十年前的無心之語

這兩天發現到,多年前曾在這裡發表的一篇討論某作家的文章,突然之間多了一些瀏覽率。一開始有點納悶,後來在網路上看到消息說,作家得了今年的諾貝爾文學獎,因此總算明白是怎麼回事。那篇文章已經是十年前的作品,算是自己的業餘心得,記錄自己某一段時期,曾經狂熱地閱讀這位作家的作品,以及作家訪談、生平、甚至是研討會論文。文章寫完之後,人生也走向其他階段,逐漸遠離了那段時間。前幾年,我也曾試圖回頭重看他其中一部作品,在這裡寫過一小篇記錄,不過這一回的重讀並未把小說看完,而是看到一半就中斷了。至於作家的近作,我也只看過一部分,看一看就沒有想繼續閱讀的動力,不曉得為什麼。也許二十幾歲的我和三十幾歲的我,喜歡的事情已經不太一樣了。 繼續閱讀

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黃昏時分

之前容祖兒發了一首單曲,叫做〈黃昏點唱機〉。雖然我覺得這首歌很好聽是沒錯,不過和我心中的黃昏印象稍微有點差距。也許我不覺得黃昏時分有這麼時尚,像是在走時裝伸展台那樣的感覺。 繼續閱讀

石黑一雄(Kazuo Ishiguro), “The Unconsoled”

the unconsoled 1

這個封面其實是很早期的版本,但卻是我去年才買到的

前幾天買了這本小說。以前我曾經買來讀過,後來送到二手書店去,如今不知已經流落何處。距離當初第一次看這部小說竟然已經10年了。這一本小說很有趣,到目前為止沒有中譯本(至少我在台灣沒看到)。其他石黑一雄的小說每一本都有中譯,獨缺這一本,實在很妙。是因為太厚嗎?還是覺得可能沒人要看?這本小說在國內其實也不好找,畢竟,要是以出版年份來算,這已經是一本出了快20年的小說了。明明是存在的一本小說,但是沒有譯成中文,在我所生活的語文環境中,就宛如不存在,也許有人到死也不知道有這本書。不過,就算是有中譯本,還是可能有人會到死也不知道這本書,因此差別也許不過是多一點人知道跟少一點人知道而已吧。

重新閱讀石黑先生的文字,重新和這些文字碰頭,以前到底對這本書有甚麼感受,我已經想不起來了(雖然這裡其實有一篇談論石黑一雄前面六部長篇小說的文章,的確是本人寫的)。不過現在看,還是覺得這些句子不僅簡潔,句意中刻意安排的模糊不清,有其特別的韻味。自己試著翻譯開頭幾句,見笑了。開頭還是頗為清楚的描述,模糊的部分還沒開始。

the unconsoled 2

10年前第一次買這本書的封面是這一版

 

要是有中譯本,應該會是一件好事的。

旅館櫃台居然一個人影也沒有。司機先生發現沒人出來接待我,露出一臉尷尬的樣子。他走過空蕩蕩的大廳,到處探頭探腦,似乎認為工作人員可能會藏在盆栽或椅子後面。最後,他把我的行李放在電梯門邊,咕噥了幾句就離開了。

旅館大廳十分寬敞,就算放了幾張咖啡桌,也不顯得擁擠。塌陷的低矮天花板給人些許壓迫感。在燈光照不到的地方光線十分微弱,只有一道強烈的陽光照在櫃台附近的牆上,映照出上頭的深色木板,以及一整架德文、法文、英文雜誌。我看見櫃台上有個小小的銀色搖鈴,正想把它拿來搖一搖,身後卻響起開門聲。一名穿制服的年輕人出來迎接我。

When a Clone Meets Jazz: A Thought About Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005)

人真的是善忘的,有時候我真會完全忘記自己寫過的東西。這篇感想文寫在石黑一雄的Never Let Me Go出版後不久,一晃眼就過了這些年。昨天一邊看,一邊有種訝異的感覺。這幾年因為已經很久沒有這樣使用英文,好像也就跟著把過去的一切都忘記了。稍微修改了一些句子,但的確有點使不上力,也只有靠著繼續閱讀來充實自己。在修改的當中,心裡並沒有失落感,而讓我更明確感受到自己的熱情所在,很開心。

When a Clone Meets Jazz: A Thought About Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005)

The Booker-Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro published his sixth novel Never Let Me Go earlier this month.  Set in theEngland in the late 1990s, the book is narrated by Kathy, who is now thirty-one years old and telling her life and friends back in her days at Hailsham, a boarding school for human clones.  They were taught to be creative in art and literature, but the ultimate purpose for their existence was organ donations.  When they left the school, they would be the “carers” for other donors, became donors themselves, and finally “completed” their lives after several donations.  However, there was a rumor about a chance of “deferral”–deferring the time of donation–if two clones could prove they were really in love of each other.  It was this rumor that brought hope to Kathy and her friends, Ruth and Tommy, but it was also this rumor that led them to the answers beneath the puzzles they failed to understand when they were children. 

Although the story sounds a bit sci-fi, Never Let Me Go is not a typical science fiction.  There is no description about science or technology.  There seems to be a reflection on the ethics of biotechnology, such as what we should do to treat clones properly, but the book is, metaphorically, more about us, about how we are going to live with the knowledge of our limited lives, and about how we are to live with evaporation of hope.  As Ishiguro’s sixth novel, Never Let Me Go does share something with its predecessors: the surface calmness that hides regret and anguish, or the narrator’s understated narrative.  However, there is still certain warmth at the end of the story: it says life can be short, but memory will last.  Compared with the author’s previous works, Never Let Me Go shows a more philosophical and optimistic attitude to one’s limited and irrevocable life.  

When the book title was announced several months ago, the first thing I thought of was Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender.”  Although my guess was wrong–there is no Elvis–the book did mention a song called “Never Let Me Go.”  It was what the eleven-year-old Kathy found in a tape entitled Songs after Dark, track number three, sung by Judy Bridgewater.  The information about the lyrics was spare: Kathy only remembered the woman singing “Baby, baby, never let me go.”  At the time she thought the song was about a woman who could never have children but finally got one, and so she held her baby and sang happily “Baby, baby, never let me go.”  One afternoon, Kathy played the song, imagining herself as the woman, holding a pillow as if it were a baby, and dancing with the music.  Her playing caught a researcher in tears, who was standing in the doorway and watching Kathy. 

This is one of the impressive moments in the book.  You will read in the later chapters how Kathy and the researcher interpret this scene, but the background music, “Never Let Me Go,” remains a mystery.  What does it exactly sound like?  Kathy spares her description, merely saying the female singer was one of those from her own time who sings “cocktail stuff.”  I try to google the song title and the name of the singer, but the result is disappointing: there is no woman called Judy Bridgewater who sings “Never Let Me Go” whose lyrics goes like Kathy remembered.  Perhaps finding a fictional song in reality is bound to fail because, after all, a novel has no obligation to promise its referents are out there in the real world.  

So with my limited knowledge I try to imagine the song as what Nat King Cole might sing, some jazz tune that makes you feel like sitting in a small pub with people drinking and smoking.  Actually, I do find Nat King Cole ever sang a song called “Never Let Me Go.”  It was made by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for Michael Curtiz’s film The Scarlet Hour.  It is rarely seen in Nat Cole’s compilations available in our local stores, but I just got another version by DinahWashington, recorded in1956 inNew York.  Although the lyrics does not include anything like “Baby, baby, never let me go,” it is enough for me to imagine an eleven-year-old girl sways to the music like this, holding a pillow in her arms.  She is a clone and she can never have children.  What she softly sings and pretends to do is something that she can never achieve.  This could be a lot of pain, but she seems very happy and enjoys her little play.  To me, jazz is also a mixture of opposite emotions: it can sound delightful when it talks about something painful.  It is not likely to know what a fictional tune sounds like, and my guess can be far from what the author has in mind, but as to a world made of imagination, who can be totally wrong about it?

Never Let Me Go is published by Faber and Faber. 

 

Author biography: Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki in 1954 but moved toEnglandwhen he was five.  His father was an oceanographer and joined in the research project about North Seaheld by the British Government.  In his childhood, Ishiguro was often promised to return toJapan, but the promise finally broke when he was sixteen: his father decided to stay inEngland.  Like people who grew up in the 60s, Ishiguro was deeply influenced by Bob Dylan.  He wrote many song lyrics and dreamed of being a rock star.  This adolescent dream wasn’t realized, but the songwriting became his early attempt to write creatively.  He studied English at Universityof Kentand received an MA in creative writing at University of East Anglia.  

Ishiguro is one of the British contemporary authors whose works can be both an intellectual and commercial success.  His first novel, A Pale View of Hills (群山淡景), was published in 1982 and won Winifred Holtby Prize.  His second novel, An Artist of the Floating World(浮世畫家), was published in 1986 and won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award.  Both novels were set in the post-war Nagasaki and much praised for their elegant language and realistic portrayal.  However, Ishiguro was disturbed by the compliments, which somehow implied his full understanding about Japan.  That was partly why he made his third novel, The Remains of the Day(長日將盡), set in England.  The book won the 1989 Booker Prize and was made into a film later.  The success of the film made the book an international bestseller and Ishiguro’s most famous work to date.  His fourth novel, The Unconsoled, was a great departure from the previous three.  A pianist who lost his schedule, an unknown city that emphasized on the value of music, and the dreamy atmosphere pervading the book, all these baffled and challenged his reviewers and readers.  His fifth novel, When We Were Orphans(我輩孤雛), shortlisted for the Booker Prize again, combined his experiment with his elegant prose.  It was a story about an English detective, who spent his childhood in Shanghai and returned years later for his lost parents.  His latest novel, Never Let Me Go (別讓我走), has been highly expected since its publication was announced.  Writing six novels in more than twenty years, Kazuo Ishiguro shows a great ambition to create his “Ishiguro land.”