘤,在彼得去世后不久也走了。她的母亲认为这个家庭受到了诅咒。

Tan also catalogs some of the trials and misfortunes she’s faced as an adult: her feeling of “relief and sadness” when she had a miscarriage at 28, and her struggle with chronic Lyme disease, which she contracted in 1999. The disease spread to her brain, causing seizures that sparked bizarre but benign hallucinations, like a Renoir painting or a spinning odometer. When she started taking medication to control the seizures, it made her giddy, and she worried it would make her write maudlin fiction. (The side effects eventually abated).

谭恩美也列举了她成年后面临的一些考验和不幸:她28岁流产时感到的“解脱和悲伤”,以及她1999年患上慢性莱姆病后所作的斗争。这种疾病扩散到了她的大脑,引起癫痫发作,产生了奇怪而良性的幻觉,比如雷诺阿(Renoir)的画作或旋转的里程表。她开始服用药物控制发作时,会感到头晕,她担心那会让她写出伤感的小说(药物的副作用最终慢慢减弱了)。

Now that the book is about to be published, Tan is feeling apprehensive. She worries about family members who might think she’s sullied her grandmother’s memory, and is terrified of the critical response. She’s accustomed to having her fiction critiqued, but this feels much scarier, and more personal. “There’s so much in there that’s raw,” she said.

现在,这本书快要出版了,谭恩美为此感到非常不安。她担心家庭成员可能会认为她玷污了关于祖母的记忆,也对评论人士的反应感到恐惧。她已经习惯了别人批评她的小说,但这一次更可怕,更个人化。“里面有太多未经修饰的东西,”她说。

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