细腻美丽幽默的十九世纪英国魔法 - Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell 读后

jonstrangenorrell我算不上是奥斯丁的书迷。虽然她的书改编的电影电视剧看过都很喜欢,但是她的书阴差阳错我一本都没有读过。

开始看Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell之前稍微在网上看了几眼书评。说是用奥斯丁的笔法来写魔法,因为没有参照物,心里惴惴。又有很多评论家说是成人版的哈利波特,加上zeze的推荐,所以我又满怀希望。

这本八百页的大书分成三部分。开头缓慢繁琐。第二部分就变得很好看,看到第三部分时我开始手不释卷,在两种舍不得里挣扎:舍不得放下,舍不得看完。结尾非常让我惊讶,很喜欢。

第一部分主要介绍Mr. Norrell这个英国绅士魔法师。我看两眼就放下来,想起来再看两眼,然后又随手丢开。Mr. Norrell这个小心翼翼,自私,冷酷的书呆子实在是让我没有共鸣。唯一出现的精灵的残忍和他四处扩散的绝望又让我心有余悸。最近看得这些魔幻小说,从Ursula到Gaiman都太黑暗了,黑得我这个一向神经很大条的人都有点怕怕。但是难得出现的魔法描写却又美丽非凡,让我有继续看下去的动力。

“She wore a gown the color of storms, shadows, and rain and a necklace of broken promises and regrets.”

“Woods were ringed with a colour so soft, so subtle that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all. It was more the idea of a colour – as if the trees were dreaming green dreams or thinking green thoughts.”

“With his long hair as ragged as rain and as black as thunder, he would have looked quite at home upon a windswept moor, or lurking in some pitch-black alleyway, or perhaps in a novel by Mrs. Radcliffe.”

“The very shapes of the trees were like frozen screams.”

当第一部分里最有意思的人物,疯子似的冒牌魔法师Vinculus,跑到Mr. Norrell家给他背诵了渡鸦王的预言之后,我就跟第一次看红楼梦时看到太虚幻境里那些姑娘们的薄命册一样,说什么也要看下去了。接下来一节Vinculus和Norrell的仆人Childermass(另一个有趣人物)玩纸牌那段也很好看。
预言很美。

I reached out my hand; England’s rivers turned and flowed the other way
I reached out my hand; my enemies’s blood stopt in their veins
I reached out my hand; thought and memory flew out of my enemies’ heads like a flock of starlings;
My enemies crumpled like empty sacks.
I came to them out of mists and rain;
I came to them in dreams at midnight;
I came to them in a flock of ravens that filled a northern sky at dawn;
When they thought themselves safe I came to them in a cry that broke the silence of a winter wood

The rain made a door for me and I went through it;
The stones made a throne for me and I sat upon it;
Three kingdoms were given to me to be mine forever;
England was given to me to be mine forever.
The nameless slave wore a silver crown;
the nameless slave was a king in a strange country…

The weapons that my enemies raised against me are venerated in Hell as holy relics;
Plans that my enemies made against me are preserved as holy texts;
Blood that I shed upon ancient battlefields is scraped from the stained earth by Hell’s sacristans and placed in a vessel of silver and ivory.

I gave magic to England, a valuable inheritance
But Englishmen have despised my gift
Magic shall be written upon the sky by the rain but they shall not be able to read it;
Magic shall be written on the faces of the stony hills but their minds shall not be able to contain it;
In winter the barren trees shall be a black writing but they shall not understand it…

Two magicians shall appear in England
The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me;
The first shall be governed by thieves and murderers; the second shall conspire at his own destruction;
The first shall bury his heart in a dark wood beneath the snow, yet still feel its ache;
The second shall see his dearest possession in his enemy’s hand
The first shall pass his life alone; he shall be his own gaoler;
The second shall tread lonely roads, the storm above his head, seeking a dark tower upon a high hillside.

I sit upon a black throne in the shadows but they shall not see me.
The rain shall make a door for me and I shall pass through it;
The stones shall make a throne for me and I shall sit upon it.
The nameless slave shall wear a silver crown,
The nameless slave shall be a king in a strange country

与Urlsula和Gaiman不同的是,Clarke的魔法让我感觉非常开阔大气,总是和天空,风雨,雪原,英国的树林,河流,飞鸟联系在一起。很空灵,没有其它魔法书里的魔法那么黑暗。好像呼啸山庄里的风景一样。但是更有生命力,稍微多一点阳光。可能因为书中遍布各处的英国式冷幽默的缘故?

从一开始就不喜欢的Mr. Norrell, 当第二个魔法师Strange出现后,居然有三个时刻让我对Norrell充满了同情和喜爱。他主动提出收Strange为徒的那一刻;Strange要和他断绝师生关系时,他恳求Strange “Don’t do this.”那一刻;最后他发现自己和Strange一同被精灵的诅咒关在无边黑夜自己深爱的图书馆里,心中窃喜的时刻。

第二个魔法师Strange从第一部分末尾出现就让人喜欢。故事也从此好看起来。
这个讲Strange成为魔法师前当悠闲公子时的段落也很可爱。那时Arabella (Mr. Woodhope)还不是他的妻子。热恋中的Strange. Arabella常常会质问他一些他无法回答的问题,但是他就是喜欢听她训斥。

But he [Strange] soon discovered that comfort and tranquillity were poor substitutes for Miss Woodhope’s company and so he cancelled the dinner and went immediately to the house of Mr and Mrs Redmond in order to beging being unhappy as soon as possible.

再引一些英国冷幽默句子

“For, though the room was silent, the silence of half a hundred cats is a peculiar thing, like fifty individual silences all piled one on top of another.”

“Such nonsense!” declared Dr Greysteel. “Whoever heard of cats doing anything useful!”
“Except for staring at one in a supercilious manner,” said Strange. “That has a sort of moral usefulness, I suppose, in making one feel uncomfortable and encouraging sober reflection upon one’s imperfections.”

“It has been remarked (by a lady infinitely cleverer than the present author) how kindly disposed the world in general feels to young people who either die or marry. Imagine then the interest that surrounded Miss Wintertowne! No young lady ever had such advantages before: for she died upon the Tuesday, was raised to life in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and was married upon the Thursday; which some people thought too much excitement for one week.”

“When he awoke it was dawn. Or something like dawn. The light was watery, dim and incomparably sad. Vast, grey, gloomy hills rose up all around them and in between the hills there was a wide expanse of black bog.
Stephen had never seen a landscape so calculated to reduce the onlooker to utter despair in an instant. “This is one of your kingdoms, I suppose, sir?” he said. “My kingdoms?” exclaimed the gentleman in surprize. “Oh, no! This is Scotland!”

“Mr Norrell determined to establish himself in London with all possible haste. “You must get a house, Childermass,” he said. “Get me a house that says to those that visit it that magic is a respectable profession – no less than Law and a great deal more so than Medicine.”
Childermass inquired drily if Mr Norrell wished him to seek out architecture expressive of the proposition that magic was as respectable as the Church?
Mr Norrell (who knew there were such things as jokes in the world or people would not write about them in books, but who had never actually been introduced to a joke or shaken its hand) considered a while before replying at last that no, he did not think they could quite claim that.”

Clarke访谈里一段话我也很喜欢。也许英国盛产优秀作家的原因是那下不完的雨?

I can write most places. I particularly like writing on trains. Being between places is quite liberating, and looking out of the window, watching a procession of landscapes and random-ish objects, is very good for stories. I like darkened rooms too, and lamplight, and the sound of rain. On sunny afternoons I’ve been known to draw the curtains, switch on the light and play a CD of rain falling. It creates a sort of quiet, private world which helps writing sometimes.
我几乎在哪里都可以写作。最喜欢在火车上写。处于两地之间的感觉很自由,窗外流过的风景和各种偶遇的瞬间和物件都很有益于写故事。我还喜欢暗暗的屋子,台灯灯光,和雨声。我经常在周日下午拉上窗帘,打开灯,放一盘下雨的CD. 这种安静私密的世界有助于我写东西。

BBC根据这个小说拍了一个七集的电视剧,2015年播出!期待!
strange_norrell

一对活宝-Good Omens 读后

看完了Ursula LeGuin的地海系列,开始看自己书单上列了很久的Neil Gaiman. American Gods很好,虽然节奏有点慢,但是很特别很美国。接下来看Neverwhere,节奏就快了很多,也更合我的心意。故事设定非常巧妙,非常喜欢。Gaiman的想象力真是玄妙。Neverwhere也让我对伦敦的地铁和伦敦的历史更加有兴趣了。

按照Zeze给的书单,接下来看的Good Omens简直让我乐不可支。很久很久没有看到这么好玩的书和人物了。常常看得我放声大笑!自从韦小宝之后我就没有再见过这么生动有趣的一对活宝:天使Aziraphale和魔鬼Crowley。Good Omens是Neil Gaiman和Terry Pratchett联手写的。我一直试图弄清楚Aziraphale和Crowley这两个角色是哪个作者写的。对于号称是Terry主写的书中的主角们(Antichrist和他的小集团等等)我反而兴趣缺缺。所有看到的作者访谈问答,Neil和Terry对此都三缄其口,说是两人都有份。

小说有一个人物表,其中对Aziraphale和Crowley的设定也很有趣。

SUPERNATURAL BEINGS
Aziraphale (An Angel, and part-time rare book dealer)
Crowley (An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards)

天使与魔鬼
Aziraphale (天使,业余兼职二手书店店主,主攻珍稀图书)
Crowley (堕落天使,其实与其说他堕落不如说他慢慢溜达下去的)

这两个人都被派驻在人间,一个为天堂做事,一个为地狱服务。一起工作了六千年了。他们都很喜欢二十世纪的人间。虽然两人应该是敌人,但是一起工作了六千年,就不由自主变成朋友了。

The car he was driving was a 1926 black Bentley, one owner from new, and that owner had been Crowley. He’d looked after it.
The reason he was late was that he was enjoying the twentieth century immensely. It was much better than the seventeenth, and a lot better than the fourteenth. One of the nice things about Time, Crowley always said, was that it was always taking him steadily further away from the fourteenth century, the most bloody boring century on God’s, excuse his French, Earth. The twentieth century was anything but boring.

【恶魔】Crowley开一辆1926年黑色宾利。此车从一出厂就只有一个主人,Crowley, 一直被精心保养。
Crowley迟到的原因是因为他太喜欢二十世纪了。二十世纪比十七世纪好多了,比十四世纪好得更多。Crowley的口头禅之一就是时间最好的特性就是它坚持不懈的把Crowley带离十四世纪,把十四世纪抛得远远的。十四世纪是上帝的地球上最他x无聊的(抱歉说脏话了)世纪。二十世纪就没有一个无聊的时刻。

Aziraphale collected books. If he were totally honest with himself he would have to have admitted that his bookshop was simply somewhere to store them. He was not unusual in this. In order to maintain his cover as a typical second-hand book seller, he used every means short of actual physical violence to prevent customers from making a purchase. Unpleasant damp smells, glowering looks, erratic opening hours – he was incredibly good at it.
【天使】Aziraphale 收集图书。实话说他开书店的真正目的是有个地方放他的图书收藏。他并非与众不同。与其他典型二手书商一样,他想方设法阻止顾客买走他书店里任何一本书。难闻的旧书潮味,给顾客脸色看,不规律的开门时间 --他都做得超级出色。

后面写到Crowley的公寓也很搞笑。除了典型雅痞的家具装潢电视等等,还提到他公寓里长的超级繁盛的植物。

In fact the only things in the flat Crowley devoted any personal attention to were the houseplants. They were huge and green and glorious, with shiny, healthy, lustrous leaves.
This was because, once a week, Crowley went around the flat with a green plastic plant mister, spraying the leaves, and talking to the plants.
He had heard about talking to plants in the early seventies, on Radio Four, and thought it an excellent idea. Although talking is perhaps the wrong word for what Crowley did.
What he did was put the fear of God into them.
More precisely, the fear of Crowley.
In addition to which, every couple of months Crowley would pick out a plant that was growing too slowly, or succumbing to leaf-wilt or browning, or just didn’t look quite as good as the others, and he would carry it around to all the other plants. “Say goodbye to your friend,” he’d say to them. “He just couldn’t cut it…”
Then he would leave the flat with the offending plant, and return an hour or so later with a large, empty flower pot, which he would leave somewhere conspicuously around the flat.
The plants where the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London. Also the most terrified.
整个公寓里Crowley真正稍微花了心血的是那些盆栽植物。 它们长得巨大繁茂,有着闪亮健康光泽的叶子。
那是因为每个礼拜Crowley拿个喷水瓶,给它们的叶子喷水,而且跟植物们说话。
七十年代第四电台有个节目里提到要跟盆栽植物说话,Crowley觉得这个主意不错。不过严格来讲Crowley做的其实不是跟植物“说话”。
他其实是用恶魔Crowley的威严来震撼它们。
另外,每两个月,Crowley就会选一盆植物,也许因为它长得太慢,也许是有蔫掉的叶子,或者有黄掉的叶子,甚至只是没有其他植物那么健壮而已。他会带着这盆植物在其他所有盆栽面前走一圈,一边走一边说,“跟你的朋友说再见,”他告诉其他盆栽们,“它实在是不上道。。。”
然后他会带着那个倒霉蛋离开公寓,一个多小时后带回来一个空花盆,然后把那空花盆放在公寓里最显眼的地方。
他的盆栽是全伦敦最茂盛葱郁健康的盆栽。也是全伦敦唯一被吓傻了的盆栽。

然后呢就是世界末日要来了。天使和魔鬼都很郁闷。因为他们太喜欢现在的人间,不想它被毁掉。可是和战士一样,作为天使和魔鬼他们没有自由选择的权利。而天堂和地狱都非常看好“世界末日”这个节目,全力以赴要它发生。魔鬼Crowley就想法子要说服天使和他一起把“世界末日”这个计划给破坏掉。天使Aziraphale没有魔鬼Cowley这么多花花肠子,是个守规矩的好孩子。所以Cowley就搜肠刮肚想把Aziraphale说服。

“We’ll win, of course,” he said.
“You don’t want that,” said the demon.
“Why not, pray?“
“Listen,” said Crowley desperately, “how many musicians do you think your side have got, eh? First grade, I mean.”
Aziraphale looked taken aback.
“Well, I should think-” he began.
“Two,” said Crowley. “Elgar and Liszt. That’s all. We’ve got the rest. Beethoven, Brahms, all the Bachs, Mozart, the lot. Can you imagine eternity with Elgar?”

“我们肯定会赢。”天使说。
“你才不要赢呢。”魔鬼说。
“为什么?”
“听着,”Crowley有点绝望的说,“你们天堂那边有多少音乐家?第一流的?嗯?”
天使吃了一惊。“嗯,我想。。。”他刚开口。
“两个,”Crowley插嘴,“埃尔加和李斯特。就他俩。其他都是我们这边的:贝多芬,勃拉姆斯,巴赫一家子,莫扎特,所有人。你能想象永远只听埃尔加么?”

然后有一段超级经典的对白,恶魔跟天使说如果天堂赢了,那他们就要永远反复只能看“音乐之声”那部电影,因为天堂没有啥品味。而且再也没有寿司餐馆了。这个结论终于让天使明白他不能接受世界末日的结果。决定和恶魔Cowley合作。

书里还有很多其他很经典的句子,大意都差不多。

It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.
人间历史大多数的惨烈悲剧或者伟大胜利其实都跟人之初性本善或者性本恶无关,因为它们的发生都不过是因为人之为人而已。

旧金山的小学-后续

写完艰难的历程,我们大概纠结了一周,跟桂的姐姐谈话受益甚多。桂姐姐的孩子就是在Montessori小学,正常初中,和Project-Based的高中走过一遍的过来人。最后还是决定选了Starr King的中英双语作为我们的第一选择。

感恩节台湾十日游回来去旧金山学区办公室交了申请表(按照网上大家的经验,我们绞尽脑汁选了22所学校),定了中文语言测试日期。台湾十天行对小人的中文影响很大。考试前我们以为考试会需要半个小时。结果在接待室等着的时候听到一个西班牙语测试老师和家长说十分钟就可以了。轮到我们时,小人进去不到五分钟就蹦蹦跳跳出来了。居然还得了93的高分!我们简直是万分惊讶!不知道他们是怎么用了五分钟不到就测出93分这么精确的数据来。当然我们不会去质疑这个结果。

后来小人同班同学今年一起毕业的另外三个同学也都先后去做了中文测试,分别拿了90,80,70的分数。四个孩子的申请表上第一选项都是Starr King.

上周五3/14是学区寄出第一轮录取通知书的日子。周六大家都热锅上的蚂蚁一样焦虑。因为没收到信。看了网上SF K File 博客上纷纷留言的大家说周六都没有收到信。这才放了心。

今天下午我们收到Noah同学泰碧妈妈的邮件,说她刚收到信,泰碧进了Starr King! 同班一起毕业这四个孩子里,泰碧的中文基础是最弱的,因为她来这个学校不足一年,家里父母都不是华裔,完全的英文环境。但是中文测试她还是考出了70分的好分数,因为她都听懂了,虽然不太会说。我收到邮件赶紧就跑下楼看邮箱!哇塞!我们也是Starr King!

晚上Noah的幼儿园老师很兴奋的给我们电话,说四个孩子通通进了Starr King! 哈哈,一个小小的四人帮。 这下去新学校不会太寂寞了,至少有三个熟悉面孔。虽然Starr King中文班会有两个,估计谁也不会落单。

艰难的历程第一程,也算是皆大欢喜了。尤其是看到The SF K Files里不少家长列了25+甚至30所学校,却空手而回,给分到不在他们单子上学区最烂的学校。甚至有个双胞胎妈妈,每个孩子都给填了25个学校,两个人都被分到25学校之外的比较差的一间。我们Happy House幼儿园这四个孩子真幸运啊!