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美国加利福利亚沙漠中的怪异博物馆

更新时间:2019/2/20 20:32:32 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A strange museum at the 'centre of the world'
美国加利福利亚沙漠中的怪异博物馆

Around 30 years ago, Jacques-André Istel turned to his wife, Felicia Lee, and said, “We’re going to sit in the desert and think of something to do.”

大约30年前,伊斯特尔对他的妻子费利西娅‧李(Felicia Lee)说,“我们要待在沙漠里,想点事情做。”

Hardly an enticing proposition, but by then, Lee was surely used to her husband’s hare-brained schemes.

这不是一个诱人的提议,但那时,费利西娅‧李肯定已经习惯了丈夫轻率的计划。

In 1971, at great risk to himself and his then bride-to-be, Istel piloted the couple on a round-the-world flight in a tiny, twin-engine plane that had hardly the oomph of a Chevrolet automobile. Before that, there was the whole business of convincing people to jump out of planes: in the 1950s, after returning home from the Korean War, where he served with the US Marines, Istel developed parachuting equipment and techniques that made it possible for the average Joe to leap out of an airplane at 2,500ft and land as if having tumbled from a 4ft bookcase. Soon, Americans by the thousands were enjoying the latest craze: skydiving.

1971年,伊斯特尔载着当时自己的准新娘费利西娅‧李,冒着巨大风险驾驶着一架小型双引擎飞机进行了一次环球飞行,这架飞机的动力甚至不如一辆雪佛兰(Chevrolet)汽车。在这次环球冒险飞行之前,他已干出一番事业,说服了人们跳出飞机:1950年代,他在美国海军陆战队(US Marines)服役,朝鲜战争(Korean War)结束回家后,他开发了跳伞的设备和技术,使得普通人从2500英尺的高空跳出飞机落地,就像从四英尺的书柜上跌下一样的轻而易举。随之不久,成千上万的美国人开始享受最新的疯狂游戏:跳伞。

Lee was a reporter for Sports Illustrated– she met Istel, by then known as ‘the father of American sport parachuting’, during an interview for a piece in the magazine – and had her own taste for adventure. “If I told her tomorrow we were going to Mars, she would say, ‘What do I pack?’,” Istel said.

李是《体育画报》(Sports Illustrated)的记者——她在一次采访时认识了当时被称为“美国跳伞运动之父”的伊斯特尔,而且她也喜欢冒险,从此两人夫唱妇随。伊斯特尔说,“如果我告诉她明天我们要去火星,她会说,‘我要带什么?’”

And so, in the 1980s, the couple moved to the far south-east corner of California, a few miles west of Yuma, Arizona, off Interstate 8, where Istel had acquired a 2,600-acre parcel of land several decades earlier. Apart from a good aquifer, this particular patch of the Sonoran Desert had little to recommend it. But “we realised that we loved it – the calm, the beauty,” Istel said.

因此,在20世纪80年代,这对夫妇搬到了加利福尼亚州的最东南角,在亚利桑那州(Arizona)尤马(Yuma)以西几英里处,离州际八号公路不远。几十年前,伊斯特尔在公路旁买下了一片2600英亩的土地。除了良好的含水层,索诺兰沙漠(Sonoran Desert)的这片特殊区域没有什么值得推荐的。但是“我们意识到我们喜欢这片土地的宁静和美丽,”伊斯特尔说。

With nothing much around apart from an RV park and some impressively tall sand dunes, the couple’s desert refuge was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. So it made sense, at least in Istel’s fervid imagination, to put it in the middle of somewhere. In 1985, the French-born parachuting pioneer cajoled California’s Imperial County Board of Supervisors into designating a spot on his property as The Official Centre of the World. (Audacious, perhaps, but not necessarily inaccurate, given that anywhere on the Earth’s surface could be the centre.)

除了一个露营车停车场和一些令人印象深刻的高高沙丘,四周非常荒凉,这对夫妇的沙漠避难所几乎是在鸟不生蛋的地方。因此,在这个荒凉之地建造点什么是可以理解的,至少在伊斯特尔狂热的想象中是这样。1985年,这位法国出生的跳伞先驱说服加州因皮里尔县的议会,在他的土地上指定一个地方作为官方认可的世界中心。这或许有些鲁莽,但未必不准确,因为地球是圆的,地球表面的任何地方都可以是世界中心。

A landmark of such importance needed a town of its own. The following year, Istel created Felicity, which now boasts about 15 residents and its own freeway sign. Facing no opposition, Istel got himself elected mayor that same year – apparently for life.

如此重要的地标需要有自己的城镇。第二年,伊斯特尔在此创建了费利城(Felicity,以妻子名字命名),现在声称拥有大约15名居民和自己的高速公路标志。在没有任何反对意见的情况下,伊斯特尔在同一年当选为市长,显然是终身的。

But Istel wasn’t done with his Xanadu in the desert. He had an idea to build a granite monument with inscriptions honouring people and places important in his life – fellow parachutists, his alma mater (Princeton University in New Jersey), and his family, who had fled France during World War Two and settled in New York. His father, André, had been an advisor to Charles de Gaulle, and his mother, Yvonne, was a wartime volunteer.

但是伊斯特尔在沙漠中的世外桃源建设并未就此打住。他有一个想法,要建造一座刻有铭文的花岗岩纪念碑,纪念他生命中重要的人物和地点,比如他的伞兵战友、他的母校普林斯顿大学,以及他在二战期间逃离法国定居纽约的家人。他的父亲安德烈(André)曾是戴高乐的顾问,母亲伊冯(Yvonne)是一名战时志愿者。

Istel didn’t want just any monument. It had to be magnificent and, more importantly, it had to be something that would last far, far into the future. He hired structural engineers who came up with a design for an elongated, granite triangle that just might – “short of the planet blowing up,” Istel said – survive to the year 6000.

伊斯特尔不想要一座普通的纪念碑。这座博物馆必须很宏伟,更重要的是,还必须能历经漫长岁月,留存于遥远的未来。他雇佣的结构工程师设计出了一个瘦长型的花岗岩三角建筑,其质地和结构使其很有可能到公元6000年依然存在。“除非地球爆炸,”,斯特尔说。

The triangular monument went up in 1991; it was 100ft long, about 4.5ft high, and faced with some 60 panels of polished, red granite. The durability came from what was inside: steel-reinforced concrete sunk into trenches 3ft deep.

这座三角花岗岩纪念碑于1991年建成;有100英尺长,大约4.5英尺高,表面是大约60块抛光的红色花岗岩板。耐久性来自建筑内部结构:其钢筋混凝土基础深入地基达3英尺。

Istel then decided he would build another monument, this one to honour US marines who fought and died in the Korean War. Then came a third monument, and a fourth, and a fifth. Today, 20 granite monuments, arranged at artful angles across the desert floor, collectively make up The Museum of History in Granite, a sort of open-air bank of knowledge for the ages. As a visitor posted on TripAdvisor, the museum is where “Martians will come to learn about humanity”.

接着,伊斯泰尔决定再建一座纪念碑,以纪念在朝鲜战争中牺牲的美国海军陆战队员。后来又有了第三座、第四座和第五座。今天,20座花岗岩纪念碑巧妙地排列在这片沙漠的地面上,共同组成了花岗岩历史博物馆(The Museum of History in Granite),一座能够历经岁月沧桑的露天知识宝库。一位游客在猫途鹰(TripAdvisor)上发帖称,该博物馆是“火星人会来此了解人类的地方”。

Istel has engraved his stone triangles with tidy distillations of much of what we know about the world, from the Big Bang to former US president Barack Obama. Visitors – and they come by the thousands each year – learn about Hinduism, the eruption of Vesuvius, the Zapotecs of central Mexico, Buddhism, the birth of Jesus, Attila the Hun, Pythagoras' theorem, the behaviour of the walrus, Greek philosophy, the Gettysburg Address, the Moon landing and terrorism in contemporary times.

伊斯特尔在他的三角形花岗岩上整齐地雕刻了许多我们对世界的认识,从宇宙大爆炸(Big Bang)到美国前总统奥巴马。每年,数以千计的游客来到此处,了解印度教(Hinduism)、维苏威火山(Vesuvius)的喷发、墨西哥中部的萨巴特克人(Zapotecs)、佛教、耶稣的诞生、匈奴王阿提拉(Attila)、毕达哥拉斯定理、海象的行为、希腊哲学、林肯总统的葛底斯堡演说、人类登陆月球,以及当代恐怖主义等。

Despite his Ivy League background, Istel believes strongly that self-acquired knowledge “is probably the best form of education”. The idea behind these thumbnail sketches of history is to offer just enough information to whet the reader’s appetite. Most topics – even big ones – get at most a couple hundred words.

尽管有着常青藤大学的背景,伊斯特尔坚信自学知识“可能是最好的教育形式”。这些历史简图背后的想法是提供足够的信息来激发读者的兴趣。大多数题目——即使是大题目——最多也只有几百个单词。

Lee handles most of the research, using reputable publishers like Oxford, Britannica and Larousse. Istel writes the text, then he and Lee go back and forth on the wording before settling on a final version. An entry titled ‘Interesting Times’ went through 59 drafts. Once the text is ready, professional engravers get to work, often toiling in the glow of lamplight under a night sky to escape the brutal desert heat. To accompany the text, artists etch illustrations into the hard stone panels.

李利用牛津(Oxford)、大英百科全书(Britannica)和拉鲁斯(Larousse)等知名出版社的工具书完成大部分研究。伊斯特尔写了文本,然后和李在最终定稿前反复斟酌措辞。一个名为“有趣的时代”的词条共修改了59稿。一旦文本准备好,专业雕刻师就开始工作,他们常常在夜空下的灯光下辛苦工作,以逃避沙漠日间的酷热。为了配合文字,艺术家们将插图蚀刻到坚硬的石板上。

The museum can’t cover everything, so “you pick and choose things that are interesting,” Istel said. He often groups related items into a single theme. The Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments appear under ‘Early Concepts of Law’. The American concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’ is mentioned on a panel called ‘Exploring and Expanding’, along with the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Some topics are of personal interest to Istel – parachuting gets ample space – while other topics come as suggestions from others. Lee came up with the idea for a panel on the ‘Great Seal of the United States’, the US’ official coat of arms.

伊斯特尔说,博物馆不能涵盖所有的东西,所以“你要挑选有趣的东西”。他经常把相关的项目归入一个主题。汉谟拉比法典和十诫并列在人类“早期法律概念(Early Concepts of Law)”的主题下。一块名为“探索与扩张(Exploring and Expanding)”的花岗岩板提到了美国人向西扩张的“天命论(Manifest Destiny)”概念,以及刘易斯(Meriwether Lewis)和克拉克(William Clark)的探险。有些题目是伊斯特尔个人感兴趣的,比如跳伞获得了足够的空间,而另一些题目则来自其他人的建议。李提出了设立“美国国徽”主题的想法,美国国徽即美国官方盾形大纹章。

Some of the inscriptions are amusing, if little more. For example, in 1809, US president James Madison proposed a cabinet post of Secretary of Beer. Hamburgers “account for nearly 60% of all sandwiches eaten”. The grizzly in California’s original Bear Republic flag “looked more like a pig than a bear”. The typical Wild West cowboy was “frequently hundreds of miles from the nearest bar or woman”. The TV mute button, which Istel considers “one of the world’s great inventions”, gets a mention.

有些碑文很有趣,但无关宏旨。例如:1809年,美国总统麦迪逊(James Madison)提议内阁设立啤酒部长一职;汉堡包“占所有被吃掉的三明治的近60%”;加州最初的灰熊共和国(Bear Republic)旗帜上的灰熊“看起来更像一头猪,而不是熊”;典型的西大荒(Wild West)牛仔“常常离最近的酒吧或女人有几百英里远”。电视静音按钮被伊斯特尔视为“世界上最伟大的发明之一”,也被提及。

Istel aims for objectivity and is a stickler for accuracy. But given that even reputable sources will disagree on certain points, it’s a difficult challenge. “The answer is, you do the best you can,” Istel said.

伊斯特尔追求客观性,并坚持准确性。但考虑到即使是可信的消息来源也会在某些问题上存在分歧,这是一个艰难的挑战。伊斯特尔说,“答案是,你要尽你所能。”

The museum’s official season runs during the cooler months. From the day after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November) through the end of March, visitors can join a 15-minute tour led by a volunteer docent, watch a short video about the museum or grab a bite at the small restaurant. During the rest of the year, the museum is open, but only for self-guided tours.

博物馆的官方开放季在凉爽的月份。从感恩节(11月的第四个星期四)后的第二天到三月底,游客们可以参加一个由志愿者导赏员带领的15分钟的游览,观看一段关于博物馆的短片,或者在小餐馆里吃点东西。其余的时间里,博物馆是开放的,但只能自助游。

Istel’s property is also dotted with pieces of art and architecture that seemingly have little to do with anything, but add a bit of absurdist fun. A 25ft section of the original spiral staircase from the Eiffel Tower rises incongruously into the desert sky. A bronze sculptural replica of Michelangelo’s ‘Arm of God’, from the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, acts as the gnomon of a sundial.

伊斯特尔的博物馆里还点缀着一些艺术和建筑作品,看似与任何事情都无关,但却增添了一点荒诞主义的乐趣。巴黎埃菲尔铁塔原有的一段25英尺高的螺旋楼梯不协调地矗立在沙漠的天空中。仿梵蒂冈西斯廷教堂天花板上米开朗基罗画作“上帝的手臂(Arm of God)”所打造的青铜雕塑复制品,在此成为一座日晷上的时针。

There is also a hollow, 21ft pink-granite pyramid, inside which is a metal plaque that marks the centre of the world. A $2 fee, on top of the museum’s regular admission of $3 per person, entitles visitors to a certificate attesting to having stood on the exact spot.

还有一个21英尺高的粉红色花岗岩空心金字塔,金字塔内有一块金属牌匾,标志此为世界中心。除了每人3美元的博物馆常规入场费外,游客还可以支付二美元的费用,获得一份证明其曾站在世界中心的证书。

The tallest and most striking element on the property is a little white chapel that sits poetically atop a 35ft earthen hill. Istel is not particularly religious, but he thought it fitting to install the chapel if for no other reason than to “keep us on our good behaviour”.

这座博物馆最高、最引人注目的元素是一座白色小教堂,教堂坐落在一座35英尺高的土坡上,很有诗意的美感。伊斯特尔并不是很虔诚的教徒,但他认为,如果只是为了“保持我们的良好行为”,那么修建这座教堂是合适的。

Istel and Lee live alongside the museum in a lovely, light-filled house with big windows that look out on chocolate-coloured mountains. There’s a library stocked with leather-bound volumes and a piano that Lee plays. Istel serves guests fizzy water – wine if they prefer – in crystal glasses.

伊斯特尔和李住在博物馆旁边的一所可爱的、光线充足的房子里,透过大窗户可以看到巧克力色的山脉。房里有一个图书室,摆放着皮装书籍和一架李常弹的钢琴。伊斯特尔用水晶玻璃杯盛的气泡水招待客人——如果他们喜欢的话也可以喝葡萄酒。

Istel has made plans in his estate for the museum and all that surrounds it. Yet – as he approaches his 90th birthday – he has no plans of slowing down.

伊斯特尔已经在他的土地上为博物馆及其周围的一切做了规划。他90岁的生日正在到来,然而他并没不打算放慢脚步。

The museum is far from complete. Dozens of blank granite panels await text and illustrations. There is also a new freeway sign to be installed, and the never-ending task of keeping up with online reviews. Istel responds to each – even the mean ones – with unfailing politeness.

这个博物馆还远未完工。几十个空白花岗岩面板等待刻上文字和插图。这里还将安装一个新的高速公路标志。还有一项永无止境的在线评论任务,伊斯特尔总是彬彬有礼地回复每一个人,即使是那些刻薄无礼的人。

If residents of other worlds do indeed visit the museum one day, Istel would not be particularly surprised. He believes that humans will one day colonise other planets and eventually stars, so it’s not inconceivable that they could, at some point, return to Earth. One granite panel bears a big question mark, along with this inscription:

如果有一天其他世界的居民真的来参观这个博物馆,伊斯特尔不会特别惊讶。他相信,人类有一天会殖民其他星球,并最终征服恒星,因此,在某种程度上,他们能够返回地球并非不可想象。一块花岗岩面板上有一个大大的问号,上面刻写着:

“May distant descendants, perhaps far from planet Earth, view our collective history with understanding and affection.”

“人类遥远的后代也许将远离地球,愿他们以理解和热爱的眼光看待我们共同的历史。”

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