听有声书《Babel, or the Necessity of Violence》


仔细梳理了一下为什么作者对殖民主义的批判这么让我不适。看到有书评里提到作者的反面人物塑造的太单一,只是一味的坏而没有理由。凭这一点就不如Harry Potter。 对殖民地和鸦片战争的描述也给我类似的感觉。也许不单单是作者,很多现在的时事评论也有同样的问题。所有这些让我不适的粗旷的分类好像都起源于这种论调里特意淡化或者避而不谈甚至混淆的被殖民地的政府的作用。用书里大英帝国和清朝中国的例子来解释一下。书中很自然把小说里的坏人和大英帝国的政府连在一起,腐败的政府,贪婪的东印度公司,坏人魔法师辅助帝国扩张并因此暴富。但是说到中国,就只讲人民的苦难,但是避而不谈清政府在制造这些苦难的重大作用,其实清政府和大英帝国的政府有本质区别吗?当然更不会去谈受苦的人民大部分在面对“境外势力”无论是大英帝国的政府势力还是像书中主角这种二鬼子都跟愿意维持继续受苦的民意。


我想这也是为什么R F Kuang的小说被归到young adult这一类别的原因。简单的非黑即白的世界观跟The Hunger Game是同道。


“Nice comes from the Latin word for “stupid”,’ said Griffin. ‘We do not want to be nice.” Nice comes to us by way of the Old French nice (‘weak, clumsy, silly’), from the Latin nescius (‘ignorant, not knowing’).

“The English made regular use of only two flavours – salty and not salty – and did not seem to recognize any of the others. For a country that profited so well from trading in spices, its citizens were violently averse to actually using them; in all his time in Hampstead, he never tasted a dish that could be properly described as ‘seasoned’, let alone ‘spicy’.”

“Tabby cats were named after a striped silk that was in turn named for its place of origin: a quarter of Baghdad named al-‘Attābiyya.”

“New words in English were a game to him, for in understanding the word he always came to understand something about English history or culture itself. He delighted when common words were, unexpectedly, formed from other words he knew. Hussy was a compound of house and wife. Holiday was a compound of holy and day. Bedlam came, implausibly, from Bethlehem. Goodbye was, incredibly, a shortened version of God be with you.”

Language was always the companion of empire, and as such, together they begin, grow, and flourish. And later, together, they fall.

The phrase tantú (坦途)literally meant ‘a flat road’, metaphorically, a ‘a tranquil life’. This is what he wanted: a smooth, even path to a future with no surprises. The only obstacle, of course, was his conscience.

The Persian word farang, which was used to refer to Europeans, appeared to be a cognate of the English foreign. But farang actually arose from a reference to the Franks, and morphed to encompass Western Europeans.”

The origins of the word anger were tied closely to physical suffering. Anger was first an ‘affliction’, as meant by the Old Icelandic angr, and then a ‘painful, cruel, narrow’ state, as meant by the Old English enge, which in turn came from the Latin angor, which meant ‘strangling, anguish, distress’. Anger was a chokehold. Anger did not empower you. It sat on your chest; it squeezed your ribs until you felt trapped, suffocated, out of options. Anger simmered, then exploded. Anger was constriction, and the consequent rage a desperate attempt to breathe.”

It doesn’t translate well into English. It means “whereabouts”. A place where one feels like home, where they feel like themselves. She wrote out the kanji characters for him in the air – 居場所 – and he recognised their Chinese equivalents. The character for a residence. The characters for a place.