NO.1 2013.10.10
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短篇女王和她"公开的秘密"
——2013年诺贝尔文学奖得主艾丽丝-门罗


【小传】短篇小说大师爱丽丝·门罗,堪称“当代契诃娃”

写作精妙准确,几近完美

2013年诺贝尔文学奖于10月10日晚7点揭晓--82岁的加拿大女小说家爱丽丝·门罗(Alice Munro)摘得大奖。门罗以短篇小说闻名全球,其影响巨大的《逃离》2004年出版,她被称为“当代短篇小说大师”,以其精致的讲故事方式著称,清晰与心理现实主义是门罗的写作特色。现在,把诺贝尔文学奖颁给她,又会有谁不服呢?

美国女作家、普利策奖得主简·斯迈利(Jane Smiley)曾大赞门罗的作品“既精妙又准确,几近完美”。这位加拿大短篇女王的确是个追求完美的人,她始终以严谨的态度对待文学,努力去写伟大的小说。她写30页短篇所用的心力,如斯迈利女士所言,足可抵得上某些作家写出整本长篇。

她在文坛的地位,好比当代契诃娃--契诃夫的女传人。在40余年的文学生涯中,门罗女士始终执著地写作短篇小说,锤炼技艺,并以此屡获大奖,其中包括三次加拿大总督奖,两次吉勒奖,以及英联邦作家奖、欧亨利奖、笔会/马拉穆德奖和美国全国书评人奖、布克奖等。在每年秋天的诺贝尔文学奖猜谜大赛中,她的大名必在候选人之列,而今天,诺贝尔文学奖终于颁给了这位82岁的伟大女作家。

在等烤炉间歇中写作

门罗一生创作了11部短篇小说集和1部类似故事集的长篇小说。在短篇小说普遍地位低下的欧美文学界,诺贝尔文学奖颁给她或许会让一些人惊讶,但更多的人对门罗获奖的感受,却应该可以用一个词来形容:“值!”

“每读爱丽丝·门罗的小说,便知生命中未曾想到之事。”这是由作家、学者、编剧等组成的布克奖评委对她的评价。

“以其精致的讲故事方式著称,清晰与心理现实主义是门罗的写作特色”,这是诺贝尔文学奖评审委员会对门罗的评价。

门罗女士娘家姓莱德劳(Laidlaw),1931年生于安大略省温格姆镇,少女时代即开始写小说,同时上大学,课余做女招待、烟叶采摘工和图书馆员。年仅20岁时,她便以大二女生之身,嫁与詹姆斯·门罗,为此退学,此后连生四女,但二女儿出生后不到一天,便不幸夭折。

门罗太太忙里偷闲,趁孩子睡了,菜也烧完,赶紧写上一句半句。这样的创作环境,料也难以出产长篇。她克服了年轻妈妈的抑郁,顽强地拓展纸上空间。

1968年,她37岁,那一年,加拿大女权运动正在最高峰,她发表第一部短篇小说集《快乐影子舞》(Dance of the Happy Shades),一炮打红,并得了她的第一座加拿大总督文学奖。此时,她已是三个女儿的母亲。

她的许多早期创作,是陆陆续续地在孩子的呼噜声旁,或者等待烤炉的间歇中完成的。事实上,《快乐影子舞》前后花了20年才写完。

50岁之后,这个女人才真正开始拥有自己的生活,她爆发惊人的创作力。不过她写的都是她30岁到50岁期间历史背景中发生的故事。1978年和1986年,门罗女士先后以《你以为你是谁?》(Who Do You Think You Are?)和《爱的进程》(The Progress of Love),获得了她第二及第三个总督奖。在上世纪八九十年代,她每隔4年都要出一部短篇小说集,开始享有世界级的名誉。

“女人谈论生老病死”

门罗出生在渥太华,大部分时间都在这个安静的城市度过。她的小说写得也都是这个城市郊区小镇上演的平民中的爱情、家庭日常生活,而涉及的却都是和生老病死相关的严肃主题。这个女作家的笔触简单朴素,但却细腻地刻画出生活平淡真实的面貌,给人带来很真挚深沉的情感,简单的文字带来丰厚的情感,这恰好显示了文学最本质的能量。很多人把她和写美国南方生活的福克纳和奥康纳相比,而美国犹太作家辛西娅o奥齐克甚至将门罗称为“当代契诃夫”,而在很多欧美媒体的评论中,都毫不吝啬地给了她“当代最伟大小说家”的称号。

门罗写的大部分是女人的故事,她的早期创作中,是一些刚刚进入家庭生活的女孩子,为爱情、性、背叛、孩子等苦恼;到后期,则是在中年危机和琐碎生活中挣扎的女性,但她们都有着欲望和遗憾,有着强大和软弱之处。

门罗的小说并不特别重视情节,更多是利用时空转换,将记忆和现实生活打碎重新组合,这也表现了她想表现的观点:看世界,或许有新的角度,文学就可以帮助人们重新认识世界。她曾经在一篇散文中介绍读小说的方式:“小说不像一条道路,它更像一座房子。你走进里面,待一小会儿,这边走走,那边转转,观察房间和走廊间的关联,然后再望向窗外,看看从这个角度看,外面的世界发生了什么变化。”

作品

Dance of the Happy Shades(《快乐阴影的舞蹈》),1968年(获1968年加拿大总督小说奖)

Lives of Girls and Women(《女孩和女人的生活》),1971年

Something I‘ve Been Meaning to Tell You(《我一直想告诉你的事》),1974年

Who Do You Think You Are?(《你认为你是谁?》),1978年(获1978年加拿大总督小说奖)

The Moons of Jupiter(《木星的月亮》),1982年(获加拿大总督奖提名)

The Progress of Love(《爱的进程》),1986年(获1986年加拿大总督小说奖)

Friend of My Youth(《青年时代的朋友》),1990年(Trillium Book Award 崔灵奖)

Open Secrets(《公开的秘密》),1994年(获加拿大总督奖提名)

Selected Stories(《故事选集》),1996年

The Love of a Good Woman(《一个善良女人的爱》),1998年(Giller Prize 吉勒奖)

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage(《仇恨、友谊、礼仪、爱与婚姻》),2001年

No Love Lost(《无爱失落》),2003年

Vintage Munro(《蒙若精选集》),2004年

Runaway(《逃离》),2004年(Giller Prize吉勒奖)

The View from Castle Rock(《城堡岩石上的眺望》),2006年

Too Much Happiness(《太多欢乐》),2009年

(摘编自《东方早报》、《杭州日报》)

【访谈】艾丽丝·门罗访谈:我那时从不向人述说言论、思想

我其实三十六七岁才出版自己的第一本书。而我二十岁时就开始写作,那时我已结婚,有孩子,做家务。即便在没有洗衣机之类的家电时,写作也不成问题。人只要能控制自己的生活,就总能找到时间。

但如果你是个女人,尤其是有家的女人,你就得顾全所有需要你的人,无论是需要你的帮助,还是需要你的陪伴。那时女人的生活,似乎是很无定型的,她们在家里写作,但空余出的时间似乎又有很多非正式的社交活动,电话。

没人认为你具有自己独特内在的东西。你还没能证明给人看的东西,的确很难说是你所具有的。我那时从来不向人述说言论、思想。

乘孩子们午睡时写作是很难的,我不敢讲这个大话,现在的女人恐怕也做不到。这是我年轻时最艰难的地方。但某种意义上说,这也挺不错,因为那时我并没真正做好写作的准备,只是“排练”而已。如果我二十五岁时就通过出版小说迅速证明了自己,那说不定倒是件糟糕的事情。

  ——《世界文学》2007/1 《采访艾丽丝·门罗》

【作品】艾丽丝-门罗代表作《逃离》原文:Runaway

Carla heard the car coming before it topped the little rise in the road that around here they called a hill. It’s her, she thought. Mrs. Jamieson—Sylvia—home from her holiday in Greece. From the barn door—but far enough inside that she could not easily be seen—she watched the road where Mrs. Jamieson would have to drive by, her place being half a mile farther along than Clark and Carla’s.

If it was somebody coming to see them, the car would be slowing down by now. But still Carla hoped. Let it not be her.

It was. Mrs. Jamieson turned her head once, quickly—she had all she could do to maneuver her car through the ruts and puddles the rain had made in the gravel—but she didn’t lift a hand off the wheel to wave, she didn’t spot Carla. Carla got a glimpse of a tanned arm bare to the shoulder, hair bleached a lighter color than it had been before, more white now than silver-blond, and an expression that was both exasperated and amused at her own exasperation—just the way Mrs. Jamieson would look negotiating this road. When she turned her head there was something like a bright flash—of inquiry, of hopefulness—that made Carla shrink back.

So.

Maybe Clark didn’t know yet. If he was sitting at the computer, he would have his back to the window and the road.

But he would have to know before long. Mrs. Jamieson might have to make another trip—for groceries, perhaps. He might see her then. And after dark the lights of her house would show. But this was July and it didn’t get dark till late. She might be so tired that she wouldn’t bother with the lights; she might go to bed early.

On the other hand, she might telephone. Anytime now.

This was the summer of rain and more rain. They heard it first thing in the morning, loud on the roof of the mobile home. The trails were deep in mud, the long grass soaking, leaves overhead sending down random showers even in those moments when there was no actual downpour from the sky. Carla wore a wide-brimmed old Australian felt hat every time she went outside, and tucked her long thick braid down her shirt.

Nobody showed up for trail rides—even though Clark and Carla had gone around posting signs at all the campsites, in the cafés, and on the tourist-office bulletin board, and anywhere else they could think of. Only a few pupils were coming for lessons, and those were regulars, not the batches of schoolchildren on vacation or the busloads from summer camps that had kept them going the summer before. And even the regulars took time off for holiday trips, or simply cancelled their lessons because of the weather. If they called too late, Clark charged them anyway. A couple of them had argued, and quit for good. 

FROM THE ISSUEBUY AS A PRINTE-MAIL THIS

There was still some income from the three horses that were boarded. Those three, and the four of their own, were out in the field now, poking disconsolately in the grass under the trees. Carla had finished mucking out in the barn. She had taken her time—she liked the rhythm of her regular chores, the high space under the barn roof, the smells. Now she went over to the exercise ring to see how dry the ground was, in case the five-o’clock pupil did show up.

Most of the steady showers had not been particularly heavy, but last week there had come a sudden stirring and then a blast through the treetops and a nearly horizontal blinding rain. The storm had lasted only a quarter of an hour, but branches still lay across the road, hydro lines were down, and a large chunk of the plastic roofing over the ring had been torn loose. There was a puddle like a lake at that end of the track, and Clark had worked until after dark digging a channel to drain it away.

On the Web, right now, he was hunting for a place to buy roofing. Some salvage outlet, with prices that they could afford, or somebody trying to get rid of such material, secondhand. He would not go to Hy and Robert Buckley’s Building Supply in town, which he called Highway Robbers Buggery Supply, because he owed them money and had had a fight with them.

Clark often had fights, and not just with the people he owed money to. His friendliness, compelling at first, could suddenly turn sour. There were places in town that he would not go into, because of some row. The drugstore was one such place. An old woman had pushed in front of him—that is, she had gone to get something she’d forgotten and come back and pushed in front, rather than going to the end of the line, and he had complained, and the cashier had said to him, “She has emphysema.” Clark had said, “Is that so? I have piles myself,” and the manager had been summoned to tell him that that remark was uncalled for. And in the coffee shop out on the highway the advertised breakfast discount had not been allowed, because it was past eleven o’clock in the morning, and Clark had argued and then dropped his takeout cup of coffee on the floor—just missing, so they said, a child in its stroller. He claimed that the child was half a mile away and he’d dropped the cup because no sleeve had been provided. They said that he hadn’t asked for a sleeve. He said that he shouldn’t have had to ask.

Et cetera.

“You flare up,” Carla said.

“That’s what men do.”

She had not dared say anything about his row with Joy Tucker, whom he now referred to as Joy-Fucker. Joy was the librarian from town who boarded her horse with them, a quick-tempered little chestnut mare named Lizzie. Joy Tucker, when she was in a jokey mood, called her Lizzie Borden. Yesterday, she had driven out, not in a jokey mood at all, and complained about the roof’s not being fixed and Lizzie looking so miserable, as if she might have caught a chill. There was nothing the matter with Lizzie, actually. Clark had even tried—for him—to be placating. But then it was Joy Tucker who flared up and said that their place was a dump, and Lizzie deserved better, and Clark said, “Suit yourself.” Joy had not—or not yet—removed Lizzie, but Clark, who had formerly made the mare his pet, refused to have anything more to do with her.

The worst thing, as far as Carla was concerned, was the absence of Flora, the little white goat who kept the horses company in the barn and in the fields. There had been no sign of her for two days, and Carla was afraid that wild dogs or coyotes had got her, or even a bear.

She had dreamed of Flora last night and the night before. In the first dream, Flora had walked right up to the bed with a red apple in her mouth, but in the second dream—last night—she had run away when she saw Carla coming. Her leg seemed to be hurt, but she ran anyway. She led Carla to a barbed-wire barricade of the kind that might belong on some battlefield, and then she—Flora—slipped through it, hurt leg and all, just slithered through like a white eel and disappeared.

Up until three years ago, Carla had never really looked at mobile homes. She hadn’t called them that, either. Like her parents, she would have thought the term “mobile home” pretentious. Some people lived in trailers, and that was all there was to it. One trailer was no different from another. When she moved in here, when she chose this life with Clark, she began to see things in a new way. After that, it was only the mobile homes that she really looked at, to see how people had fixed them up—the kind of curtains they had hung, the way they had painted the trim, the ambitious decks or patios or extra rooms they had built on. She could hardly wait to get to such improvements herself.

Clark had gone along with her ideas for a while. He had built new steps, and spent a lot of time looking for an old wrought-iron railing for them. He hadn’t complained about the money spent on paint for the kitchen and bathroom or the material for curtains.

What he did balk at was tearing up the carpet, which was the same in every room and the thing that she had most counted on replacing. It was divided into small brown squares, each with a pattern of darker brown, rust, and tan squiggles and shapes. For a long time, she had thought that the same squiggles and shapes were arranged the same way in each square. Then, when she had had more time, a lot of time, to examine them, she decided that there were four patterns joined together to make identical larger squares. Sometimes she could pick out the arrangement easily and sometimes she had to work to see it.

She did this at times when Clark’s mood had weighted down all their indoor space. The best thing then was to invent or remember some job to do in the barn. The horses would not look at her when she was unhappy, but Flora, who was never tied up, would come and rub against her, and look up with an expression that was not quite sympathy; it was more like comradely mockery in her shimmering yellow-green eyes.

Flora had been a half-grown kid when Clark brought her home from a farm where he’d gone to bargain for some horse tackle. He had heard that a goat was able to put horses at ease and he wanted to try it. At first she had been Clark’s pet entirely, following him everywhere, dancing for his attention. She was as quick and graceful and provocative as a kitten, and her resemblance to a guileless girl in love had made them both laugh. But as she grew older she seemed to attach herself to Carla, and in this attachment she was suddenly much wiser, less skittish—she seemed capable, instead, of a subdued and ironic sort of humor. Carla’s behavior with the horses was tender and strict and rather maternal, but the comradeship with Flora was quite different. Flora allowed her no sense of superiority.

“Still no sign of Flora?” she said as she pulled off her barn boots. Clark had posted a “lost goat” notice on the Web.

“Not so far,” he said, in a preoccupied but not unfriendly voice. He suggested, not for the first time, that Flora might have just gone off to find herself a billy.

No word about Mrs. Jamieson.

Carla put the kettle on. Clark was humming to himself as he often did when he sat in front of the computer. Sometimes he talked back to it. “Bullshit,” he might say, replying to some challenge. He laughed occasionally, but rarely remembered what the joke was when she asked him afterward.

Carla called, “Do you want tea?” And to her surprise he got up and came into the kitchen.

“So,” he said. “So, Carla.”

“What?”

“So she phoned.”

“Who?”

“Her majesty. Queen Sylvia. She just got back.”

“I didn’t hear the car.”

“I didn’t ask you if you did.”

“So what did she phone for?”

“She wants you to go and help her straighten up the house. That’s what she said. Tomorrow.”

“What did you tell her?”

“I told her sure. But you’d better phone up and confirm.”

Carla said, “Why do I have to, if you told her?” She poured their mugs of tea. “I cleaned up her house before she left. I don’t see what there could be to do so soon.”

“Maybe some coons got in and made a mess of it while she was gone. You never know.”

“I don’t have to phone her right this minute. I want to drink my tea and I want to take a shower.”

“The sooner the better.”

Carla took her tea into the bathroom.

“We have to go to the laundromat. When the towels dry out, they still smell moldy.”

“We’re not changing the subject, Carla.”

Even after she’d got in the shower, he stood outside the door and called to her.

“I am not going to let you off the hook, Carla.”

She thought he might still be standing there when she came out, but he was back at the computer. She dressed as if she were going to town—she hoped that if they could get out of there, go to the laundromat, get a takeout at the cappuccino place, they might be able to talk in a different way, some release might be possible. She went into the living room with a brisk step and put her arms around him from behind. But as soon as she did that a wave of grief swallowed her up—it must have been the heat of the shower, loosening her tears—and she bent over him, crumbling and crying.

He took his hands off the keyboard but sat still.

“Just don’t be mad at me,” she said.

“I’m not mad. I hate when you’re like this, that’s all.”

“I’m like this because you’re mad.”

“Don’t tell me what I am. You’re choking me. Go and get control of yourself. Start supper.”

That was what she did. It was obvious by now that the five-o’clock person wasn’t coming. She got out the potatoes and started to peel them, but her tears would not stop. She wiped her face with a paper towel and tore off a fresh one to take with her and went out into the rain. She didn’t go into the barn because it was too miserable in there without Flora. She walked along the lane back to the woods. The horses were in the other field. They came over to the fence to watch her, but all except Lizzie, who capered and snorted a bit, had the sense to understand that her attention was elsewhere.

FROM THE ISSUEBUY AS A PRINTE-MAIL THIS

It had started when they read the obituary, Mr. Jamieson’s obituary, in the city paper. Until the year before, they had known the Jamiesons only as neighbors who kept to themselves. She taught botany at the college forty miles away, so she had to spend a good deal of her time on the road. He was a poet. But for a poet, and for an old man—perhaps twenty years older than Mrs. Jamieson—he was rugged and active. He improved the drainage system on his place, cleaning out the culvert and lining it with rocks. He dug and planted and fenced a vegetable garden, cut paths through the woods, looked after repairs on the house—not just the sort of repairs that almost any house owner could manage after a while but those that involved plumbing, wiring, roofing, too.

When they read the obituary, Carla and Clark learned for the first time that Leon Jamieson had been the recipient of a large prize five years before his death. A prize for poetry.

Shortly afterward, Clark said, “We could’ve made him pay.”

Carla knew at once what he was talking about, but she took it as a joke.

“Too late now,” she said. “You can’t pay once you’re dead.”

“He can’t. She could.”

“She’s gone to Greece.”

“She’s not going to stay in Greece.”

“She didn’t know,” Carla said more soberly. “She didn’t have anything to do with it.”

“I didn’t say she did.”

“She doesn’t have a clue about it.”

“We could fix that.”

Carla said, “No. No.”

Clark went on as if she hadn’t spoken.

“We could say we’re going to sue. People get money for stuff like that all the time.”

“How could you do that? You can’t sue a dead person.”

“Threaten to go to the papers. Big-time poet. The papers would eat it up. All we have to do is threaten and she’d cave in. How much are we going to ask for?”

“You’re just fantasizing,” Carla said. “You’re joking.”

“No. Actually, I’m not.”

Carla said that she didn’t want to talk about it anymore, and he said O.K. But they talked about it the next day, and the next, and the next. He sometimes got notions like this, which were not practicable, which might even be illegal. He talked about them with growing excitement and then—she wasn’t sure why—he dropped them. If the rain had stopped, if this had turned into a normal summer, he might have let this idea go the way of the others. But that had not happened, and during the last month he had harped on about the scheme as if it were perfectly feasible. The question was how much money to ask for. Too little and the woman might not take them seriously; she might think they were bluffing. Too much might get her back up and she might become stubborn.

Carla had stopped pretending she thought he was joking. Instead, she told him that it wouldn’t work. She said that, for one thing, people expected poets to behave that way. So it wouldn’t be worth paying out money to cover it up.

“How do you know?” Clark said.

He said that it would work if it was done right. Carla was to break down and tell Mrs. Jamieson the whole story. Then Clark would move in, as if it had all been a surprise to him, he had just found out. He would be outraged; he would talk about telling the world. He would let Mrs. Jamieson be the one who first mentioned money.

“You were injured. You were molested and humiliated and I was injured and humiliated because you are my wife. It’s a question of respect.”

Over and over again he talked to her in this way. She tried to deflect him, but he insisted.

“Promise,” he said. “Promise.”

All this was because of what she had told him—things she could not now retract or deny.

Sometimes he gets interested in me?

The old guy?

Sometimes he calls me into the room when she’s not there?

When she has to go out shopping and the nurse isn’t there, either?

A lucky inspiration of hers, one that instantly pleased him.

So what do you do then? Do you go in?

She played shy.

Sometimes.

He calls you into his room. So? Carla? So, then?

I go in to see what he wants.

So what does he want?

This was asked and told in whispers, even when there was nobody to hear, even when they were in the neverland of their bed. A bedtime story, in which the details were important and had to be added to each time, with convincing reluctance, shyness, giggles. (Dirty, dirty.) And it was not only he who was eager and grateful. She was, too. Eager to please and excite him, to excite herself. Grateful every time that it still worked.

And in one part of her mind it was true: she saw the randy old man, the bump he made in the sheet, bedridden, almost beyond speech but proficient in sign language, indicating his desire, trying to nudge and finger her into complicity, into obliging stunts and intimacies. (Her refusal a necessity, but also, perhaps, strangely, slightly disappointing to Clark.)

Now and then came an image that she had to hammer down lest it spoil everything. She would think of the real dim and sheeted body, drugged and shrinking every day in its hospital bed, glimpsed only a few times, when Mrs. Jamieson or the visiting nurse had neglected to close the door. She herself never actually coming closer to him than that.

In fact, she had dreaded going to the Jamiesons’, but she needed the money, and she felt sorry for Mrs. Jamieson, who seemed so haunted and bewildered, as if she were walking in her sleep. Once or twice, Carla had burst out and done something really silly just to loosen up the atmosphere. The kind of thing she did when clumsy and terrified riders were feeling humiliated. She used to try it, too, when Clark was stuck in his moods. It didn’t work with him anymore. But the story about Mr. Jamieson had worked, decisively.

FROM THE ISSUEBUY AS A PRINTE-MAIL THIS

At the house there was nothing for Sylvia to do except open the windows. And think—with an eagerness that dismayed without really surprising her—of how soon she could see Carla.

All the paraphernalia of illness had been removed. The room that had been Sylvia and her husband’s bedroom and then his death chamber had been cleaned out and tidied up to look as if nothing had ever happened in it. Carla had helped with all that, during the few frenzied days between the crematorium and the departure for Greece. Every piece of clothing Leon had ever worn and some things he hadn’t, some gifts from his sisters that had never been taken out of their packages, had been piled in the back seat of the car and taken to the thrift shop. His pills, his shaving things, unopened cans of the fortified drink that had sustained him as long as anything could, cartons of the sesame-seed snaps that had at one time been his favorite snack, the plastic bottles full of the lotion that had eased his back, the sheepskins on which he had lain—all of that was dumped into plastic bags to be hauled away as garbage, and Carla didn’t question a thing. She never said, “Maybe somebody could use that,” or pointed out that whole cartons of cans were unopened. When Sylvia said, “I wish I hadn’t taken the clothes to town. I wish I’d burned them all up in the incinerator,” Carla showed no surprise.

They cleaned the oven, scrubbed out the cupboards, wiped down the walls and the windows. One day Sylvia sat in the living room going through all the condolence letters she had received. (There was no accumulation of papers and notebooks to be attended to, as you might have expected with a writer, no unfinished work or scribbled drafts. He had told her, months before, that he had pitched everything. And no regrets.) The sloping south wall of the house was mostly big windows. Sylvia looked up, surprised by the watery sunlight that had come out—or possibly by the shadow of Carla on top of a ladder, bare-legged, bare-armed, her resolute face crowned with a frizz of dandelion hair that was too short for her braid. She was vigorously spraying and scrubbing the glass. When she saw Sylvia looking at her, she stopped and flung out her arms as if she were splayed there, making a preposterous gargoyle-like face. They both began to laugh. Sylvia felt this laughter running through her like a sweet stream. She turned back to her letters and soon decided that all these kind, genuine, or perfunctory words, the tributes and the regrets, could go the way of the sheepskins and the crackers.

When she heard Carla taking the ladder down, heard boots on the deck, she was suddenly shy. She sat where she was with her head bowed as Carla came into the room and passed behind her, on her way to the kitchen to put the pail and the paper towels back under the sink. She hardly halted—she was quick as a bird—but she managed to drop a kiss on Sylvia’s bent head. Then she went on. She was whistling something to herself, perhaps had been whistling the whole time.

That kiss had been in Sylvia’s mind ever since. It meant nothing in particular. It meant Cheer up. Or Almost done. It meant that they were good friends who had got through a lot of depressing work together. Or maybe just that the sun had come out. That Carla was thinking of getting home to her horses. Nevertheless, Sylvia saw it as a bright blossom, its petals spreading inside her with a tumultuous heat, like a menopausal flash.

Every so often there had been a special girl student in one of her classes—one whose cleverness and dedication and awkward egotism, or even genuine passion for the natural world, reminded her of her young self. Such girls hung around her worshipfully, hoped for some sort of intimacy they could not—in most cases—imagine, and soon got on her nerves. 

Carla was nothing like them. If she resembled anybody in Sylvia’s life, it would have to be certain girls she had known in high school—those who were bright but not too bright, easy athletes but not competitive, buoyant but not rambunctious. Naturally happy.

The day after Sylvia’s return, she was speaking to Carla about Greece.

“Where I was, this little tiny village with my two old friends, well, it was the sort of place where the very occasional tourist bus would stop, as if it had got lost, and the tourists would get off and look around and they were absolutely bewildered because they weren’t anywhere. There was nothing to buy.”

The large-limbed, uncomfortable, dazzling girl was sitting there at last, in the room that had been filled with thoughts of her. She was faintly smiling, belatedly nodding.

“And at first I was bewildered, too. It was so hot. But it’s true about the light. It’s wonderful. And then I figured out what there was to do. There were just these few simple things, but they could fill the day. You walk half a mile down the road to buy some oil, and half a mile in the other direction to buy your bread or your wine, and that’s the morning. Then you eat some lunch under the trees, and after lunch it’s too hot to do anything but close the shutters and lie on your bed and maybe read. Later on, you notice that the shadows are longer and you get up and go for a swim. Oh,” she interrupted herself. “Oh, I forgot.”

She jumped up and went to get the present she had brought, which in fact she had not forgotten about at all. She had not wanted to hand it to Carla right away—she had wanted the moment to come more naturally, and while she was speaking she had thought ahead to the moment when she could mention the sea, going swimming. And then say, as she now said, “Swimming reminded me of this because it’s a little replica, you know, it’s a little replica of the horse they found under the sea. Cast in bronze. They dredged it up, after all this time. It’s supposed to be from the second century B.C.”

When Carla had come in and looked around for work to do, Sylvia had said, “Oh, just sit down a minute. I haven’t had anybody to talk to since I got back. Please.” Carla had sat down on the edge of a chair, legs apart, hands between her knees, looking somehow desolate. As if reaching for some distant politeness, she had said, “How was Greece?”

Now she was standing, with the tissue paper crumpled around the horse, which she had not fully unwrapped.

“It’s said to represent a racehorse,” Sylvia said. “Making that final spurt, the last effort in a race. The rider, too—the boy—you can see that he’s urging the horse on to the limit of its strength.”

She did not mention that the boy had made her think of Carla, and she could not now have said why. He was only ten or eleven years old. Maybe the strength and grace of the arm that must have held the reins, or the wrinkles in his childish forehead, the absorption and the pure effort there. It was, in some way, like Carla cleaning the windows last spring. Her strong legs in her shorts, her broad shoulders, her big dedicated swipes at the glass, and then the way she had splayed herself out as a joke, inviting or even commanding Sylvia to laugh.

“You can see that,” Carla said, conscientiously now examining the little bronzy-green statue. “Thank you very much.”

“You are welcome. Let’s have coffee, shall we? I’ve just made some. The coffee in Greece was strong, a little stronger than I liked, but the bread was heavenly. Sit down another moment, please do. You should stop me going on and on this way. What about here? How has life been here?”

“It’s been raining most of the time.”

“I can see that. I can see it has,” Sylvia called from the kitchen end of the big room. Pouring the coffee, she decided that she would keep quiet about the other gift she had brought. It hadn’t cost her anything (the horse had cost more than the girl could probably guess); it was only a beautiful small pinkish-white stone that she had picked up on the road.

“They don’t want you there unless you’ve been beaten up. And everybody would find out and it would be bad for our business.”

Sylvia smiled gently. “Is this a time to think about that?”

Then Carla actually laughed. “I know,” she said. “I’m insane.”

“Listen,” Sylvia said. “Listen to me. If you had the money to go, where would you go? What would you do?”

“I would go to Toronto,” Carla said, readily enough. “But I wouldn’t go near my brother. I’d stay in a motel or something and I’d get a job at a riding stable.”

“You think you could do that?”

“I was working at a riding stable the summer I met Clark. I’m more experienced now than I was then. A lot more.”

“And all that’s stopping you is lack of money?”

Carla took a deep breath. “All that’s stopping me,” she said.

“All right,” Sylvia said. “Now, listen to what I propose. I don’t think you should go to a motel. I think you should take the bus to Toronto and go to stay with a friend of mine. Her name is Ruth Stiles. She has a big house and she lives alone and she won’t mind having somebody to stay. You can stay there till you find a job. I’ll help you with some money. There must be lots of riding stables around Toronto.”

“There are.”

“So what do you think? Do you want me to phone and find out what time the bus goes?”

Carla said yes. She was shivering. She ran her hands up and down her thighs and shook her head roughly from side to side.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’ll pay you back. I mean, thank you. I’ll pay you back. I don’t know what to say.”

Sylvia was already at the phone, dialling the bus depot.

“Sh-h-h, I’m getting the times,” she said. She listened and hung up. “I know you will. You agree about Ruth’s? I’ll let her know. There’s one problem, though.” She looked critically at Carla’s shorts and T-shirt. “You can’t very well go in those clothes.”

“I can’t go home to get anything,” Carla said in a panic. “I’ll be all right.”

“The bus will be air-conditioned. You’ll freeze. There must be something of mine you could wear. Aren’t we about the same height?”

“You’re ten times skinnier,” Carla said.

“I didn’t use to be.”

In the end, they decided on a brown linen jacket, hardly worn—Sylvia had considered it to be a mistake for herself, the style too brusque—and a pair of tailored tan pants and a cream-colored silk shirt. Carla’s sneakers would have to do, because her feet were two sizes larger then Sylvia’s.

Carla went to take a shower—something she had not bothered with, in her state of mind that morning—and Sylvia phoned Ruth. Ruth was going to be out at a meeting that evening, but she would leave the key with her upstairs tenants and all Carla would have to do was ring their bell.

FROM THE ISSUEBUY AS A PRINTE-MAIL THIS

“She’ll have to take a cab from the bus depot, though. I assume she’s O.K. to manage that?” Ruth said.

Sylvia laughed. “She’s not a lame duck, don’t worry. She is just a person in a bad situation, the way it happens.”

“Well, good. I mean, good she’s getting out.”

“Not a lame duck at all,” Sylvia said, thinking of Carla trying on the tailored pants and linen jacket. How quickly the young recover from a fit of despair and how handsome the girl had looked in the fresh clothes.

The bus would stop in town at twenty past two. Sylvia decided to make omelettes for lunch, to set the table with the dark-blue cloth, and to get down the crystal glasses and open a bottle of wine.

“I hope you can eat something,” she said, when Carla came out clean and shining in her borrowed clothes. Her softly freckled skin was flushed from the shower and her hair was damp and darkened, out of its braid, the sweet frizz now flat against her head. She said that she was hungry, but when she tried to get a forkful of the omelette to her mouth her trembling hands made it impossible.

“I don’t know why I’m shaking like this,” she said. “I must be excited. I never knew it would be this easy.”

“It’s very sudden,” Sylvia said judiciously. “Probably it doesn’t seem quite real.”

“It does, though. Everything now seems really real. It’s like the time before—that’s when I was in a daze.”

“Maybe when you make up your mind to something, when you really make up your mind, that’s how it is. Or that’s how it should be. Easy.”

“If you’ve got a friend,” Carla said with a self-conscious smile and a flush spreading over her forehead. “If you’ve got a true friend. I mean, like you.” She laid down the knife and fork and raised her wineglass with both hands. “Drinking to a true friend,” she said, uncomfortably. “I probably shouldn’t even take a sip, but I will.”

“Me, too,” Sylvia said with a pretense of gaiety, but she spoiled the moment by saying, “Are you going to phone him? Or what? He’ll have to know. At least he’ll have to know where you are by the time he’d be expecting you home.”

“Not the phone,” Carla said, alarmed. “I can’t do it. Maybe if you—”

“No,” Sylvia said. “No.”

“No, that’s stupid of me. I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just hard to think straight. What I maybe should do is put a note in the mailbox. But I don’t want him to get it too soon. I don’t want us to even drive past there when we’re going into town. I want to go the back way. So if I write it—if I write it, could you, could you maybe slip it in the box when you come back?”

Sylvia agreed to this, seeing no good alternative. She brought pen and paper and poured a little more wine. Carla sat thinking, then wrote a few words.

I have gone away. I will be all write.  These were the words that Sylvia read when she unfolded the paper on her way back from the bus station. She was sure that Carla knew “right” from “write.” It was just that she had been talking about writing a note and she was in a state of exalted confusion. More confusion perhaps than Sylvia had realized. The wine had brought out a stream of talk, but it had not seemed to be accompanied by any particular grief or upset. She had talked about the horse barn where she had worked when she was eighteen and just out of high school—that was where she’d met Clark. Her parents had wanted her to go to college, and she had agreed, as long as she could choose to be a veterinarian. She had been one of those dorky girls in high school, one of those girls they made rotten jokes about, but she didn’t care. All she really wanted, and had wanted all her life, was to work with animals and live in the country.

Clark was the best riding teacher they had—and good-looking, too. Scads of women were after him—they would take up riding just to get him as their teacher. She had teased him about this, and at first he seemed to like it, but then he got annoyed. She tried to make up for it by getting him talking about his dream—his plan, really—to have a riding school, a horse stable, someplace out in the country. One day, she came in to work and saw him hanging up his saddle and realized that she had fallen in love with him.

Maybe it was just sex. It was probably just sex.

When fall came and she was supposed to leave for college, she refused to go. She said she needed a year off.

Clark was very smart, but he hadn’t waited even to finish high school, and he had altogether lost touch with his family. He thought families were like a poison in your blood. He had been an attendant in a mental hospital, a disk jockey on a radio station in Lethbridge, Alberta, a member of a road crew near Thunder Bay, an apprentice barber, a salesman in an Army-surplus store. And those were only the jobs he had told her about.

She had nicknamed him Gypsy Rover, because of the song, an old song her mother used to sing. And she took to singing it around the house all the time, till her mother knew something was up.

Last night she slept on a goose-feather bed

With silken sheets for cover.

Tonight she’ll sleep on the cold cold ground—

Beside her gypsy lo-ov-ver.

Her mother had said, “He’ll break your heart, that’s a sure thing.” Her stepfather, who was an engineer, did not even grant Clark that much power. “A loser,” he called him. “A drifter.” He said this as if Clark were a bug he could just whisk off his clothes.

Carla said, “Does a drifter save up enough money to buy a farm, which, by the way, he has done?” He said, “I’m not about to argue with you.” She was not his daughter, anyway, he added, as if that were the clincher.

So, naturally, Carla had had to run away with him. The way her parents behaved, they were practically guaranteeing it.

“Will you get in touch with your parents after you’re settled?” Sylvia asked. “In Toronto?”

Carla raised her eyebrows, pulled in her cheeks, and made a saucy O of her mouth. She said, “Nope.”

Definitely a little bit drunk.

Back home, having left the note in the mailbox, Sylvia cleaned up the dishes that were still on the table, washed and polished the omelette pan, threw the blue napkins and tablecloth in the laundry basket, and opened the windows. She did this with a confusing sense of regret and irritation. She had put out a fresh cake of apple-scented soap for the girl’s shower and the smell of it lingered in the house, as it had in the air of the car.

Sometime in the last hour or so the rain had stopped. She could not stay still, so she went for a walk along the path that Leon had cleared. The gravel he had dumped in the boggy places had mostly washed away. They used to go walking every spring to hunt for wild orchids. She taught him the name of every wildflower—all of which, except for trillium, he forgot. He called her his Dorothy Wordsworth.

Last spring, she had gone out once, and picked him a bunch of dogtooth violets, but he had looked at them—as he sometimes looked at her—with mere exhaustion, disavowal.

She kept seeing Carla, Carla stepping onto the bus. Her thanks had been sincere but already almost casual, her wave jaunty. She had got used to her salvation.

Around six o’clock, Sylvia put in a call to Toronto, to Ruth, knowing that Carla probably wouldn’t have arrived yet. She got the answering machine.

“Ruth,” Sylvia said. “Sylvia. It’s about this girl I sent you. I hope she doesn’t turn out to be a bother to you. I hope it’ll be all right. You may find her a little full of herself. Maybe it’s just youth. Let me know. O.K.? O.K. Bye-bye.”

She phoned again before she went to bed but got the machine, so she said, “Sylvia again. Just checking,” and hung up. It was between nine and ten o’clock, not even really dark. Ruth would still be out, and the girl would not want to pick up the phone in a strange house. She tried to think of the name of Ruth’s upstairs tenants. They surely wouldn’t have gone to bed yet. But she could not remember it. And just as well. Phoning them would have been going too far.

She got into bed, but it was impossible, so she took a light quilt and went out to the living room and lay down on the sofa, where she had slept for the last three months of Leon’s life. She did not think it likely that she would get to sleep there, either—there were no curtains on the huge south windows and she could tell by the sky that the moon had risen, though she could not see it.

The next thing she knew she was on a bus somewhere—in Greece?—with a lot of people she did not know, and the engine of the bus was making an alarming knocking sound. She woke to find that the knocking was at her front door.

Carla?

Carla had kept her head down until the bus was clear of town. The windows were tinted, nobody could see in, but she had to guard herself against seeing out. Lest Clark appear. Coming out of a store or waiting to cross the street, ignorant of her abandonment, thinking this an ordinary afternoon. No: thinking it the afternoon when their scheme—his scheme—had been put in motion, eager to know how far she had got with it.

Once they were out in the country, she looked up, breathed deeply, took account of the violet-tinted fields. Mrs. Jamieson’s presence had surrounded her with a kind of remarkable safety and sanity, had made her escape seem the most rational thing you could imagine—in fact, the only self-respecting thing that a person in Carla’s shoes could do. Carla had felt herself capable of an unaccustomed confidence, even a mature sense of humor. She had revealed her life to Mrs. Jamieson in a way that seemed bound to gain sympathy and yet to be ironic and truthful. And adapted to live up to what, as far as she could see, were Mrs. Jamieson’s—Sylvia’s—expectations.

The sun was shining, as it had been for some time. At lunch, it had made the wineglasses sparkle. And there was enough of a wind blowing to lift the roadside grass, the flowering weeds, out of their drenched clumps. Summer clouds, not rain clouds, were scudding across the sky. The whole countryside was changing, shaking itself loose, into the true brightness of a July day. And as they sped along she didn’t see much trace of the recent past—no big puddles in the fields, showing where the seed had washed out, no miserable spindly cornstalks or lodged grain.

It occurred to her that she should tell Clark about this—that perhaps they had chosen what was, for some freakish reason, a very wet and dreary corner of the country, and there were other places where they could have been successful.

Or could be yet?

Then it came to her, of course, that she would not be telling Clark anything. Never again. She would not be concerned about what happened to him, or to the horses. If, by any chance, Flora came back she would not hear about it.

This was her second time, leaving everything behind. The first time had been just like the old Beatles song: she had put a note on the table and slipped out of the house at five o’clock in the morning to meet Clark in the church parking lot down the street. She was even humming that song as they rattled away. She’s leaving home, bye-bye. She recalled now how the sun had come up behind them, how she had looked at Clark’s hands on the wheel, at the dark hairs on his competent forearms, and breathed in the smell of the truck, a smell of oil and metal tools and horse barns. The cold air of the fall morning had blown in through the rusted seams of the sort of vehicle that nobody in her family ever rode in, that scarcely ever appeared on the streets where she lived. Clark’s preoccupation with the traffic, his curt answers, his narrowed eyes, everything about him that ignored her, even his slight irritation at her giddy delight—all of that had thrilled her. As did the disorder of his past life, his avowed loneliness, the unexpectedly tender way he could have with a horse, and with her. She saw him as the sturdy architect of the life ahead of them, herself as a captive, her submission both proper and exquisite.

“You don’t know what you’re leaving behind,” her mother wrote to her, in the one letter she received and never answered. But in those shivering moments of early-morning flight she certainly had known what she was leaving behind, even if she had rather a hazy idea of what she was going to. She despised their house, their back yard, their photo albums, their vacations, their Cuisinart, their powder room, their walk-in closets, their underground lawn-sprinkling system. In the brief note she left, she had used the word “authentic.”

I have always felt the need of a more authentic kind of life. I know I cannot expect you to understand this.

The bus had stopped now at a gas station in the first town on the way. It was the very station that she and Clark used to drive to, in their early days, to buy cheap gas. In those days, their world had included several towns in the surrounding countryside, and they had sometimes behaved like tourists, sampling the specialties in grimy hotel bars. Pigs’ feet, sauerkraut, potato pancakes, beer. They would sing all the way home like crazy hillbillies.

But after a while all outings came to be seen as a waste of time and money. They were what people did before they understood the realities of their lives.

She was crying now—her eyes had filled up without her realizing it. She tried to think about Toronto, the first steps ahead. The taxi, the house she had never seen, the strange bed she would sleep in alone. Looking in the phone book tomorrow for the addresses of riding stables, then getting to wherever they were, asking for a job.

She could not picture it. Herself riding on the subway or a streetcar, caring for new horses, talking to new people, living among hordes of people every day who were not Clark. A life, a place, chosen for that specific reason: that it would not contain Clark.

The strange and terrible thing about that world of the future, as she now pictured it, was that she would not exist in it. She would only walk around, and open her mouth and speak, and do this and do that. She would not really be there. And what was strange about it was that she was doing all this, she was riding on this bus, in the hope of recovering herself. As Mrs. Jamieson might say—and as she herself might have said with satisfaction—taking charge of her own life. With nobody glowering over her, nobody’s mood infecting her with misery, no implacable mysterious silence surrounding her.

But what would she care about? How would she know that she was alive?

While she was running away from him—now—Clark still kept his place in her life. But when she was finished running away, when she just went on, what would she put in his place? What else—who else—could ever be so vivid a challenge?

FROM THE ISSUEBUY AS A PRINTE-MAIL THIS

She managed to stop crying but she had started to shake. She was in a bad way and would have to take hold, get a grip on herself. “Get a grip on yourself,” Clark had sometimes told her, passing through a room where she was scrunched up, trying not to weep, and that indeed was what she must do now.

They had stopped in another town. This was the third town away from the one where she had got on the bus, which meant that they had passed through the second town without her even noticing. The bus must have stopped, the driver must have called out the name, and she had not heard or seen anything, in her fog of fright. Soon enough, they would reach the highway, they would be tearing along toward Toronto.

And she would be lost.

She would be lost. What would be the point of getting into a taxi and giving the new address, of getting up in the morning and brushing her teeth and going into the world?

Her feet seemed now to be at some enormous distance from her body. Her knees in the unfamiliar crisp pants were weighted with irons. She was sinking to the ground like a stricken horse.

Already the bus had loaded on the few passengers and parcels that had been waiting in this town. A woman and a baby in its stroller were waving goodbye to somebody. The building behind them, the café that served as a bus stop, was also in motion; a liquefying wave passed through the bricks and windows as if they were about to dissolve. In peril, Carla pulled her huge body, her iron limbs, forward. She stumbled. She cried out, “Let me off.”

The driver braked. He called back irritably, “I thought you were going to Toronto.” People gave her casually curious looks. No one seemed to understand that she was in anguish.

“I have to get off here.”

‘‘There’s a washroom in the back.”

“No. No. I have to get off.”

“I’m not waiting. You understand that? You got luggage underneath?”

“No. Yes. No.”

“No luggage?”

A voice in the bus said, “Claustrophobia. That’s what’s the matter with her.”

“You sick?” the driver said.

“No. No. I just want off.”

“O.K. O.K. Fine by me.”

Come and get me. Please. Come and get me.

I will.

The door was not locked. And it occurred to Sylvia that she should be locking it now, not opening it, but it was too late, she had it open.

And nobody there.

Yet she was sure, sure, that the knocking had been real.

She closed the door and this time she locked it.

There was a playful sound, a tinkling tapping sound, coming from the wall of windows. She switched the light on, but saw nothing there, and switched it off again. Some animal—maybe a squirrel? The French doors leading to the patio had not been locked, either. Not even really closed, since she had left them open an inch or so to air the house. She started to close them, and then somebody laughed, close by, close enough to be in the room with her.

“It’s me,” a man said. “Did I scare you?”

He was pressed against the glass of the door; he was right beside her.

“It’s Clark,” he said. “Clark from down the road.”

She was not going to ask him in, but she was afraid to shut the door in his face. He might grab it before she could get it closed. She didn’t want to turn on the light, either. She slept in a T-shirt. She should have pulled the quilt from the sofa and wrapped it around herself, but it was too late now.

“Did you want to get dressed?” he said. “What I got in here could be the very things you need.”

He had a shopping bag in his hand. He thrust it at her, but did not try to move forward with it.

“What?” she said in a choppy voice.

“Look and see. It’s not a bomb. There, take it.”

She felt inside the bag, not looking. Something soft. And then she recognized the buttons of the jacket, the silk of the shirt, the belt on the pants.

“Just thought you’d better have them back,” he said. “They’re yours, aren’t they?”

She tightened her jaw so that her teeth wouldn’t chatter. A fearful dryness had attacked her mouth and throat.

“I understood they were yours,” he said.

Her tongue moved like a wad of wool. She forced herself to say, “Where’s Carla?”

“You mean my wife Carla?”

Now she could see his face more clearly. She could see how he was enjoying himself.

“My wife Carla is at home in bed. Where she belongs.”

He was both handsome and silly-looking. Tall, lean, well built, but with a slouch that seemed artificial. A contrived, self-conscious air of menace. A lock of dark hair falling over his forehead, a vain little mustache, eyes that appeared both hopeful and mocking, a boyish smile perpetually on the verge of a sulk.

She had always disliked the sight of him—she had mentioned her dislike to Leon, who said that the man was just unsure of himself, just a bit too friendly. The fact that he was unsure of himself would not make her any safer.

“Pretty worn out,” he said. “After her little adventure. You should have seen your face—you should have seen the look on you when you recognized those clothes. What did you think? Did you think I’d murdered her?”

“I was surprised,” Sylvia said.

“I bet you were. After you were such a big help to her running away.”

“I helped her—” Sylvia said with considerable effort. “I helped her because she seemed to be in distress.”

“Distress,” he said, as if examining the word. ‘‘I guess she was. She was in very big distress when she jumped off that bus and got on the phone to me to come and get her. She was crying so hard I could hardly make out what it was she was saying.”

“She wanted to come back?”

“Oh, yeah. You bet she wanted to come back. She was in real hysterics to come back. She is a girl who is very up and down in her emotions. But I guess you don’t know her as well as I do.”

“She seemed quite happy to be going.”

“Did she really? Well, I have to take your word for it. I didn’t come here to argue with you.”

Sylvia said nothing.

“Actually, I came here not just to return those clothes. I came here to tell you that I don’t appreciate you interfering in my life with my wife.”

“She is a human being,” Sylvia said, though she knew that it would be better if she could keep quiet. “Besides being your wife.”

“My goodness, is that so? My wife is a human being? Really? Thank you for the information. But don’t try getting smart with me. Sylvia.”

“I wasn’t trying to get smart.”

“Good. I’m glad you weren’t. I don’t want to get mad. I just have a couple of important things to say to you. One thing—that I don’t want you sticking your nose in anywhere, anytime, in my life. Another—that I’m not going to want her coming around here anymore. Not that she is going to want to come, I’m pretty sure of that. She doesn’t have too good an opinion of you at the moment. And it’s time you learned how to clean your own house. Now—” he said. “Now. Has that sunk in?”

“Quite sufficiently.”

“Oh, I really hope it has. I hope so.”

Sylvia said, “Yes.”

“And you know what else I think?”

“What?”

“I think you owe me something.”

“What?”

“I think you owe me—you owe me an apology.”

Sylvia said, “All right. If you think so. I’m sorry.”

He shifted, perhaps just to put out his hand, and with the movement of his body she shrieked.

He laughed. He put his hand on the doorframe to make sure she didn’t close it.

“What’s that?”

“What’s what?” he said, as if she were trying out a trick and it would not work. But then he caught sight of something reflected in the window, and he snapped around to look.

Not far from the house was a wide shallow patch of land that often filled up with night fog at this time of year. The fog was there tonight, had been there all this while. But now the fog had changed. It had thickened, taken on a separate shape, transformed itself into something spiky and radiant. First, a live dandelion ball, tumbling forward, then it condensed itself into an unearthly sort of animal, pure white, hellbent, something like a giant unicorn rushing at them.

“Jesus Christ,” Clark said softly. He grabbed hold of Sylvia’s shoulder. This touch did not alarm her at all—she accepted it with the knowledge that he did it either to protect her or to reassure himself.

Then the vision exploded. Out of the fog, and out of the magnifying light—now revealed to be that of a car travelling along this back road, probably in search of a place to park—out of this appeared a white goat. A little dancing white goat, hardly bigger than a sheepdog.

Clark let go. He said, “Where the Christ did you come from?”

“It’s your goat,” Sylvia said. “Isn’t it your goat?”

“Flora,” he said. “Flora.”

The goat had stopped a yard or so away from them, had turned shy, and hung her head.

“Flora,” Clark said. “Where the hell did you come from? You scared the shit out of us.”

Us.

Flora came closer but still did not look up. She butted against Clark’s legs.

“Goddam stupid animal,” he said shakily.

“She was lost,” Sylvia said.

“Yeah. She was. Never thought we’d see her again, actually.”

Flora looked up. The moonlight caught a glitter in her eyes.

“Scared the shit out of us,” Clark said to her. “We thought you were a ghost.”

“It was the effect of the fog,” Sylvia said. She stepped out of the door now, onto the patio. Quite safe.

“Yeah.”

“Then the lights of that car.”

“Like an apparition,” he said, recovering. And pleased that he had thought of this description.

“Yes.”

“The goat from outer space. That’s what you are. You are a goddam goat from outer space,” he said, patting Flora. But when Sylvia put out her hand to do the same Flora immediately lowered her head as if preparing to butt.

“Goats are unpredictable,” Clark said. “They can seem tame but they’re not really. Not after they grow up.”

“Is she grown up? She looks so small.”

“She’s as big as she’s ever going to get.”

They stood looking down at the goat, as if hoping that she would provide them with more conversation. But she apparently was not going to. From this moment, they could go neither forward nor back. Sylvia believed that she might have seen a shadow of regret in his eyes that this was so.

But he acknowledged it. He said, “It’s late.”

“I guess it is,” Sylvia said, just as if this had been an ordinary visit.

“O.K., Flora. Time for us to go home.”

“I’ll make other arrangements for help if I need it,” she said. “I probably won’t need it now, anyway.” She added lightly, “I’ll stay out of your hair.”

“Sure,” he said. “You’d better get inside. You’ll get cold.”

“Good night,” she said. “Good night, Flora.”

The phone rang then.

“Excuse me.”

“Good night.”

It was Ruth.

“Ah,” Sylvia said. “A change in plans.”

She did not sleep, thinking of the little goat, whose appearance out of the fog seemed to her more and more magical. She even wondered if, possibly, Leon could have had something to do with it. If she were a poet, she would write a poem about something like this. But in her experience the subjects that she thought a poet would write about had not appealed to Leon, who was—who had been—the real thing.

Carla had not heard Clark go out, but she woke when he came in.

He told her that he had just been checking around the barn.

“A car went along the road a while ago, and I wondered what it was doing here. I couldn’t get back to sleep till I went out and checked whether everything was O.K.”

“So, was it?”

“Far as I could see. And then while I was up,” he said, “I thought I might as well pay a visit up the road. I took the clothes back.”

Carla sat up in bed.

“You didn’t wake her up?”

“She woke up. It was O.K. We had a little talk.”

“Oh.”

‘‘It was O.K.”

“You didn’t mention any of that stuff, did you?”

“I didn’t mention it.”

“It really was all made up. It really was. You have to believe me. It was all a lie.”

“O.K.”

“You have to believe me.”

“Then I believe you.”

“I made it all up.”

“O.K.”

He got into bed.

“Did you get your feet wet?” she said.

“Heavy dew.”

He turned to her.

“Come here,” he said. “When I read your note, it was just like I went hollow inside. It’s true. I felt like I didn’t have anything left in me.”

The bright weather had continued. On the streets, in the stores, in the post office, people greeted each other by saying that summer had finally arrived. The pasture grass and even the poor beaten crops lifted up their heads. The puddles dried up, the mud turned to dust. A light warm wind blew and everybody felt like doing things again. The phone rang. Inquiries about trail rides, about riding lessons. Summer camps cancelled their trips to museums, and minivans drew up, loaded with restless children. The horses pranced along the fences, freed from their blankets.

Clark had managed to get hold of a piece of roofing at a good price. He had spent the whole first day after Runaway Day (that was how they referred to Carla’s bus trip) fixing the roof of the exercise ring.

For a couple of days, as they went about their chores, he and Carla would wave at each other. If she happened to pass close to him and there was nobody else around, Carla might kiss his shoulder through the light material of his summer shirt.

“If you ever try to run away on me again I’ll tan your hide,” he said to her, and she said, “Who are you now—Clint Eastwood?”

Then she said, “Would you?”

“What?”

“Tan my hide?”

“Damn right.”

Birds were everywhere. Red-winged blackbirds, robins, a pair of doves that sang at daybreak. Lots of crows, and gulls on reconnoitering missions from the lake, and big turkey buzzards that sat in the branches of a dead oak about half a mile away, at the edge of the woods. At first they just sat there, drying out their voluminous wings, lifting themselves occasionally for a trial flight, flapping around a bit, then composing themselves, to let the sun and the warm air do their work. In a day or so, they were restored, flying high, circling and dropping to earth, disappearing over the woods, coming back to rest in the familiar bare tree.

Lizzie Borden’s owner—Joy Tucker—showed up again, tanned and friendly. She had got sick of the rain, and gone off on her holidays to hike in the Rocky Mountains. Now she was back. Perfect timing.

She and Clark treated each other warily at first, but they were soon joking as if nothing had happened.

“Lizzie looks to be in good shape,” she said. “But where’s her little friend?”

“Gone,” Clark said. “Maybe she took off to the Rocky Mountains.”

FROM THE ISSUEBUY AS A PRINTE-MAIL THIS

“Lots of wild goats out there. With fantastic horns.”

“So I hear.”

For three or four days they had been too busy to go down and look in the mailbox. When Carla opened it, she found the phone bill, a promise that if they subscribed to a certain magazine they could win a million dollars, and Mrs. Jamieson’s letter.

My Dear Carla,

I have been thinking about the (rather dramatic) events of the last few days and I find myself talking to myself, but really to you, so often that I thought I must speak to you, even if—the best way I can do now—only in a letter. And don’t worry—you do not have to answer me.

Mrs. Jamieson went on to say that she was afraid she had involved herself too closely in Carla’s life and had made the mistake of thinking somehow that Carla’s freedom and happiness were the same thing. All she cared for was Carla’s happiness, and she saw now that she—Carla—had found that in her marriage. All she could hope was that perhaps Carla’s flight and turbulent emotions had brought her true feelings to the surface, and perhaps a recognition in her husband of his true feelings as well.

She said that she would perfectly understand if Carla wished to avoid her in the future and that she would always be grateful for Carla’s presence in her life during such a difficult time.

The strangest and most wonderful thing in this whole string of events seems to me the reappearance of Flora. In fact, it seems rather like a miracle. Where had she been all that time and why did she choose just that moment to reappear? I am sure your husband has described it to you. We were talking at the patio door, and I—facing out—was the first to see this white something, descending on us out of the night. Of course it was the effect of the ground fog. But truly terrifying. I think I shrieked out loud. I had never in my life felt such bewitchment, in the true sense. I suppose I should be honest and say fear. There we were, two adults, frozen, and then out of the fog comes little lost Flora.

There has to be something special about this. I know, of course, that Flora is an ordinary little animal and that she probably spent her time away getting herself pregnant. In a sense, her return has no connection at all with our human lives. Yet her appearance at that moment did have a profound effect on your husband and me. When two human beings divided by hostility are both, at the same time, mystified by the same apparition, there is a bond that springs up between them, and they find themselves united in the most unexpected way. United in their humanity—that is the only way I can describe it. We parted almost as friends. So Flora has her place as a good angel in my life and perhaps also in your husband’s life and yours.

With all my good wishes,

Sylvia Jamieson

As soon as Carla had read this letter she crumpled it up. Then she burned it in the sink. The flames leaped up alarmingly and she turned on the tap, then scooped up the soft disgusting black stuff and put it down the toilet, as she should have done in the first place.

She was busy for the rest of that day, and the next, and the next. During that time, she had to take two parties out on the trails, she had to give lessons to children, individually and in groups. At night when Clark put his arms around her—he was generally in good spirits now—she did not find it hard to be co?perative. She dreamed of things that were of no importance, that made no sense.

It was as if she had a murderous needle somewhere in her lungs, and by breathing carefully she could avoid feeling it. But every once in a while she had to take a deep breath, and it was still there.

Sylvia Jamieson had taken an apartment in the college town where she taught. The house was not up for sale—or at least there wasn’t a sign out in front of it. Leon Jamieson had got some kind of posthumous award—news of this was in the papers. There was no mention of any money.

As the dry golden days of fall came on—an encouraging and profitable season—Carla found that she had got used to the sharp thought that had lodged inside her. It wasn’t so sharp anymore; in fact, it no longer surprised her. She was inhabited now by an almost seductive notion, a constant low-lying temptation.

She had only to raise her eyes, she had only to look in one direction, to know where she might go. An evening walk, once her chores for the day were finished. To the edge of the woods, and the bare tree where she had seen the buzzards.

Where she might find the little dirty bones in the grass. The skull, with shreds of bloodied skin still clinging to it, that she could settle in one hand. Knowledge in one hand.

Or perhaps not.

Suppose something else had happened. Suppose he had chased Flora away, or tied her in the back of the truck and driven some distance and let her loose. Taken her back to the place they’d got her from. Not to have her around, reminding them of this bad time.

The days passed and she didn’t go. She held out against the temptation. ?

【作品】艾丽丝·门罗短篇小说《逃离》中文版

作  者:[加拿大] 艾丽丝·门罗 著 李文俊  译

定  价:28.00元

书  号:9787530209837

出 版 社:北京十月文艺出版社

装  帧:平装

出版日期:2009-07第1版第1次

在汽车还没有翻过小山——附近的人都把这稍稍隆起的土堆称为小山——的顶部时,卡拉就已经听到声音了。那是她呀,她想。是贾米森太太——西尔维亚——从希腊度假回来了。她站在马厩房门的后面——只是在更靠内里一些的地方,这样就不至于一下子让人瞥见——朝贾米森太太驾车必定会经过的那条路望过去,贾米森太太就住在这条路上她和克拉克的家再进去半英里路的地方。

倘若开车的人是准备拐向他们家大门的,车子现在应当减速了。可是卡拉仍然在抱着希望。但愿那不是她呀。

那就是她。贾米森太太的头扭过来了一次,速度很快——她得集中精力才能对付这条让雨水弄得满处是车辙和水坑的砾石路呢——可是她并没有从方向盘上举起一只手来打招呼,她并没有看见卡拉。卡拉瞥见了一只裸到肩部的晒成棕褐色的胳膊,比先前颜色更淡一些的头发——白的多了一些而不是以前的那种银褐色了,还有那副表情,很决断和下了狠劲的样子,却又为自己这么认真而暗自好笑——贾米森太太在跟这样的路况死死纠缠的时候表情总是这样的。在她扭过头来的时候脸上似乎有一瞬间闪了一下亮——是在询问,也是在希望——这使卡拉的身子不禁往后缩了缩。

情况就是这样。

也许克拉克还不知道呢。如果他是在摆弄电脑,那就一定是背对着窗户和这条路的。

不过贾米森太太很可能还会开车出去的。她从飞机场开车回家,也许并没有停下来去买食物——她应该径直回到家里,想好需要买些什么,然后再出去一趟。那时候克拉克可能会见到她。而且天黑之后,她家里的灯也会亮起来的。不过此刻是七月,天要很晚才会黑。她也许太累了,灯不开就早早儿上床了。

再说了,她还会打电话的。从现在起,什么时候都可能会打的。

这是个雨下得没完没了的夏天。早上醒来,你听到的第一个声音就是雨声,很响地打在活动房子屋顶上的声音。小路上泥泞很深,长长的草吸饱了水,头上的树叶也会浇下来一片小阵雨,即使此时天上并没有真的在下雨,阴云也仿佛正在飘散。卡拉每次出门,都要戴一顶高高的澳大利亚宽边旧毡帽,并且把她那条又粗又长的辫子和衬衫一起掖在腰后。

来练习骑马的客人连一个都没有,虽然克拉克和卡拉没少走路,在他们能想起来的所有野营地、咖啡屋里都树起了广告牌,在旅行社的海报栏里也都贴上了广告。只有很少几个学生来上骑马课,那都是长期班的老学员,而不是来休假的成群结队的小学生,那一客车又一客车来夏令营的小家伙呀,去年一整个夏天两人的生计就是靠他们才得以维持的。即令是两人视为命根子的长期班老学员现在也大都出外度假去了,或是因为天气太差而退班了。如果他们电话来得迟了些,克拉克还要跟他们把账算清楚,该收的钱一个都不能少。有几个学员嘀嘀咕咕表示不满,以后就再也不露面了。

从寄养在他们这儿的三匹马身上,他们还能得些收益。这三匹马,连同他们自己的那四匹,此刻正放养在外面的田野里,在树底下四处啃草觅食。它们的神情似乎都懒得去管雨暂时歇住了,这种情况在下午是会出现片刻的,也就是刚能勾起你的希望罢了——云变得白了一些,薄了一些,透过来一些散漫的亮光,它们却永远也不会凝聚成真正的阳光,而且一般总是在晚饭之前就收敛了。

卡拉已经清完了马厩里的粪便。她做得不慌不忙的——她喜欢干日常杂活时的那种节奏,喜欢畜棚屋顶底下那宽阔的空间,以及这里的气味。现在她又走到环形训练跑道那里去看看地上够不够干,说不定五点钟一班的学员还会来呢。

通常,一般的阵雨都不会下得特别大,或是随着带来什么风,可是上星期突然出现异象,树顶上刮过一阵大风,接着一阵让人睁不开眼睛的大雨几乎从横斜里扫过来。一刻钟以内,暴风雨就过去了。可是路上落满了树枝,高压电线断了,环形跑道顶上有一大片塑料屋顶给扯松脱落了。跑道的一头积起了一片像湖那么大的水潭,克拉克只得天黑之后加班干活,以便挖出一条沟来把水排走。

屋顶至今未能修复,克拉克只能用绳子编起一张网,不让马匹走到泥潭里去,卡拉则用标志拦出一条缩短些的跑道。

就在此刻,克拉克在网上寻找有什么地方能买到做屋顶的材料。可有某个清仓处理尾货的铺子,开的价是他们能够承受的,或是有没有什么人要处理这一类的二手货。他再也不去镇上的那家海—罗伯特·伯克利建材商店了,他已经把那店改称为海—鸡奸犯·捞大利商店,因为他欠了他们不少钱,而且还跟他们打过一架。

克拉克不单单跟他欠了钱的人打架。他上一分钟跟你还显得挺友好的——那原本也是装出来的——下一分钟说翻脸就翻脸。有些地方他现在不愿进去了,他总是让卡拉去,就是因为他跟那儿的人吵过架。药房就是这样的一个地方。有位老太太在他站的队前面加塞——其实她是去取她忘了要买的一样什么东西,回来时站回到他的前面而没有站到队尾去,他便嘀嘀咕咕抱怨起来了,那收银员对他说,“她有肺气肿呢。”克拉克就接茬说,“是吗,我还一身都有毛病呢。”后来经理也让他给叫出来了,他硬要经理承认对自己不公平。还有,公路边上的一家咖啡店没给他打广告上承诺的早餐折扣,因为时间已经过了十一点,克拉克便跟他们吵了起来,还把外带的一杯咖啡摔到地上——就差那么一点点,店里的人说,就会泼到推车里一个小娃娃的身上了。他则说那孩子离自己足足有半英里远呢,而且他没拿住杯子是因为没给他杯套。店里说他自己没说要杯套。他说这种事本来就是不需要特地关照的。

“你脾气也太火爆了。”卡拉说。

“脾气不火爆还算得上是男子汉吗?”

她还没提他跟乔依·塔克吵架的事呢。乔依·塔克是镇上的女图书馆员,把自己的马寄养在他们这里。那是一匹脾气很躁的栗色小母马,名叫丽姬——乔依·塔克爱逗乐的时候就管它叫丽姬·博登。昨天她来骑过马了,当时正碰到她脾气不顺,便抱怨说棚顶怎么还没修好,还说丽姬看上去状态不佳,是不是着凉了呀。

其实丽姬并没有什么问题。克拉克倒是——对他来说已经是很不容易了——想要息事宁人的。可是接下来发火的反而是乔依·塔克,她指责说这块地方简直就是片垃圾场,出了这么多钱丽姬不该受到这样的待遇,于是克拉克说,“那就悉听尊便吧。”乔依倒没有——或者是还没有——当即就把丽姬领回去,卡拉本来料想会这样。可是原来总把这匹小母马当作自己小宠物的克拉克却坚决不想再跟它有任何牵扯了。自然,丽姬在感情上也受到了伤害。在练习的时候总是跟你闹别扭,你要清理它的蹄子时它便乱踢乱蹬。马蹄是每天都必须清的,否则里面会长霉菌。卡拉得提防着被它瞅冷子咬上一口。

不过让卡拉最不开心的一件事还得说是弗洛拉的丢失了,那是只小小的白山羊,老是在畜棚和田野里跟几匹马做伴。有两天都没见到它的踪影了。卡拉担心它会不会是被野狗、土狼叼走了,没准还是撞上熊了呢。

昨天晚上还有前天晚上她都梦见弗洛拉了。在第一个梦里,弗洛拉径直走到床前,嘴里叼着一只红苹果,而在第二个梦里——也就是在昨天晚上——它看到卡拉过来,就跑了开去。它一条腿似乎受了伤,但它还是跑开去了。它引导卡拉来到一道铁丝网栅栏的跟前,也就是某些战场上用的那一种,接下去它——也就是弗洛拉——从那底下钻过去了,受伤的脚以及整个身子,就像一条白鳗鱼似的扭着身子钻了过去,然后就不见了。

那些马匹看到卡拉穿过去上了环形马道,便全都簇拥着来到栏杆边上——显得又湿又脏,尽管它们身上披有新西兰毛毯——好让她走回来的时候能注意到它们。她轻轻地跟它们说话,对于手里没带吃的表示抱歉。她抚摩它们的脖颈,蹭蹭它们的鼻子,还问它们可知道弗洛拉有什么消息。

格雷斯和朱尼珀喷了喷气,又伸过鼻子来顶她,好像它们认出了这个名字并想为她分忧似的,可是这时丽姬从它们之间插了进来,把格雷斯的脑袋从卡拉的手边顶了开去。它还进而把她的手轻轻咬了一下,卡拉只得又花了些时间来指责它。

(摘自《逃离》,北京十月文艺出版社)

 【作品】艾丽丝·门罗短篇小说:空间(Dimension)

本篇《空间》于2006年6月5日发表在《纽约客》杂志上,以女性的爱情、婚姻、日常生活为视角,反映女性自我成长的主题。本篇的主人公是一个生活在丈夫阴影下的小镇妇女,因为一段平常的同性交往,引来丈夫的无端猜疑和残忍报复。巨大刺激和痛苦使她行尸走肉似地活着。同样饱受煎熬的丈夫在有关异度空间的冥想之中获得了解脱。女主人公受到启发,个体意识有所觉醒。后来在一场车祸中,她帮助挽救了一名还未成年的年轻司机的生命,在将一己之爱投射于外的过程中,找到了自己的异度空间,摆脱了依附,实现了真正的自我救赎。——译者

多丽要乘三趟车才能到达所里:先坐到金卡丁,倒车去伦敦(译注:这里提到的金卡丁市、伦敦市为加拿大安大略省的两座城市。),再在伦敦换乘市郊车。她周日早晨9点出发,中间倒车等车,直到下午两点才走完100余英里的路。上车坐,下车还坐,她倒也不在意。平常工作,坐着的机会不多。

她是凯富宾馆的一名客房服务员,职责就是打扫卫生间、铺床、吸尘、擦镜子。她喜欢这工作,忙起来让她没工夫胡思乱想,晚上累得倒头便睡。有些和她一起干活的人喜欢添油加醋,把工作说得又脏又累,让你听得头皮发麻。多丽自己倒很少碰上乱得跟猪窝似的房间。这些比她年长的女人都怂恿她往上爬,劝她趁着年轻漂亮学点技能,找个坐办公室的事。但她对现状心满意足。她不想跟人打交道。

和她一起干活的人都不知道她的经历。也可能知道而不提。报纸上登过她的照片,用的是他给她和三个孩子一起拍的那张。照片上,她怀里抱着新生儿迪米特里,两边分别是望着镜头的芭芭拉·安和萨沙。那时她有一头波浪式的褐色长发,自来卷,颜色也是天生的,很讨他喜欢。她脸上是温婉、娇羞的神情,却不是本性的自然流露,多半是因为她这模样让他高兴。

那件事之后,她把头发剪了,做了漂染,又用发胶把头发直竖起来。她身材瘦了许多,名字也改用了中名“弗勒”。他们给她找的这个差事,工作地点在一个小镇上,离她原来的住处相去甚远。

这是她第三次去所里了。前两次,他拒不见面。如果这次他还不肯见她,她就打算放弃了。即便见了,一段时间内她也可能不再来了。她不想把事情做过头了。她心里也不知道自己下一步的打算。

在第一趟车上,她的心情还算平静,车走一路,她看了一路风景。她在海边长大,那里春天总是如期而至,但在这儿,冬夏之间几乎没有过渡。一个月前才下过雪,可现在已经热得可以打赤膊。田里的片片水洼明晃晃得刺眼,阳光从枯枝之间直泻而下。

换到第二趟车上后,她开始变得神经质,心里不住打鼓,生怕哪个女人和自己目的地一致。车上清一色的女人,大都穿戴整齐,或许是希望被当成去教堂做礼拜的吧。从打扮上看,上岁数的人去的教堂比较老派、正统,裙装、长统袜、帽子是必须的装束;年轻点的可能属于相对开放的教派,裤装、花头巾、耳环、莲蓬头,全都随意。细眼看去,某些着裤装的女人其实年纪也不轻了。

多丽的打扮自成一派。工作这一年半载,她没给自己买过一件新衣。上班穿工服,下班就是一身牛仔服。她早就舍去化妆的麻烦了,那时不化,因为他不许,现在没他管了,她也不化。她一头直立的金发和瘦削的素面不太协调,可她全不以为意。

到第三趟车上,她找了个靠窗的座位。为了使自己平静下来,她开始辨认各种标牌——广告牌、路标。她不想让脑子闲着,便玩起组词游戏:把随便看见的某个词拆开,然后尽可能多地组成新词。比如,“咖啡”,可以拼成“咖啡因”,“吗啡”,还有“咖喱”等新词;“馆”能组成“宾馆”、“理发馆”、“博物馆”,对了,“下馆子”。出城的沿路到处是广告牌、大型商场、停车场,甚至连房顶上都系着推销商品的气球,找几个词并不难。

多丽上两次去见他,都没有告诉桑兹太太,这次也不想说。她每周一下午与桑兹太太见面,桑兹太太鼓励她要好好生活下去,但也总是说,慢慢来,有些事急不得。她夸赞多丽做得很好,正一点点找回自我。

“我知道这些车轱辘话让人腻味得要死,”她说。“但理儿不差。”

听到自己嘴里冒出“死”这个字,她感到尴尬,好在没有为它道歉,那样反而越抹越黑。

7年前,多丽16岁,每天下学后都到医院探望母亲。她母亲刚做了个脊柱手术,正在恢复。医生说病情严重,但不至于危及生命。劳埃德是名护理员。他虽比多丽的母亲年轻几岁,却和她一样,是个老嬉皮。一有空,他就过来和她闲扯,聊起陈年旧事,他们去过的音乐会、游行示威,他们认识的那些愤怒青年,还有阖药后神志恍惚的臭事。

劳埃德喜欢开玩笑,做事沉稳,在病人中颇有人缘。他长得肩宽体壮,言谈举止透着坚定、果断,有时会被误认为医生。(他倒不是乐于被人误会,相反,他觉得好多药都是骗人的,不少医生都是混蛋。)他皮肤红润敏感,头发金黄,双目炯炯有神。

他在电梯里吻了多丽,说她是沙漠里的玫瑰。然后又自嘲地说:“这话没一点新意吧?”

“你是个诗人,自己还不知道,”她这样说出于礼貌。

一个晚上,多丽的母亲突然死于血管栓塞。母亲的很多女友都表示要接多丽去住,她在她们中一人家里过了一段时间,心里却巴不得与她的新朋友劳埃德在一起。下个生日来临之前,她怀孕了,然后他们就结了婚。劳埃德以前没结过婚,却至少有过两个孩子。孩子们的下落他不清楚,这时候大概都该长成大人了。随着年龄的增长,他的人生哲学发生了变化,他现在向往婚姻和稳定的生活,反对节育。他和多丽生活在赛谢尔特半岛上,近来却觉得这里低头抬头到处都是熟人,旧时伙伴啦,往日情人啦,陷在过去的生活里,令他不胜其烦。不久,他们从地图上相中了一个叫米尔德梅的小镇,两人便从西到东来了个大搬家。他们没有住到镇上,而是在乡下租了块地方。劳埃德在一家冰淇淋厂找了个活。他们还开垦出一片花园。劳埃德在园艺上是把好手,不仅如此,做木工活、摆弄烧劈柴的火炉、修车,没有一样拿不起来的。

然后他们有了萨沙。

“这很自然,”桑兹太太说。

“是吗?”多丽答道。

多丽总是坐在办公桌前的一张直背椅里。沙发上蒙着鲜花图案的座套,配了靠垫,她却从来不坐。桑兹太太把自己的椅子拉到桌子一侧,这样,她们说起话来中间不会隔着障碍。

“我其实一直希望你这么做,”她说。“换了我,大概也会这么做。”

刚与多丽接触的时候,桑兹太太不会说这话。就是一年前,她也会谨慎得多。她了解多丽当时的心情,多丽绝不相信有谁能设身处地为她着想,但凡是活着的人。现在,多丽明白,别人低声下气做出这种表示,是对她的体贴。桑兹太太看得出来。

桑兹太太和他们当中某些人不一样。她不苗条,也不漂亮,做事慢条斯理。年纪也不算太老。她和多丽的母亲差不多岁数,但看样子不像是当过嬉皮。她头发灰白,减成短发,某侧脸颊上长了一块胎记。她穿平底鞋、花上衣和宽脚裤。她的上衣即便花花绿绿,也让人看不出她对穿着有多在意,倒更像是有人曾提醒她注意打扮,她便听话地到商店挑了几件自觉差不离的衣服。好在她和蔼可亲,又总是办事公允、一丝不苟,那些花枝招展的衣服虽嫌唐突冒犯、不合时宜,却也不那么惹人嫌了。

“其实,前两次我根本没见着他,”多丽说。“他不肯出来见我。”

“但这次他出来了?出来见你了?”

“出来了。但我几乎认不出他了。”

“显老了?”

“可能吧。可能瘦了点。还有那衣服,那制服。我从没见他穿过那样的衣服。”

“他从前不是当过护工吗?”

“那不一样。”

“ 他看上去变了个人?”

“也不是。”多丽咬住上唇,思索到底有什么不同。他一直在发呆。她以前从没见过他象那样发呆。他似乎连该不该在她对面坐下都拿不准。她对他说的第一句话是:“你干嘛不坐?”而他说,“行吗?”

“他看上去好象丢了魂似的,”她说。“他们是不是给他吃了什么药?”

“也许为了让他安定下来吧。不过,我不知道。你们谈了

什么吗?”

多丽闹不清那能不能叫谈了。她问了一些稀松平常的问题。感觉怎么样?(还行。)吃得饱吗?(差不离。)要想散步的话,有地儿去吗?(有,但有人看着。那大概算个散步的地儿吧。大概可以管那叫散步吧。)

她说:“你该呼吸点新鲜空气。”

他说:“是啊。”

她差点问他是不是交到朋友。那口吻就像问小孩子学校怎么样,如果孩子去学校上学的话。

“我明白。我明白。”桑兹太太边说边用胳膊肘把摆在桌上的面巾盒向前推了推。多丽用不着面巾,她眼里没有眼泪,胃里却翻江倒海。

桑兹太太默不作声,她世故通达,明白此时不该插话。

后来,就好像知道多丽接下去要问似的,劳埃德告诉她有个心理医生隔段时间就来一次。

“我告诉他,他在浪费时间,”劳埃德说。“我知道的不比他少。”

多丽觉得,只有这一次,他说话有点他自己的影子。

整个探视过程,她的心一直狂跳不已。她觉得自己快晕过去了,快死了。她斗争半天才把视线移到他身上,把这个又黑又瘦、畏畏缩缩、拒人千里之外、动作僵硬失调的男人印入脑海。

这件事她没向桑兹太太说起。桑兹太太会问她,拐弯抹角地:怕什么?怕自己还是怕他?而多丽不是害怕。

萨沙一岁半的时候,芭芭拉·安出生了,等到芭芭拉·安长到两岁,他们又有了迪米特里。萨沙的名字是他们两个一齐起的。之后,他们达成协议,生男孩名字归他起,女孩则由她。

迪米特里是兄妹中唯一一个得疝气的。多丽怀疑是自己奶水不足或不够浓。要么是过浓了?总之有点不对头。劳埃德请来了母乳协会的一名工作人员。那位女士告诉多丽,无论如何不能给婴儿用奶瓶辅助喂食。她说,事情只要一开头,就一发不可收拾,过不了多久,他对母乳就会一口不沾了。照她的说法,那可是大祸临头。

她不知道多丽已经开始用奶瓶喂食了。他确实好象更喜欢奶嘴,一改成乳头,他就哭闹个没完,且越闹越凶。到三个月大,他已经完全靠奶瓶喂食。这时候,再也瞒不住劳埃德了。她告诉他自己奶水干了,只好给他奶瓶喂食。劳埃德不由分说,抓住她的乳房,挤了这边挤那边,好不容易弄出几滴颜色难看的乳汁。他骂她是个骗子。他们动了手。他说她跟她妈一个德行,都是婊子。

所有嬉皮都是婊子,他说。

没过多久,他们和好如初。可只要迪米特里有点什么事,哭闹个没完啦,得了感冒啦,或被大孩子们的宠物兔子吓得哇哇叫啦,要不就是长到哥哥、姐姐会自己走路的年龄,他却还抓住凳子不撒手啦,多丽没用母乳喂孩子的事就又被翻了出来。

多丽第一次去桑兹太太办公室的时候,有个女人塞给她一本小册子。封面上印着烫金的十字架,和一组由金色、紫色字母拼成的文字:“当失去亲人令你痛不欲生……”内页里有一幅色彩柔和的耶稣画像,几行密密麻麻的小字,多丽瞥了一眼就合上了。

多丽手里纂着那本手册,坐在办公桌前的椅子上,瑟瑟发抖。桑兹太太费力地把小册子从她手里抽出来。

“是谁把这东西给你的?”桑兹太太问。

多丽朝紧闭的房门方向神经质地点了下头,咕哝道:

“她。”

“你不喜欢?”

“你一倒霉,他们就来笼络你,”说完,多丽意识到她妈说过这话,当时几个女人到医院来探望,试图向她妈传播福音。“他们以为,你只要跪下祈祷,就会万事大吉。”

桑兹太太叹了口气。

“哎,”她说,“哪儿有那么容易。”

“门儿都没有。”多丽跟着说。

“可能吧。”

那些日子里,她们从来不谈劳埃德的事。多丽尽量不去想他,即便想到,她也只有一个念头,他是个投错胎的孽种。

“我要是信那些鬼话,”多丽指的是小册子上印的内容。

“纯粹为了……”她想说,信了之后,她便可以用意念诅咒劳埃德,让他在地狱里受尽煎熬,被火烧成干,但她说不出口,因为这种话实在很蠢。但象以前一样,话吞回去闷在肚子里,犹如榔头似得锤打着她。

劳埃德认为孩子们该呆在家里受教育,倒不是由于信教反对恐龙、穴居人、猴子变人之类的说法。他想要孩子们呆在父母身边,在父母的小心呵护下被一步步领进社会。他反对把孩子们冷不丁抛进社会。“我就是觉得,孩子们是我的,”他说。“我是说,我们的,教育部管不着。”

多丽有点担心,怕自己搞不来,后来发现,教育部的教学大纲和课程计划都可以从当地学校拿到。萨沙是个聪明孩子,差不多自己学会了阅读,另外两个还太小,学不了太多东西。到晚上和周末,劳埃德就给萨沙上课,根据孩子提出的问题,教他相应的地理、太阳系、动物冬眠的知识,还有汽车原理。没多久,萨沙的学习就超过了学校的课程安排,但多丽还是取回课程计划,督促萨沙按时完成习题作业,这样,在法律方面也不会惹上麻烦。

社区里还有一个母亲也是在家教育孩子。她叫玛吉。玛吉有辆小型货车,劳埃德要开车上班,再说,多丽也没学会开车,所以,她很高兴玛吉主动提出每周搭她去学校交作业,顺便取回新的作业。当然,她们每次都带上所有孩子全家出动。玛吉有两个男孩。大的对很多东西过敏,玛吉不得不对他的饮食格外小心,于是只能在家辅导他的功课。这样一来,连小家伙也干脆一起留在了家里。他也愿意和哥哥呆在一块,再说,他本来就有哮喘病。

那时候,多丽看着自己三个活蹦乱跳的孩子,心里谢天谢地。劳埃德说,那是因为她孩子要的早,玛吉拖到将近更年期才生孩子,自食其果。他有点言过其实,但她确实等到挺晚才要的孩子。她是个验光师,和丈夫本来是合伙人,生意稳当后她抽身出来,在乡下买了房子,他们这才正式成了家。

玛吉的头发已经花白,剪得紧贴头皮。她高个,平胸,一天到晚乐呵呵的,对什么事都很有主见。劳埃德管她叫“女同志”,当然是背着她。他一边在电话上和玛吉开玩笑,一边向多丽努嘴,示意是“女同志”。多丽倒没特别在意,他管很多女性都叫“女同志”。她只是担心,他的玩笑会不会让玛吉觉得过分亲热、唐突或耽误工夫。

“你找老太婆?啊,我这就让她来接。她正在搓衣板上跟我的裤子较劲呢。是这么回事,我就这一条工装裤。反正,我觉得她忙点好。”

时间长了,多丽和玛吉慢慢养成了去学校取完作业后一起上超市购物的习惯。然后,她们有时候会买上蒂姆霍顿咖啡店的咖啡带孩子们去河边公园。她们坐在长凳上聊天,萨沙就和玛吉的孩子们在周围追着跑或吊在攀爬架上耍,芭芭拉·安荡秋千,迪米特里在一边玩沙子。天气冷的话,她们就坐在车里聊,话题多是关于孩子、做饭,但一来二去,多丽了解到玛吉在参加验光师培训之前曾游历欧洲,而玛吉也知道了多丽年轻时结婚的情形。多丽还告诉玛吉,开始时动不动就怀上了,现在却怎么都怀不上,劳埃德为此变得疑神疑鬼,怀疑她在偷偷服用避孕药,还翻她的抽屉。

“你真吃了?”玛吉问道。

多丽一惊,忙说她哪敢。

“我是说,我觉得不告诉他而自己偷偷吃药不成体统。他翻抽屉就是闹着玩的。”

“哦,”玛吉应道。

有一次玛吉问她:“你觉得有什么不对劲吗?我是说你的婚姻?你幸福吗?”

多丽毫不犹豫地表示一切都好。那之后,她说话就小心多了。她意识到有些事她已经习以为常,可别人没准理解不了。劳埃德看问题的方式有点另类;他天生就是那样。她在医院第一次见到他的时候,他就是那样。护士长属于做事古板生硬的那类人,他管她叫“催命鬼太太”,而从不称呼她的真名“茨威格太太”。他说得语速极快,让人几乎听不出来。他认为她厚此薄彼,而他不在受宠之列。如今在冰激凌厂里也有个家伙被他盯上了,他管那人叫“搅屎棍路易”。那人的真名多丽不得而知。但这件事至少说明,惹他烦的不仅是女人。

多丽敢肯定这些人没有劳埃德想得那么差劲,但和他顶嘴没用。是男人就爱搞笑,或许同样,是男人就得有死对头。有时候,劳埃德确实爱拿他的死对头搞笑,也时不时调侃自己。多丽只要不自己先多嘴,跟着笑笑也不会招来训斥。

她不希望他用那种方式对待玛吉。有时候她觉着苗头有点不对。他要是禁止她搭玛吉的车去学校和购物,就太不方便了。更可怕的是由此引起的尴尬。她将不得不编造愚蠢的借口来解释。但玛吉一准猜得出来,至少她能一眼识破多丽在撒谎,可能会以为多丽处境十分糟糕,尽管实际情况没那么糟。玛吉看问题,自有她一针见血的一套,谁都别想糊弄她。

然后,多丽觉得自己很无聊,凭什么在乎玛吉怎么想。玛吉是个外人,甚至连个知心姐妹都算不上。重要的是劳埃德和多丽两人,还有他们的家。这话是劳埃德说的,他说得对。他们之间的纽带扯不断,这一点旁人理解不了,也不关旁人的事。只要多丽忠于这个家庭,就万事大吉。

情形慢慢变得糟糕起来。劳埃德虽然没有明言禁止她们交往,却对玛吉越来越看不顺眼。他振振有词地把玛吉小孩的过敏症和哮喘病都归咎于玛吉。他说,十有八九是当妈的过错。那些当妈的,上了太多学,对孩子管得太宽。这种事在医院里他见得多了。

“有些病生下就有的,你不能事事都说成是当妈的错。”多丽随口的一句话惹了大祸。

“是嘛?我怎么说不得?”

“我不是说你。我不是说你说不得。我是说,他们难道不能生下来就――”

“你从什么时候成医学专家了?”

“我不是这个意思。”

“你敢。你狗屁不是。”

后来就越来越糟。他想知道她和玛吉两人都说些什么。

“我也说不清。真没什么。”

“鬼才信。两个娘们凑在一辆车里,没说什么。我可头次听说。她就巴不得把我们拆散。”

“谁?你说玛吉?”

“对她这种娘们,我太知道了。”

“哪种娘们?”

“就她那种。”

“别傻了。”

“小心你的嘴。敢说我傻。”

“她干嘛要拆散我们?”

“我怎么知道?她就巴不得。你等着瞧。她早晚要哄得

你跑到她那儿诉苦,说我是个混蛋。”

他果真言中。至少在劳埃德看来,不如此才怪呢。有天晚上大约10点,多丽真就坐在玛吉的厨房里,一边擤鼻涕一边抹眼泪,旁边放着一杯花草茶。她敲门的时候,听到玛吉的丈夫说:“见鬼,谁这么晚?”――她是隔着门缝听到的。他不认得多丽。她连忙道歉:“真对不起,这么晚来打搅——”,而他眉毛挑着,嘴唇抿着,将她上下打量了一番。然后玛吉走了过来。

多丽从她和劳埃德住的那条碎石小路拐上高速公路,一路摸黑走到玛吉家。一听到有车过来,她就躲到沟里,为此耽搁了不少时间。有车经过,她便瞟上一眼,生怕劳埃德跟来。她不想被他发现,还没到时候,她要吓一吓他,直到他回心转意。以前,她干过这事,又哭又嚎,甚至把头往地板上撞,嘴里翻来覆去地念叨:“不是真的,没这回事,没这回事。” 经这么一吓,劳埃德果真回心转意。最后他会软下来,会说:“好了,好了。我信你。亲爱的,别哭了。为孩子们想想。我信你,真的。别闹了。”

今天晚上,她刚想故伎重演,却念头一转,狠心改变了主意。她穿上外套冲出门,听到他在后面喊:“别来这套。你等着瞧!”

玛吉的丈夫一脸不高兴地自己先去睡了,多丽在边上不住嘴地道歉:“对不起,真对不起,半夜三更闯进来。”

“得了,没事。”玛吉安慰她,口气却有点生硬。“你

想来杯红酒吗?”

“我不喝酒。”

“那就别现在开始喝了。来杯茶吧,很能帮人放松。山莓甘菊茶。又是为了孩子?”

“不是。”

玛吉接过她的外套,又递给给她一卷手纸,让她擦干鼻涕眼泪。“先别忙着告诉我。你先冷静一下。”

多丽平静些了,却也不打算把事情和盘托出,她不想让玛吉知道她本人和这事大有干系。她更不想对玛吉解释劳埃德的所作所为。虽然两人的关系让她疲惫不堪,他毕竟还是这世上她最亲的亲人,而且,她有种预感,假如她胆敢把他的臭事说与别人,假如她胆敢公然背叛他,她就完了。

她告诉玛吉,又和劳埃德为过去一点破事吵起来,她烦透了,就想跑出来躲个清静。她会没事的,他们会没事的,她让玛吉放心。

“每对夫妇都有这时候,”玛吉说。

电话响了,玛吉接了起来。

“在。她没事。就是需要冷静一下。好。好的,我明天一早送她回家。不麻烦。晚安。”

“是他,你都听到了。”她说。

“电话里他啥样?没事吧?”

玛吉笑起来。“他没事啥样,我哪儿知道。听上去没喝醉。”

“他平常也不喝酒。我们家里连咖啡都没有。”

“想来片面包吗?”

第二天一早,玛吉开车送她回家。玛吉的丈夫还没出门去上班,就留在家里看孩子。

玛吉着急往回赶,于是一边在院子里将车调了个头,一边说,“再见。有事给我打电话。”

早春的清晨气温很低,地上还铺着一层积雪。劳埃德坐在台阶上,身上连件夹克都没穿。

“早上好,”他问候多丽,嗓门很响,礼貌中带着挖苦。她回问了一句,假装没听出他口气不对。

他一动不动,拦住她上楼的路。

“你不能上去,”他说。

她不想吵架。

“我说请行吗?请让我上去。”

他看看她,却没答话。他抿嘴笑了笑。

“劳埃德,求你了?”她说道。

“你最好别上去。”

“劳埃德,我什么都没跟她说。我不该出走,对不起。我就是需要透口气。”

“最好别上去。”

“你怎么了?孩子们呢?”

他摇摇头,如果她说了不着他爱听的话,比如“放屁”这类不雅的粗口,他就会这样。

“劳埃德,孩子们呢?”

他稍稍挪了挪,让她过去。

迪米特里还在婴儿床里,身子侧向一边。芭芭拉·安躺在床边的地板上,她自己下的床还是被拖了出来,不得而知。萨沙倒在厨房门口——他曾试图逃跑。他是唯一有伤的,在喉咙上。其他两个孩子是用枕头解决的。

“我昨晚打电话那会儿,”劳埃德说,“那会儿,事都干完了。”

“你自作自受。”他说。

依鉴定结果,他属于精神失常,应免于刑事责任。他是犯罪型精神失常――须递交安全机构进行看管。

多丽冲出房门,跌跌撞撞地绕着院子转圈,双臂交叉紧护在胸前,仿佛人被撕开了两半,箍住肚子可以不让自己散架。玛吉翻回来的时候看到了这幅场景。上路后,她有种不祥的预感,就把车掉了个头。第一眼看见多丽,她以为多丽挨了丈夫的窝心拳或被踢了肚子。多丽的厉声尖叫令她毛骨悚然。而此时劳埃德还坐在台阶上,一声不吭,他彬彬有礼地为玛吉让出路来。玛吉进屋,见到了意想不到的一幕。她报了警。

有段时间,多丽见什么都往嘴里塞,泥块、草,后来,连床单、毛巾、自己的衣服都不放过,仿佛这些东西堵在那儿,就能抑制住涌上来的哀号,就能按下脑子里浮现的画面。医院定时给她打上一针,令她安静,效果明显。实际上,她变得非常安静,尽管她的症状不属于强直性昏厥。

医生说,她的情绪已经稳定。出院以后,社会工作者将她带到这个新地方,交由桑兹太太接管。桑兹太太给她安排了住处,找了工作,并约定每周和她恳谈一次。玛吉想来看望,但多丽最怕见的就是她。桑兹太太告诉多丽,这是正常反应,以免勾起往事。她安慰多丽说,玛吉会理解的。

桑兹太太让多丽自己拿主意,决定是否继续探望劳埃德。

“你知道,我不会替你做主。你见了他,心里感觉怎么

样?好还是不好?”

“我说不清。”

多丽自己也解释不清,她见的不象是他,简直是幽灵。他面无血色,身上松松跨跨地套着灰不溜湫的衣服,走路悄无声响,脚上或许是双拖鞋。感觉上他的头发掉了些。以前他可是一头金黄的浓密卷发。过去的他,肩膀宽厚、锁骨深陷,她喜欢依偎在他怀里。可一切好象都已不在。

他后来对警察说:“我这么做,是免得他们难过。”报纸把他的话登了出来。

难过什么?

“假如他们知道妈妈丢下他们离家出走,肯定会难过。”他说。

这句话刻进了多丽的脑子里。她决定探望他,或许就是要还事情以本来面目。让他了解那晚发生的事,并承认他错怪了她。

“是你叫我不许顶嘴,要不就滚出去。我就出去了。”

“我只是到玛吉那儿呆了一个晚上。我根本就想回来的。我没打算丢下谁不管。”

事情的起因她记得一清二楚。她买的通心粉罐子上有个小坑,商家为此做了降价处理,她对自己出手迅速很是得意,以为自己干得漂亮。可当他开始追问她为什么买有瑕疵的食品时,她却只字未提这事。她隐约觉得,最好假装没看见。

任谁都看得见,他说。我们可能全都中毒。你想什么呢?还是你本来就想毒死我们?你打算拿孩子们试验,还是拿我开刀?

她让他别说疯话。

他回道,疯的不是他。除了疯女人,天底下谁会给家人买毒药?

孩子们躲在一进门那个房间的门口看着他们。那是她最后一次见到活着的孩子们。

她就是想让他明白,到底谁是疯子?

当她意识到自己脑子里的想法时,本该马上下车。她甚至可以象另外那几个妇女一样,在大门那儿下车,然后沿着马路往上走。她可以走到街对面去等返程车。或许有人这么干过。本来打算探望但又改了主意。可能一直都有人这么干。

她没有打退堂鼓。见到他陌生而颓废的样子,或许对她更好。他那副模样,让人没法再责怪他。他已经走了人样,就像梦里的人。

她常常做梦。有一次,她梦见自己看到孩子们躺在地上后跑出屋子,劳埃德突然开怀大笑,象从前那样,然后她又听见萨沙在她背后笑。半天她才回过神来,原来他们合起来跟她开了个玩笑。这感觉真美妙。

“你上次问我,见到他心里什么感觉。你是这么问我来着?”

“是啊,”桑兹太太答道。

“我当时一下子说不清,得想想。”

“我知道。”

“我想过了,这件事让我心里不好过。所以再没去。”

桑兹太太的态度不好捉摸,但她频频点头,似乎表示她感到满意,或赞成多丽这么做。

所以当多丽决定再去探视的时候,她觉得还是不向桑兹太太提及此事为妙。不论发生什么事,她都该汇报。虽然一向来也没多少事可说,但也不能一声不吭就走。所以她给桑兹太太打电话取消了约会。她说自己要去度个假。夏天就要来了,这时候去度假稀松平常。她说和一个朋友一起去。

“上个星期你穿的不是这件外套。”

“不是上个星期。”

“不是?”

“三个星期前了。天已经热起来了。这件外套薄点,其实也用不着了。根本用不着穿外套了。”

他问她路上好不好走,从米尔德梅过来坐些什么车。

她告诉他已经不住那儿了,又把现在住的地方、路上要换的三趟车一一说给他听。

“一路真够你折腾的。你喜欢住在一个大地方吗?”

“上班容易点。”

“你上班了?”

上次她就告诉过他住哪、倒几趟车、在哪儿上班。

“我在一个汽车旅馆里打扫房间,我告诉过你。”她说道。

“对,对。我忘了。你想过回去上学吗?夜校什么的?”

她告诉他,确实想过,但就是想想,没认真找过学校。她说,现在的活还行。

然后,他们停下来,好像往下不知该说什么了。

他叹了口气,说:“对不起,对不起。我已经不习惯跟人聊天了。”

“那你一般都干点什么?”

“我读了不少书。算是反省吧。自我反省。”

“哦。”

“谢谢你来看我。对我是莫大的心理安慰。但你别把它当成负担。我是说,你想来再来。别勉强。如果有别的事,或者不太想来——我是想说,你能来,即便就一次,对我都是奖赏。你明白我的意思吗?”

她答说明白,她觉着自己明白。

他说不想干扰她的生活。

“没有,”她答道。

“你是不是想说什么?我觉着你另有话说。”

实际上,她差点说,她哪来的生活?

没有,她答,也没什么,没什么别的。

“那好吧。”

三个星期后,她收到一个电话。是桑兹太太亲自打来的,而不是她办公室的某个工作人员。

“多丽,我以为你休假还没回来呢,这么快就回来啦?”

“嗯,”多丽一边说,一边心里盘算该说去了哪里。

“那你怎么没来电话约下次见面的时间呢?”

“哦,还没呢。”

“没关系,我只是想看看你回来了没有。都好吧?”

“都好。”

“那好,那好。要是需要我,需要聊聊的话,你知道怎么找我。”

“嗯。”

“那好,保重。”

她没提劳埃德的事,也没问多丽是不是又去探望他了。当然,多丽确曾说过,他们不打算再见了。但桑兹太太的第六感一般很准,对发生的事都能猜个八九不离十。但她也懂得什么时候该隐忍不发,她知道有时候一味地追问,不会得到结果。如果她当真问起来,多丽也不知自己会如何作答:是撒个谎,还是一五一十地告诉她原委。事实上,下一个周日,就是他坑坑吃吃告诉她来不来都没关系之后,她又去了。

他感冒了。他也不知道怎么就得了感冒。

他说,也许上次和她见面的时候就染上了,所以有点闷闷不乐。

闷闷不乐。这些日子,她与会说这种词的人少有瓜葛,它听起来那么陌生。但他过去张口闭口就是这类词。当然,那时她从没觉着有什么不对劲,象今天这样。

“我是不是看上去变了个人?”他问。

“你看起来是不一样了,”她小心地回答。“我呢?”

“你看上去很漂亮。”他黯然答道。

她心里有东西在融化,但极力抗拒那种感觉。

“你自己觉得不一样了吗?”他问。“像换了个人?”

她说不知道。“你有这感觉?”

他说道,“从头到脚。”

那个星期快结束的时候,她在班上收到一个大信封。信是通过旅馆转寄给她的。信封里装着厚厚几页信纸,正反两面都写着字。她开始没想到信是他写的,她不知从哪儿得到的印象,看守所不允许在押犯写信。当然,他不是一个普通在押犯。他不是一个罪犯。他只是犯罪型精神失常的病人。

信上既无日期,也无“亲爱的多丽”式的开头,而是开门见山、直奔主题,多丽想当然地认为这是一封宗教传单。

人们为求解脱而四处寻觅。搞得头晕脑胀(脸上挂相)。生活乱如麻,人人痛苦不堪。他们的伤痛都刻在脸上。他们困惑迷茫,行色匆匆。他们忙着购物、洗衣、美发,还得赚钱,得按时领取福利补贴。这是穷人的忙,富人也忙,忙着想法花钱。那也不容易。他们得建最好的房子,冷热水得用金制水龙头。他们得开奥迪,得用神效牙刷,得装各种神奇玩意,然后得装防盗器,得防着谋杀。不论穷人富人,灵魂都不得安宁。我差点把“neither”(不论)写成“neighbor”(邻居),我这是怎么了?我这儿哪儿来的邻居。这儿的人至少免去了好多困惑。他们知道自己有多少家当,这点家当永远不会变,吃饭用不着自己采买、自己下厨,吃什么也用不着自己操心。在这儿,选择被剥夺了。

在这儿,我们的思想所得就是我们的全部所得。

刚开始的时候,我陷于迷乱癫狂之中。满脑子狂风暴雨,一刻不停,我把头往水泥墙上撞,指望获得解脱,结束我的痛苦和生命。他们因此而惩罚我,用水浇,用绳子捆,然后把麻醉剂打进我的血管。我不是抱怨,因为我必须认识到,那样做一无是处,和人们在所谓的现实世界里酗酒、胡闹、犯罪没什么两样,都为了把痛苦的念头赶走。那些人犯了事被抓起来关上几天,但关得不够长,他们还来不及从另一头走出来。另一头是什么?不是彻底的疯狂,就是绝对的安宁。

安宁。我寻到了安宁,神志还算正常。我猜,你一边读一边想,接下去我就该谈到上帝、耶稣,再不然会提到佛,你以为是宗教令我洗心革面。不是。不是“闭上眼,在某种至尊力量的引领下心灵升华”那回事。那些力量我不太懂。我所做的是认识自我。认识自我该是条戒律吧,在哪儿出现过,可能是圣经。从这点看,我大概算得皈依基督教了吧。我也尝试正视自我”这句话好象也出自圣经,所以我试了。它没有解释要正视哪个自我,是善的自我还是恶的自我,所以不能作为道德劝诫的指南。而且,认识自我也和我们所知的约束行为的道德不搭界。但行为不是眼下我所关心的问题,他们已对我做出了正确审判,我是一个不能约束自己行为的人,所以他们把我关在这里。

回到认识自我。所谓认识,我可以大言不惭地说,我认识了自我,我认识了穷凶极恶的自我,我认识到我作恶多端。世界当我是一个恶魔,我不想争辩,尽管我完全可以顺便提一句,有些人对城市狂轰滥炸,杀人如麻,却不会被大众当作恶魔,奖章、荣誉倒是雪片似地飞来,只有针对少数人的行为才骇人听闻、穷凶极恶。我不是找借口,这些不过是我观察到的现象。

我在自我中认识到了自己的恶。这是我获得安慰的秘密。我是说,我认识到了自己极致的恶。它或许比别人的极恶更加歹毒,但实际上,我不该考虑这个问题,或对它耿耿于怀。没有借口。我得到了安宁。我真是一个恶魔?世界是这样说的,如果都这么说,那我就是吧。但是我要说,所谓世界,对我来说,没什么真实意义。我就是我这个自我,不可能成为别的自我。我可以狡辩说,我当时处于疯狂状态,但那有什么意思呢?疯狂。理智。我就是我。我当时不可能是另一个我,现在也不可能变成另一个我。

多丽,如果你已耐心读到这里,有件特别的事我想告诉你,但我不想写下来。如果有天你会再来这,我也许会当面告诉你。别以为我是个铁石心肠的人。如果时光可以倒转,我愿改变一切,可是我什么都改不了。

我把这封信寄到你上班的地方,我记着呢,还有你住的小镇的名字。你看,我的脑子在某些方面还转得很灵呢。

她以为下次见面他们一定会谈及这封信,于是她反复读了好多遍,却想不出该做什么感言。其实,她真想说的是,他心中想的不可能在纸上写明白。可再见面的时候,他好象从来没写过那封信。她搜肠刮肚地找话说,最后告诉他一个过了气的民歌手那个星期住过旅馆。他对歌手生平比她还了解,让她有点意外。原来,他有台电视,或者说可以随时看电视,他看了一些节目,当然,新闻每日必看。这下,他们可谈的东西多了些。最后,她还是忍不住问他。

“你说有件事只能当面说,是什么事?”

他回答说,她不该提这事。他拿不准现在是不是说这事的时候。

她的心不免提了起来,有些事她还不能面对,如果他说还爱她,她当真应付不来。她现在还听不得“爱”这个字。

“好的,”她说。“也许是不是时候。”

然后她说,“可你还是告诉我吧。如果我出去后就被车撞了,那我永远都不会知道了,你也再没机会告诉我了。”

“是这样,”他答道。

“那,到底是什么?”

“下次吧,下次。有时候我就是说不下去。不是不想说,就是卡住了,干了。”

多丽,自你走了之后,我的脑子里总是你的影子,我不该让你失望。当你坐在我对面的时候,我的情绪会有些激动,但面上可能看不出来。在你面前,我无权表白,我们两人中显然你更有权表白自己的感受,而你一向自制力很强。所以,我收回以前说过的话,因为我前思后想,还是觉得写出来比说更容易一些。

从哪儿说起呢?

天堂是有的。

天堂是一种说法,并不准确,因为我从不相信天堂和地狱之类的说法。要在以前,我会当那是胡说八道。但现在我却提起这个话题,你听了一定奇怪。

那我就干脆说:我看见孩子们了。

我看见他们了,还和他们说了话。

好吧。你这一刻脑子里在想什么?你在想,哎,这个人果真疯了。或者,那是个梦,他连做梦都分不清,他混淆了梦境和现实。可我想告诉你,我没糊涂,我知道,他们还在。不是说他们还活着,因为活着意味着他们还在我们这个空间里。我不是这意思。事实上,我相信他们已经不在这个空间里了。但他们确实还在,肯定有一个异度空间,也许那样的异度空间数不胜数,但我敢肯定的是,我可以进入到他们在的那个空间。大概这段时间都是我一个人过,所能做的就是想事,想来想去,能想的就是这些事。所以,在我经历了这些痛苦和孤独之后,某个神明把这种能力赐给了我。依照这个世界的逻辑,我最不配。

如果你一直读到这里还没把信撕碎的话,你一定想知道,孩子们怎么样。他们很好。很快乐,也很乖巧。他们好象不记得发生过什么不好的事情。他们好象比原来长大了一点,但很难说。他们好象比以前懂事了。就是这样。迪米特里学会说话了,以前可不行。他们呆的房间有几分眼熟。象我们的房子,但大得多、好得多。我问他们,谁在照顾他们,他们就笑我,叽叽喳喳说了些什么,好象是说他们自己能照顾自己。我觉得这话是萨沙说的。有时候他们说话不是一个人在说,至少我分不清,但他们的身份都很分明,绝不会混,而且,个个兴高采烈。

千万别以为我疯了。我不敢告诉你,就是担心你有这个想法。我曾经是个疯子,但相信我,我已经摆脱了自己过去的疯狂,就像狗熊脱毛,或者,我该说像蛇蜕皮。我知道,如果我没有完成我的蜕变,我不可能获得这个能力,重新见到萨沙、芭芭拉·安和迪米特里。现在,我真希望你也能见到他们,如果说配不配的话,你比我配上100倍。你活在这个世界里,比我陷得深得多,见到孩子们可能不太容易,但至少我可以把那里的情况——真相——传递给你。你知道我见到他们了,希望能让你心里好过一点。

多丽想,如果桑兹太太读了这封信,不定她会怎么说怎么想。桑兹太太当然会小心从事。她不会直截了当端出她的判断:他疯了。但她会谨慎地充满善意地引导多丽得出这样的结论。也可以说,她不是引导多丽,而是拨开多丽心头的迷雾,让多丽自己得出结论,好象多丽压根就是这么想的。她会拔除多丽脑子里那些危险的邪念——这话会是桑兹太太嘴里说出来的。

就为这,多丽不打算向她透露半点。

多丽确实觉得他疯了。他喜欢夸夸其谈,这老毛病在字里行间中多少有所流露。她没有回信。很多天过去了。又过去了很多星期。她还是那个想法,但那封信却挥之不去,就像她心里藏着的一个秘密。偶而,当她往浴室镜子上喷清洁剂或整理床单的时候,心里会涌起一股暖意。阳光明媚,鲜花盛开,烤面包香气扑鼻,一般都会令人身心愉悦。而近两年来,多丽对这些从未留过心。准确地说,那种自发的感受幸福的能力还没有在她身上苏醒,但那种感觉已依稀归来了。它和天气、和鲜花无关。劳埃德说,孩子们生活在他们的异度空间里,这念头带来一股暖意,涌遍她的全身。想到孩子们,好久以来第一次没有让她感到痛苦。

自那件事之后,只要念头一转到孩子们的身上,她就得立即把它连根拔掉,如同拔除扎在喉咙上的刺。他们的名字她避之唯恐不及,旁的孩子若凑巧和其中一个名字有点象,她都受不了。就连小孩子说笑、尖叫、在旅馆游泳池边跑来跑去,她都得立即关上耳朵,如同关上一道门,把那些声音挡在外面。现在不同了,她有了一个避难所,只要一发现苗头不对,她就躲到里边去。

谁给了她这个避难所?不是桑兹太太,这点显而易见。也不是在纸巾伸手可及的办公桌边度过的时光。

这个避难所是劳埃德给她的。对,就是那个罪大恶极的人,那个与世隔绝的疯子。

你可以叫他疯子,可他说的就没一点道理?他要真是从另一头走出来了呢?有谁敢说,一个人在做了这样一件事、走过这样一段路之后,他的幻觉不会另有深意?

这个念头悄然进入她的大脑,萦绕不去。

与此同时,她的心里升起另一个念头:在这个世界上,或许此时此刻她该与之相守的正是劳埃德。如果连听他诉说都做不到,她在这个世界上还有什么用,她还来这世上干吗?这话她好象对什么人说过,也许是桑兹太太。

我说不出“原谅”两个字,她在脑子里对桑兹太太说道。我永远说不出口,永远不会原谅。

但是,等等。发生了那件事之后,我不是一样被抛弃了吗?知情人都躲着我。我的出现总是引起尴尬。

想改头换面,哪儿那么容易。留个鸡冠似的发型,这想法太蠢了。

于是,她又坐上了通往看守所的汽车。她想起母亲刚刚去世的那些日子,她住在母亲的朋友家,到了晚上她编个谎话,偷偷跑出去和劳埃德约会。她还记得那朋友的名字——劳丽,她母亲的朋友。

除了劳埃德,现在还有谁记得孩子们的名字,他们眼睛的颜色?桑兹太太不得不提到他们的时候,几乎从未称他们为孩子们,而是“你的家人”,所有人被打包成了一体。

那些日子里,与劳埃德约会,向劳丽撒谎,一点儿没有令多丽感到内疚,冥冥中仿佛是命运的安排、召唤。她感到,自己来到这世上,就是为了和他在一起,聆听他的心声。

现在的情形和那时不同,不一样了。

她坐在司机旁的前排座位上。从挡风玻璃望出去,视野开阔。因而车上除了司机,只有她一个人,唯一的一名乘客,目睹了那一幕。星期日清晨,高速公路上空空荡荡,一辆小型敞篷卡车突然从小路上冲了出来,速度不减,摇摇晃晃地在他们面前画了会龙,然后一头栽进沟里。更怪异的事情接着发生了:卡车司机腾空飞起,即如一道闪电转瞬即逝,又似一抹云彩慢慢飘过,姿态即笨拙又飘逸。他的身体飞过高速公路,摔在人行横道边的碎石路肩上。

司机一脚急刹车,乘客们往前趔趄了一下,茫然不知发生了什么事情。那一刻,多丽的脑子里只有一个念头,他怎么会飞起来?那小伙子,没准还是个孩子,一定是伏在方向盘上打起了瞌睡。他怎么会飞出卡车,那么优雅地在空中划出一道弧线?

“车前面躺着个人,”司机向乘客们解释。他试图把话说得响亮而平静,但他的声音因受了惊吓而带着颤音。

“飞过公路,掉沟里了。我们会尽快上路。现在请大家呆在车上别动。”

多丽跟着司机下了车,仿佛没听见他说的话,或享有某种特权。他没有责怪她。

“活见鬼,”他一边穿过公路一边说,声音又气又恼。

“活见鬼,这王八孩子,瞧他干的好事?”

小伙子背部着地,四肢展开,就像有人在雪地上压出天使的形状。他的身体四周却是碎石,不是白雪。他的眼睛半闭着。他是那么年轻,个子窜得挺高,可连胡子还没长出来。他可能还没拿到驾照。

司机在打电话。

“贝菲尔德南大约一英里,21号公路上,马路东侧。”

从男孩的头颅下面、耳朵旁边渗出粉红色泡沫。根本不像鲜血,更像是做草莓酱时撇出来的沫子。

多丽俯下身子蜷在他的身旁,将手轻放在他的胸口上。没有起伏。她又将耳朵凑上去。他的衬衫是新熨的,还带着那股味道。

没有呼吸。

但她的手指拂过他细嫩的脖颈时感到了脉搏的跳动。

她想起了以前学到的方法。是劳埃德教她的方法,以防备哪个孩子在他不在的时候出事。舌头。如果舌头顶在喉咙上,可能哽住呼吸。她一只手按住男孩的前额,另一只手的两个手指抵住下颚。前额向下,下颚向上,略微仰起他的头,使空气流通。

如果他还不能呼吸,她就得给他做人工呼吸。她捏住鼻孔,深深吸了一口气,将双唇紧贴在他的嘴上,呼气。两个深呼吸,检查一下。两个深呼吸,再检查。说话的是另外一个男人,不是司机。一个骑摩托车的人看见出事就停了下来。“要不要把毯子垫在他的头下面?”她坚决地摇了摇头。她记得不能搬动伤者,以免伤到他的脊髓。她对准他的嘴,按压他还带着热气的有弹性的胸部,呼气、停下来,再呼气再停下来。她的脸颊感觉到一丝热气。

司机说了句什么,但她顾不上抬头。有热气,肯定没错。从男孩嘴里呼出了一口气。她张开手掌放在他的胸口上,由于自己的颤抖,她一开始根本辨不清他的胸口是否在起伏。

是,是。

他确实是在呼吸。空气通道被打开了。他在自己呼吸。他在呼吸。

“就盖在他身上吧,”她冲那个拿着毯子的人说。“别让他冻着。”

“他还活着?”司机俯下身子,问道。

她点了点头。她的指尖又触到了他的脉搏。粉红色的吓人泡沫已经不再往出涌。或许那不是什么要紧的物质。不是从脑子里流出来的。

“车不能再等了,”司机说道。“我们已经晚点了。”

摩托车手接口到,“没事。我在这儿看着。”

安静,安静,她想对他们说。在她看来,必须保持肃静,男孩身体之外的一切都得凝神屏气,他才能守住自己的呼吸。

他的呼吸微弱但执着,胸口温顺地起伏着。坚持,坚持住。

“你听见了吗?这人说他可以呆在这,看着他,”司机说。“救护车马上就到。”

“你们走吧,”多丽答道。“等他们来了,我就搭车到镇上,晚上再坐你的车回去。”

她头都没抬地随口说道,好象呼吸局促的是她。司机俯下身子才听清了她说的话。

“你肯定?”他问。

肯定。

“你不去伦敦了?”

不去。

(摘自《外国文艺》2009年第4期)

【乱弹】诺贝尔文学奖装腔指南

 

诺贝尔文学奖装腔指南

——十分钟,让你看起来很懂诺贝尔文学奖!

尼玛,诺贝尔文学奖又来了。

对于一部诺贝尔奖文学作品都没读过的你,肯定又要跟不上朋友圈“高大上”的思维进度了,插不上嘴,只能默默地在别人的状态下点一个赞……在我们普通读者眼中,这一年一度的“文学职业赛”究竟意味个啥?民族自豪感?世界文学的流行走向?一张永远翻阅的购书单?

前些年法籍华人高行健的获奖引发了中国政府的强烈反应和不满;去年莫言获奖,又有人跳出高呼“这不过是瑞典评审团的一种政治的平衡术”!

读完这篇文章,让你看起来跟“诺贝尔文学奖”很熟!十分钟,让“虽然菲利普·罗斯的作品稍显单薄,还没达到夺下诺奖的级别,但他对犹太族裔生存现状的探讨是充分且厚重的!”这样的句子从你口中脱口而出!

【诺贝尔文学奖Q&A】

“我是个诗人,也有可能获诺贝尔文学奖吗?”

有可能,但要比隔壁写小说的王二狗吃亏。2011年诺贝尔文学奖得主托马斯·特兰斯特罗默就是一位瑞典诗人,另外,泰戈尔、法国作家苏利·普吕多姆、1948年英国作家艾略特都凭借诗歌获得过诺贝尔文学奖。 《诺贝尔基金会章程》把“文学”定义为“不仅是纯文学” ,而是“因其形式和风格而具有文学价值的其它文字作品”,这就意味着诗歌、剧本也包括在内。但总体来看,获奖的还是以小说作品居多。

“诺贝尔文学奖歧视女生嘛?人家也想获奖啦!”

加上今年刚刚获奖的艾利丝·门罗,历史上共有13位女性获得诺奖,分别是1909年西尔玛·拉格洛夫、1926年格拉齐亚·黛莱达、1928年西格里德·温塞特、1938年赛珍珠、1945列拉·斯特拉尔、1966年,奈莉·萨克斯、1991内丁·戈迪默、1993托尼·莫里森、 1996希姆博尔斯卡、2004埃尔弗里德·耶利内克、2007多丽丝·莱辛、2009赫塔·缪勒!

自1901年起,一百多年来,19141918193519401943年因战争没有颁发,1904191719661974年奖金由二人平分,所以……女性获奖的比例约为11.6%

“谁是最悲催的入围者?”

男默女泪,人艰不拆,今年诺奖一经颁布,村上春树迷们悲叹:再也不相信诺贝尔了!

“我是处女座,也能获奖吗?”

1901——2012年文学奖得奖者的星座一览:水瓶座(8人)、双鱼座(4人)、白羊座(12人)、金牛座(10人)、双子座(12人)、巨蟹座(11人)、狮子座(11人)、处女座(4人)、天秤座(15人)、天蝎座(9人)、射手座(8人)、魔羯座(5人)。

好歹也是有处女座作家获奖的,那些黑处女座的,你们够了!

“除了北岛,有哪些中国作家与诺奖擦肩而过?”

曾有多位中国作家与诺奖擦肩,比如拒绝被提名的鲁迅、因去世而错失诺奖的沈从文、曾被赛珍珠推荐过的林语堂、梦碎文革的老舍和多次进入终审名单但憾未获奖的北岛。

【鲁迅拒绝文学奖提名?】1927年,来自瑞典的探测学家赫定到我国考察时与刘半农商量,准备推荐鲁迅为诺贝尔文学奖候选人。但鲁迅曾写信道:请你转告半农先生,我感谢他的好意,为我,为中国。但我很抱歉,我不愿意如此。诺贝尔赏金,梁启超自然不配,我也不配,要拿这钱,还欠努力。

【本决定颁奖给老舍?】舒乙认为,当年的诺贝尔文学奖获得者就该是父亲,但在1968年“文革”进入高峰期,瑞典派驻华大使寻访老舍下落一直没准确音信,就断定老舍已经去世(老舍早已于1966年去世)。由于诺贝尔奖不颁给已故之人,所以评选委员会决定在剩下的4个人中重新评选,条件之一最好是东方人,结果日本的川端康成就获奖了。

【沈从文肯定会获奖?】诺贝尔文学奖评委马悦然2007在接受《南方周末》记者采访时候说,我告诉你,要是沈从文那个时候还活着,活到10月份就肯定会得奖。

【李敖接到诺奖提名通知?】2000年2月28日《中国青年报》曾报道,李敖已于上个月底正式获得诺贝尔文学奖审核小组通知,被提名为今年的诺贝尔文学奖候选人。称李敖是我国台湾地区第一位获诺贝尔文学奖提名的作家。他的长篇历史小说《北京法源寺》是这次提名的重要依据。

【巴金王蒙也被提名?】2000年“美国诺贝尔文学奖中国作家提名委员会”提名巴金和王蒙为诺贝尔文学奖候选人。当时两人都不领情,王蒙说“全然不知被提名的事”、“估计是些捕风捉影的无聊‘写手’搞的所谓‘热点’报道”,巴金女儿则干脆说“这很可能是一场闹剧,或者别有目的”。可是这种提名在之后几年接连出现。2003年7月“全美中国作家联谊会”宣布,他们将正式宣布提名中国当代作家王蒙参加2003年诺贝尔文学奖评选。据悉,这也是该会连续第四年度提名王蒙先生参加诺贝尔文学奖的评选。

“诺贝尔文学奖,到底是谁评选出来的?”

评选和颁奖的决定权力属于瑞典文学院的全体院士。瑞典文学院院士基本是著名作家和学者,一般都精通四、五门外语,因此,他们对其它民族文学的了解并不依赖于院士中该语种的专家,也不局限于瑞典文译本,如今的诺贝尔文学奖是15名院士选出的。

“每年诺贝尔奖都按时颁发了吗?”

一百多年来,1914、1918、1935、1940至1943年因战争没有颁发,其余年份均按时颁出了。

 “听说只要获了奖,就不用天天搬砖了,诺贝尔奖奖金是多少?”

诺贝尔文学奖,诺贝尔在1895年11月27日写下遗嘱,捐献全部财产3122万余瑞典克朗设立基金,每年把利息作为奖金,授予“一年来对人类作出最大贡献的人”。诺贝尔基金会把基金的年利息按五等分授予,文学奖就是其中之一。

2012年,莫言获奖的那一年,文学奖奖金为1000万瑞典克朗,约为750万人民币,这是一大笔钱吧?辛辛苦苦爬了一辈子格子,这钱也就能北京五环以内买两套房……

“谁是第一届获奖的幸运儿?”

1901年第一次颁奖,获奖者是法国的一位小诗人普吕多姆。有媒体刻薄的评论道,幸亏有了诺贝尔文学奖,否则不会有人知道这位普吕多姆是何许人也。在那个时代,世界上最有名气的作家毫无异议当推俄国的列夫·托尔斯泰,然而,瑞典文学院偏偏视若无睹,挑选了大冷门普吕多姆,而这种做法也成为日后诺贝尔文学奖的一大特色。

那时候,众多的文学大腕儿还活在世间:托尔斯泰、 易卜生、 左拉……一个个堪称文豪和大师的人物, 哪一个不比普吕多姆更有资格呢?文化界立即抗议,瑞典有斯特林堡、 拉格诺夫等42位作家、艺术家和评论家联名赞扬托尔斯泰,并为瑞典文学院的失误致歉。托翁也怒了,回应说各位的好意我领情了,诺贝文学奖没什么了不起,不给我更好,省了我的烦恼。真给了我,我都不知道怎么处理那些奖金,钱这东西只能制造罪恶!

“除了莫言,今后再颁发诺奖时,我还可以期待谁?”

莫言已于2012年获奖,除了坊间种种戏说的传闻,唯有一个中国人被认为是近年来乃至未来数年内最有希望问鼎该奖项的。他,就是诗人北岛。

在中国文人里,他距离诺奖最近,据说北岛在一九九六年以前曾多次进入终审名单,有一次投票表决时,只有一票之差。但因为诗歌的不普及性,多年与诺奖擦肩而过。

“有哪些诺贝尔奖得主,后来选择了自杀?”

有多位诺奖得主,因种种原因选择了自杀,其中较为有名的是海明威和川端康成。海明威于1961年吞枪自尽;川端康成于1972年4月16日在寓所口含煤气管自杀身亡。

“最后,如果朋友问,你怎么看待今年获奖的艾丽丝·门罗,我该怎么说?”

“嗯,我觉得她的写作风格跟契科夫很像,就她笔下的男性人物而言,她掌握了描述 普通人的精髓,而她的女性人物却比较复杂。对时间这个主题十分着迷,一再地描写我们在时间面前的悲哀的、无能为力的处境——既无法拖延、也无法阻挡它无情的向前的脚步。就具体作品而言,我觉得还是她第一部获1968年加拿大总督小说奖的《快乐阴影的舞蹈》最棒!”

 (凤凰网读书独家专稿)

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【颁奖词】

“master of the contemporary short story”。

【获奖者回应】

“I knew I was in the running, yes, but I never thought I would win,” Munro said by telephone when contacted by The Canadian Press in Victoria, British Columbia.

2013年诺贝尔文学奖得主

艾丽丝-门罗[Alice Munro]

艾丽丝·门罗(Alice Munro,1931- ) 加拿大著名女作家。以短篇小说闻名全球,入选美国《时代周刊》“世界100名最有影响力的人物”。 1931年出生于安大略省。长期居住于荒僻宁静之地,逐渐形成以城郊小镇平凡女子的平凡生活为主题的写作风格。故事背景大多为乡间小镇及其邻里,故事人物和现实中人并无二致,亦经历出生与死亡、结婚与离异。但泥土芳香的文字背后,却是对成长疼痛与生老病死等严肃话题浓墨重彩的描写。细腻优雅、不施铅华的文字和简洁精致、宽广厚重的情节,常常给人“于无声处听惊雷”的莫大震撼…【小传】

门罗代表作:逃离

作者:艾丽丝·门罗

出版:北京十月文艺出版社

出版年:2009-7

【点击阅读】

简介:【荣获2009年布克国际奖】 【《纽约时报》年度最佳图书,法国《读书》杂志年度最佳外国小说,荣获加拿大文学大奖吉勒奖】 【《隐之书》作者拜雅特倾情推荐,著名翻译家李文俊精心翻译】 逃离,或许是旧的结束。或许是新的开始。或许只是一些微不足道的瞬间,就像看戏路上放松的脚步,就像午后窗边怅然的向往。 卡拉,十八岁从父母家出走,如今又打算逃脱丈夫和婚姻; 朱丽叶,放弃学术生涯,毅然投奔在火车上偶遇的乡间男子; 佩内洛普,从小与母亲相依为命,某一天忽然消失得再无踪影; 格雷斯,已然谈婚论嫁,却在一念之间与未婚夫的哥哥出逃了一个下午…… 一次次逃离的闪念,就是这样无法预知,无从招架,或许你早已被它们悄然逆转,或许你早已将它们轻轻遗忘。 …【连载】

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