Mark Twain: Life on The Mississippi

GGB 上仅节选了前十几章,定题为 Learning the River。我还是从图书馆借来书,在读全本。很好看,很有趣。

 

马克· 吐温在密西西比河畔长大,那正是蒸汽轮船在密西西比河上从出现到鼎盛的时代,做一名神气的 pilot (领航员?)就成为了他少年时的梦想。这十几节是写吐温做小学徒的经历,十分好笑。

 

做领航员,要懂得整条河,方方面面,像走在一条上千迈的繁华大街上,需要熟悉每一个窗口,每一个招牌,每一个街角,不同天气下的不同状况,上行,下行…。其实更恰当的说法,如读那本旧约新约的圣经,正着读,倒着读,每一字每一句,随时从任何地方挑出来,倒背如流。

吐温正式当上了领航员,日子,一天天,曾以为,这是他一辈子可以到终老的职业。但随着美国内战的爆发,铁路的发达,终于,汽船业萧条了,吐温被迫离开了汽船,离开了密西西比河,另谋生涯。

 

I had to seek another livelihood. So I became a silver miner in Nevada; next, a newspaper reporter; next, a gold miner, in California; next, a reporter in San Francisco; next, a special correspondent in  the Sandwich Islands; next, a roving  correspondent in Europe and the East; next, an instructional torchbearer on the lecture platform; and finally, I became a scribbler of books, and an immovable fixture among the other rocks of New England.

 

这样过了二十一年。

 

二十一年后,吐温产生了强烈的愿望,要去看看密西西比河,看看那些汽船,还有那些或许还留在船上的人:

 

After twenty-one years absence, I felt a very strong desire to see the river again, and the steamboats, and such of the boys as might be left; so I resolved to go out there.

 

想到当年在船上,越是陌生人,越能听到一些离奇的东西,而越是熟人,却只能听到那些沉闷的事情,所以,吐温决定匿名回访。

 

当年密西西比河上航行有4000多艘汽船,而今,也只有三四十艘。汽船的时代,从出现到鼎盛用了三十年,而从鼎盛到退出历史舞台,也就仅仅二十年。时过境迁,繁华已不在。

难得找到一艘还在航行的汽船,在确定领航员是以前没见过的人,吐温满意地走进驾驶舱。领航员看看他,然后一边开船一边和他聊天。聊着聊着,听到他说自己的名字,吐温才发现,眼前这位留着胡子的壮年是当年的一个瘦弱的小学徒,他还是假装不认识,接着聊着,而且揪着他回答的矛盾之处追着问东问西。终于,

 

“Here! ” (calling me by name) “you take her and lie awhile — you’re handier at it than I am. Trying to play yourself for a strange and an innocent! Why, I knew you before had spoken seven words; and I made up my mind to find out what was your little game.  It was to draw me out. Well, I let you, didn’t I? Now take the wheel and finish the watch; and next time play fair, and you won’t have to work your passage. ”

Thus ended the fictitious-name business. And not six hours out from St. Louis! But I had gained a privilege, anyway, for I had been itching to get my hands on the wheel, from the beginning. I seemed to have forgotten the river, but I hadn’t forgotten how to steer a steamboat, nor how to enjoy it, either.

 

读到了后面,也还总想到这一段,画面感强,很好笑。

正是因为有了这样丰富的生活阅历,吐温的写作有了坚实的生活基础。

 

***

吐温喜欢用 by and by, 感觉像是一点点一步步的意思,整本书中用了很多次。

 

这是一本很有兴趣会一直读下去的书,吐温的幽默无处不在。而且,也会随着他,对密西西比河,以及河上的人、船、事,有了亲近感,有了感情。

 

遗憾着英文不够好,好些地方读得稀里糊涂的。

(GGB Vol. 6, pp. 50-98)

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