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He Wei’s Essay: The Photographic Record of My Childhood– modern chinese literature 何为《照片上的童年》

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照片上的童年[1]

◎ 何为

前些日子[2],为了寻找[3]四十年前的旧作剪报,在箧底的隐蔽角落里,竟把一些远年陈迹也翻了出来。其中年代最久的是一本既厚且大的古老影集。

在那本布满虫蛀的影集里,贴着我出世后最早的几张照片。我漠然看着褪了色的童年面容,似乎找到了童年的梦[4],却又觉得它早已远远地离开我,再也不属于我自己,仅仅是一种无可奈何的存在而已。

照片上的童年是真实的,又是虚幻的[5]。

一张照片上,有一个稚气可掬的孩子,大概是刚满周岁,按照家乡的习俗,在胸前悬垂着一块很大的“锁片”[6]。半个多世纪前的一幅留影。这就是我自己吗?萌芽状态的人生,一无所知地面对着陌生的世界。

另一张站着的全身照,记得是摄于三岁那年,也可能是四岁。冬天,穿着又厚又臃肿的棉袍,显得蹒跚可笑。又一张,看上去是同一时刻拍摄的。那是我和祖母的合影。我紧紧拉着祖母的手。我从幼小时就在祖母抚育下,祖孙俩形影不离[7]。那一年祖母不过五十三四岁。在照片上,她微微侧着脸,仿佛叮嘱我向前注视,又像在给我讲孟姜女万里寻夫的悲壮故事。我的祖母有讲不完的民间故事。我总觉得她有一本无字的书,书上写满了令人神往的故事,那也是我最早接触到的文学作品[8]。

照片上的背景部分,经过漫长岁月,留下泛黄的时间痕迹,还有一些幻影似的模糊斑点。衬托着人像背后的斑驳墙垣上,一个很大的圆圈,轮廓分明。

墙上大圆圈是一扇圆形的大门吗?我问自己。

是一扇门。正是我童年时代熟悉的月洞门,童话般的门。

我出生的老屋里,厅堂前有一个石面铺砌的院子,足供我嬉戏奔跑。花砖墙跟前,并列着几只大水缸,用以承接檐下的雨落水。每一只水缸都比我高得多。我躲在水缸后面,与小伙伴捉迷藏。院子两侧,东西相对,各有一个月洞门。为什么我总是记得那两扇大圆门呢?是因为它不同于普通的长方形门框,圆圆的像天上月宫吗?抑或是,两扇大门之间,有一块小小的天地,曾经是我骑竹马驰骋的所在?我常常想起故乡的老屋,它充满了我童年的回忆。

一九六〇年仲夏,我回到了阔别三十多年的故乡,回到定海城内。一天,我踏着暮色,悄悄踅入横塘弄。一条幽深寂寥的长巷,一条两旁厚墙夹峙的石板道[9]。日影西斜,照着长巷石板道上一幢老屋。经人指引,我登上石阶,推开虚掩的门扉。四下寂然无声。蓦地,院子两头的月洞门呈现在我眼前。依然是那两个大圆圈。只是比我回忆中小了许多,而且显得很陈旧。儿时,我与小游伴互相追逐过的院子和厅堂,都堆满了层叠的货包。原来多年以前,老家旧宅早已改成了百货店的商品堆栈。

我踌躇不前,不由感到一阵迷惑和惆怅。

也许我最好是不要还乡,不要重返家园,不要寻求那逝去的旧梦。我不知道是有所得抑或是有所失[10]。一切都已过去,一切都已变样。

只有照片上的童年,至今还留驻下来。当我从箱筐内找到旧作的若干剪报后,便把那一本比我生活过的年代更长久的影集[11],重又放入书箱里。然后轻轻合上了箱盖。我的童年回忆于是随同影集一起又沉入箱底。

何为(1922—2011),当代著名作家,原名何敬业,祖籍浙江定海。20世纪40年代初先后就读于上海大同大学和圣约翰大学,1937年开始发表文学作品,在上海历任报纸记者、刊物编辑和电影文学编辑。1959年调至福建电影制片厂任故事片编辑负责人,1964年转任福建省作家协会专业作家,后为中国作家协会全国委员会名誉会员。《照片上的童年》是他写于1980年10月的一篇佳作,深情追怀他在故乡度过的童年时代。

[1]文章题目“照片上的童年”译为The Photographic Record of My Childhood,比Photos Taken in My Childhood和What I Photographed Like as a Child确切。

[2]“前些日子”意即“不久前”,可译为The other day或Recently。

[3]“寻找”在此有“翻找”之意,最好译为rummaging (for),比looking for确切。

[4]“似乎找到了童年的梦”意即“似乎重温童年旧梦”,故译feeling as if I were reliving my childhood。

[5]“照片上的童年是真实的,又是虚幻的”可译为My childhood, as recorded in the old photos, was at once real and unreal,其中was at once real and unreal意同both real and illusory。

[6]“在胸前悬垂着一块很大的‘锁片’”可按“胸前挂着一个大型饰物,以表吉祥”译为a big ornament hung on my chest as a lucky charm或a big piece of jewelry hung on my chest as an amulet to protect me against bad luck。

[7]“我从幼小时就在祖母抚育下,祖孙俩形影不离”译为As she had been taking care of me ever since I was in the cradle, we became inseparable from each other,其中ever since I was in the cradle意同ever since I was a little baby或ever since my babyhood。

[8]“那也是我最早接触到的文学作品”译为They became, as it were, the first literary works I ever came into contact with in my life,其中as it were是成语,作“可以说”、“似乎”等解,为译文中的添加词,原文虽无其词而有其意。

[9]“石板道”指“用石板铺的小巷”,故译flagstone alley。

[10]“我不知道是有所得抑或有所失”未按字面直译为I wondered whether my visit had ended up in gains or losses,现按“我不知道此行是否值得”之意译为I wondered whether it had been worthwhile or not for me to revisit my old house。

[11]“那一本比我生活过的年代更长久的影集”译为 the album that had seen many more winters than I,其中winters作“年代”、“岁月”解。

The Photographic Record of My Childhood

◎ He Wei

The other day, in rummaging a suitcase for newspaper clippings of my essays written over forty years ago, I came upon some old objects, among them an enormously bulky old album.

The moth-eaten album contained several photos of myself taken in early childhood. I stared blankly at my little face in the faded photos, feeling as if I were reliving my childhood. But I also felt that my childhood had long been irretrievably gone and no longer belonged to me.

My childhood, as recorded in the old photos, was at once real and unreal.

In one of the photos, I was very little, probably just one year old. As was the custom of my native place, I had a big ornament hung on my chest as a lucky charm. The photo had been taken over half a century ago. Was it I myself in the embryonic stage of life, with my ignorant eyes on the strange world?

Another photo, in which I stood full-length, had been taken, I remember, when I was three or four. It was winter, and I was dressed cumbersomely in a cotton-padded thick gown, staggering ridiculously. In still another photo, probably taken at the same time, I was holding grandma by the hand. As she had been looking after me ever since I was in the cradle, we had become inseparable from each other. In the photo, she looked in her early fifties. She was turning her head slightly, as if trying to make me look ahead or telling me the tragic and moving story of Meng Jiang Nu[1] making a long, difficult journey in search of her husband. She had an unlimited stock of folk tales to tell. I always thought her in possession of a wordless book full of fascinating stories. They became, as it were, the first literary works that I ever came into contact with in my life.

The background of the photos was yellowed with age and dotted with fuzzy specks. There was distinctly a big round hole in the mottled wall.

Wasn’t the round hole a fan-shaped gate? I asked myself.

Yes, it was. It was the moon gate so familiar to me in my childhood — a fairy-tale gate!

I used to play on the flagstones of the courtyard in front of the hall of the old house where I had been born. Standing side by side before the tiled wall were several water vats for receiving rain water dripping from the eaves. In playing hide-and-seek with my little playmates, I would conceal myself behind one of the vats, which were taller than I was. On either side of the courtyard there was a moon gate. Why did the two big moon gates always remain in my memory? Was it because they differed from ordinary rectangular gates in resembling the big round gate of the legendary palace on the moon? Or was it because of the little world between the two big gates where I used to play happily? I often think of the old house in my hometown. It brings back many, many memories of my childhood.

In the midsummer of 1960, I returned to my old home in the city of Dinghai for a short visit after a long absence of more than thirty years. One day, in the deepening twilight, I quietly stepped into Heng Tang Alley, a long flagstone alley between two towering walls. The setting sun was casting its last rays on an old house down the alley. At the direction of someone, I found my way to the house and ascended its stone steps. Its gate was left unlatched, so I pushed it open. Inside it was all quiet. My eyes suddenly fell on the moon gate on either side of the courtyard. Yes, the same two old big round holes. Only they looked much smaller than they were in my memory, and very shabby too. The courtyard and the hall where I had used to play around with my little playmates in my childhood were now heaped with sacks of goods. So my old house had long been transformed into the warehouse of a department store!

I hesitated to move ahead, feeling perplexed and melancholy.

Perhaps I should not have returned to my hometown to see my old house and to relive my past experience. I wondered whether it had been worthwhile or not for me to revisit my old home. Everything’s gone. Everything’s changed.

The only thing that still remained was my photographic childhood. Having found some newspaper clippings of my old writings, I replaced in the suitcase the album that had seen many more winters than I. Then I carefully put back the lid on the suitcase. Memories of my childhood, together with the album, sank again to the bottom of the suitcase.

[1]The name of a heroine in Chinese folklore, who trekked over a long way to look for her husband only to find him already dead from forced labor on the construction site of the Great Wall. Her bitter cries over her husband’s death was said to have caused a section of the Wall to crumble down.

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