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中英:月亮和六便士(43)

2006-08-22 21:40

    Chapter XLIII

    Looking back, I realise that what I have written about Charles Strickland must seem very unsatisfactory. I have given incidents that came to my knowledge, but they remain obscure because I do not know the reasons that led to them. The strangest, Strickland's determination to become a painter, seems to be arbitrary; and though it must have had causes in the circumstances of his life, I am ignorant of them. From his own conversation I was able to glean nothing. If I were writing a novel, rather than narrating such facts as I know of a curious personality, I should have invented much to account for this change of heart. I think I should have shown a strong vocation in boyhood, crushed by the will of his father or sacrificed to the necessity of earning a living; I should have pictured him impatient of the restraints of life; and in the struggle between his passion for art and the duties of his station I could have aroused sympathy for him. I should so have made him a more imposing figure. Perhaps it would have been possible to see in him a new Prometheus. There was here, maybe, the opportunity for a modern version of the hero who for the good of mankind exposes himself to the agonies of the damned. It is always a moving subject.

    On the other hand, I might have found his motives in the influence of the married relation. There are a dozen ways in which this might be managed. A latent gift might reveal itself on acquaintance with the painters and writers whose society his wife sought; or domestic incompatability might turn him upon himself; a love affair might fan into bright flame a fire which I could have shown smouldering dimly in his heart. I think then I should have drawn Mrs. Strickland quite differently. I should have abandoned the facts and made her a nagging, tiresome woman, or else a bigoted one with no sympathy for the claims of the spirit. I should have made Strickland's marriage a long torment from which escape was the only possible issue. I think I should have emphasised his patience with the unsuitable mate, and the compassion which made him unwilling to throw off the yoke that oppressed him. I should certainly have eliminated the children.

    An effective story might also have been made by bringing him into contact with some old painter whom the pressure of want or the desire for commercial success had made false to the genius of his youth, and who, seeing in Strickland the possibilities which himself had wasted, influenced him to forsake all and follow the divine tyranny of art. I think there would have been something ironic in the picture of the successful old man, rich and honoured, living in another the life which he, though knowing it was the better part, had not had the strength to pursue.

    The facts are much duller. Strickland, a boy fresh from school, went into a broker's office without any feeling of distaste. Until he married he led the ordinary life of his fellows, gambling mildly on the Exchange, interested to the extent of a sovereign or two on the result of the Derby or the Oxford and Cambridge Race. I think he boxed a little in his spare time. On his chimney-piece he had photographs of Mrs. Langtry and Mary Anderson. He read Punch and the Sporting Times. He went to dances in Hampstead.

    It matters less that for so long I should have lost sight of him. The years during which he was struggling to acquire proficiency in a difficult art were monotonous, and I do not know that there was anything significant in the shifts to which he was put to earn enough money to keep him. An account of them would be an account of the things he had seen happen to other people. I do not think they had any effect on his own character. He must have acquired experiences which would form abundant material for a picaresque novel of modern Paris, but he remained aloof, and judging from his conversation there was nothing in those years that had made a particular impression on him. Perhaps when he went to Paris he was too old to fall a victim to the glamour of his environment. Strange as it may seem, he always appeared to me not only practical, but immensely matter-of-fact. I suppose his life during this period was romantic, but he certainly saw no romance in it. It may be that in order to realise the romance of life you must have something of the actor in you; and, capable of standing outside yourself, you must be able to watch your actions with an interest at once detached and absorbed. But no one was more single-minded than Strickland. I never knew anyone who was less self-conscious. But it is unfortunate that I can give no description of the arduous steps by which he reached such mastery over his art as he ever acquired; for if I could show him undaunted by failure, by an unceasing effort of courage holding despair at bay, doggedly persistent in the face of self-doubt, which is the artist's bitterest enemy, I might excite some sympathy for a personality which, I am all too conscious, must appear singularly devoid of charm. But I have nothing to go on. I never once saw Strickland at work, nor do I know that anyone else did. He kept the secret of his struggles to himself. If in the loneliness of his studio he wrestled desperately with the Angel of the Lord he never allowed a soul to divine his anguish.

    When I come to his connection with Blanche Stroeve I am exasperated by the fragmentariness of the facts at my disposal. To give my story coherence I should describe the progress of their tragic union, but I know nothing of the three months during which they lived together. I do not know how they got on or what they talked about. After all, there are twenty-four hours in the day, and the summits of emotion can only be reached at rare intervals. I can only imagine how they passed the rest of the time. While the light lasted and so long as Blanche's strength endured, I suppose that Strickland painted, and it must have irritated her when she saw him absorbed in his work. As a mistress she did not then exist for him, but only as a model; and then there were long hours in which they lived side by side in silence. It must have frightened her. When Strickland suggested that in her surrender to him there was a sense of triumph over Dirk Stroeve, because he had come to her help in her extremity, he opened the door to many a dark conjecture. I hope it was not true. It seems to me rather horrible. But who can fathom the subtleties of the human heart? Certainly not those who expect from it only decorous sentiments and normal emotions. When Blanche saw that, notwithstanding his moments of passion, Strickland remained aloof, she must have been filled with dismay, and even in those moments I surmise that she realised that to him she was not an individual, but an instrument of pleasure; he was a stranger still, and she tried to bind him to herself with pathetic arts. She strove to ensnare him with comfort and would not see that comfort meant nothing to him. She was at pains to get him the things to eat that he liked, and would not see that he was indifferent to food. She was afraid to leave him alone. She pursued him with attentions, and when his passion was dormant sought to excite it, for then at least she had the illusion of holding him. Perhaps she knew with her intelligence that the chains she forged only aroused his instinct of destruction, as the plate-glass window makes your fingers itch for half a brick; but her heart, incapable of reason, made her continue on a course she knew was fatal. She must have been very unhappy. But the blindness of love led her to believe what she wanted to be true, and her love was so great that it seemed impossible to her that it should not in return awake an equal love.

    But my study of Strickland's character suffers from a greater defect than my ignorance of many facts. Because they were obvious and striking, I have written of his relations to women; and yet they were but an insignificant part of his life. It is an irony that they should so tragically have affected others. His real life consisted of dreams and of tremendously hard work.

    Here lies the unreality of fiction. For in men, as a rule, love is but an episode which takes its place among the other affairs of the day, and the emphasis laid on it in novels gives it an importance which is untrue to life. There are few men to whom it is the most important thing in the world, and they are not very interesting ones; even women, with whom the subject is of paramount interest, have a contempt for them. They are flattered and excited by them, but have an uneasy feeling that they are poor creatures. But even during the brief intervals in which they are in love, men do other things which distract their mind; the trades by which they earn their living engage their attention; they are absorbed in sport; they can interest themselves in art. For the most part, they keep their various activities in various compartments, and they can pursue one to the temporary exclusion of the other. They have a faculty of concentration on that which occupies them at the moment, and it irks them if one encroaches on the other. As lovers, the difference between men and women is that women can love all day long, but men only at times.

    With Strickland the sexual appetite took a very small place. It was unimportant. It was irksome. His soul aimed elsewhither. He had violent passions, and on occasion desire seized his body so that he was driven to an orgy of lust, but he hated the instincts that robbed him of his self-possession. I think, even, he hated the inevitable partner in his debauchery. When he had regained command over himself, he shuddered at the sight of the woman he had enjoyed. His thoughts floated then serenely in the empyrean, and he felt towards her the horror that perhaps the painted butterfly, hovering about the flowers, feels to the filthy chrysalis from which it has triumphantly emerged. I suppose that art is a manifestation of the sexual instinct. It is the same emotion which is excited in the human heart by the sight of a lovely woman, the Bay of Naples under the yellow moon, and the Entombment of Titian. It is possible that Strickland hated the normal release of sex because it seemed to him brutal by comparison with the satisfaction of artistic creation. It seems strange even to myself, when I have described a man who was cruel, selfish, brutal and sensual, to say that he was a great idealist. The fact remains.

    He lived more poorly than an artisan. He worked harder. He cared nothing for those things which with most people make life gracious and beautiful. He was indifferent to money. He cared nothing about fame. You cannot praise him because he resisted the temptation to make any of those compromises with the world which most of us yield to. He had no such temptation. It never entered his head that compromise was possible. He lived in Paris more lonely than an anchorite in the deserts of Thebes. He asked nothing his fellows except that they should leave him alone. He was single-hearted in his aim, and to pursue it he was willing to sacrifice not only himself —— many can do that —— but others. He had a vision.

    Strickland was an odious man, but I still think be was a great one.

    回过头来看一下,我发现我写的关于查理斯。思特里克兰德的这些事似乎很难令人满意。我把自己知道的一些事情记载下来,但是我写得并不清楚,因为我不了解它们发生的真实原因。最令人费解的莫过于思特里克兰德为什么决心要做画家这件事,看来简直没有什么道理可寻。尽管从他的生活环境一定找得出原因来,我却一无所知。从他的谈话里我任何线索也没有获得。如果我是在写一部小说,而不是叙述我知道的一个性格怪异的人的真人真事,我就会编造一些原因,解释他生活上的这一突变。我会描写他童年时期就感到绘画是自己的天职,但迫于父亲的严命或者必须为谋生奔走,这个梦想遭到破灭;我也可以描写他如何对生活的桎梏感到痛恨,写他对艺术的热爱与生活的职责间的矛盾冲突,用以唤起读者对他的同情。这样我就可以把思特里克兰德这个人写得更加令人敬畏。或许人们能够在他身上看到另一个普罗米修斯。我也许会塑造一个为了替人类造福甘心忍受痛苦折磨的当代英雄。这永远是一个动人心弦的主题。

    另外,我也可以从思特里克兰德的婚姻关系中找到他立志绘画的动机。我可以有十几种方法处理这个故事:因为他妻子喜欢同文艺界人士来往,他也有缘结识一些文人和画家,因而唤醒了那隐伏在他身上的艺术才能;也可能是家庭不和睦使他把精力转到自己身上;再不然也可以归结于爱情,譬如说,我可以写一下他心中早就埋着热爱艺术的火种,因为爱上一个女人,一下子把闷火扇成熊熊的烈焰。我想,如果这样写的话,思特里克兰德太太在我笔下也就要以另一副面貌出现了。我将不得不把事实篡改一下,把她写成一个唠唠叨叨、惹人生厌的女人,再不然就是性格褊狭,根本不了解精神的需求。思特里克兰德婚后生活是一场无尽无休的痛苦煎熬,离家出走将是他的唯一出路。我想我将在思特里克兰德如何委曲求全这件事上多费些笔墨,他如何心存怜悯,不愿贸然甩掉折磨他的枷锁。这样写,我当然就不会提他们的两个孩子了。

    如果想把故事写得真实感人,我还可以虚构一个老画家,叫思特里克兰德同他发生关系。这个老画家由于饥寒所迫,也可能是为了追逐虚名,糟蹋了自己青年时代所具有的天才,他后来在思特里克兰德身上看到了自己虚掷的才华,他影响了思特里克兰德,叫他抛弃了人世间的荣华,献身于神圣的艺术。我会着力描写一下这位成功的老人,又阔绰又有名望,但是他知道这不是真正的生活,他自己所无力寻求的,他要在这个年轻人身上体验到;我想这种构思未尝没有讽刺意味。

    但是事实却远没有我想象的这么动人。思特里克兰德一出校门就投身于一家经纪人的事务所,他对这种生活并没有什么反感。直到结婚,他过的就是从事这一行业的人那种平凡庸碌的生活,在交易所干几宗输赢不大的投机买卖,关注着达尔贝赛马或者牛津、剑桥比赛的结果,充其量不过一两镑钱的赌注。我猜想思特里克兰德在工作之余可能还练习练习击拳;壁炉架上摆着朗格瑞夫人①同玛丽。安德逊②的照片;读的是《笨拙》杂志和《体育时代》;到汉普斯台德去参加舞会。

    ①原名爱米丽。夏洛特。勒。布利顿(1852~1929),英国演员,以美貌著称,后嫁与爱德华。朗格瑞。

    ②玛丽。安德逊(1859—1940),美国女演员。

    有很长一段时间我没有再见到过他,这一点关系也没有。这些年间,他一直在努力奋斗,力图掌握一门极其困难的艺术,生活是非常单调的;有时为了挣钱糊口,他不得不采取一些权宜的手段,我认为这也并没有什么值得大书特书的地方。即使我能够把他这一段生活记载下来,也不过是他所见到的发生在别人身上的各种事件的记录。我不认为他在这一段时间内的经历对他自己的性格有任何影响。如果要写一部以现代巴黎为背景的冒险小说,他倒可能积累了丰富的素材。但是他对周围的事物始终采取一种超然物外的态度;从他的谈话判断,这几年里面并没有发生任何给他留下特别印象的事。很可能在他去巴黎的时候,年纪已经太大,光怪陆离的环境对他已经没有引诱力了。说来也许有些奇怪,我总觉得他这个人不仅非常实际,而且简直可以说是木头木脑的。我想他这一段生活是很富于浪漫情调的,但是他自己却绝对没有看到任何浪漫的色彩。或许一个人如果想体会到生活中的浪漫情调就必须在某种程度上是一个演员;而要想跳出自身之外,则必须能够对自己的行动抱着一种既超然物外又沉浸于其中的兴趣。但是思特里克兰德却是个心无二用的人,在这方面谁也比不上他。我不知道哪个人象他那样总是强烈地意识到自己的存在。不幸的是,我无法描写他在取得艺术成就的艰苦征途上勤奋的脚步;因为,如果我能写一下他如何屡经失败毫不气馁,如何满怀勇气奋斗不息,从不悲观失望,如何在艺术家的劲敌——信心发生动摇的时刻,仍然不屈不挠地艰苦斗争,也许我能使读者对这样一个枯燥乏味的人物(这一点我是非常清楚的)产生一些同情。但是我却毫无事实根据进行一方面的描述。我从来没有看见过思特里克兰德工作的情形,而且我知道不只是我,任何其他人也都没有见过他如何绘画。他的一部斗争史是他个人的秘密。如果在他独处于画室中曾经同上帝的天使进行过剧烈的搏斗,他是从来没让任何人了解到他的痛苦的。

    当我开始叙述他同勃朗什。施特略夫的关系时,我也深为自己掌握材料不足所苦。为了把我的故事说得有头有尾,我应该描写一下他们这一悲剧性的结合是如何发展的,但是我对他俩三个月的同居生活却一无所知。我不知道他们如何相处,也不知道他们平常谈一些什么。不管怎么说,一天是有二十四小时的,感情的高峰只是在稀有的时刻才达到的现象。其他的时间是怎么过的,我只能借助自己的想象力。在光线没有暗淡下来以前,只要勃朗什的气力还能支持住,我想思特里克兰德总是不停笔地作画。我想勃朗什对他这样沉溺于自己的绘画中,一定感到非常气恼。整个这段时间,她只是他的模特儿,他根本没有想到她的情妇的角色。此外,就是相对无言的漫长的时刻,对她说来,也一定是件怪可怕的事。思特里克兰德曾对我透露,勃朗什献身给他,带有某种向戴尔克。施特略夫报复的感情在内,因为戴尔克是在她丢尽了脸面的时候把她搭救起来的;思特里克兰德泄露的这个秘密为许多玄妙的臆想打开了门户。我希望思特里克兰德的话并不真实;我觉得这有点儿太可怕了。但是话又说回来,谁能理解人心的奥秘呢?那些只希望从人心里寻到高尚的情操和正常感情的人肯定是不会理解的。当勃朗什发现思特里克兰德除了偶尔迸发出一阵热情以外,总是离她远远的,心里一定非常痛苦;而我猜想,即使在那些短暂的时刻,她也知道得很清楚,思特里克兰德不过只把她当作自己取乐的工具,而不把她当人看待。他始终是一个陌生人,她用一切可怜的手段拼命想把他系牢在自己身边。她试图用舒适的生活网罗住他,殊不知他对安逸的环境丝毫也不介意。她费尽心机给他弄合他口味的东西吃,却看不到他吃什么东西部无所谓。她害怕叫他独自一个人待着,总是不断地对他表示关心、照护,当他的热情酣睡的时候,就想尽各种方法唤醒它,因为这样她至少还可以有一种把他把持在手的假象。也许她的智慧告诉她,她铸造的这些链条只不过刺激起他的天性想把它砸断,正象厚玻璃会使人看着手痒痒,想捡起半块砖来似的。但是她的心却不听理智的劝告,总是逼着她沿着一条她自己也知道必然通向毁灭的路上滑下去。她一定非常痛苦,但是爱情的盲目性却叫她相信自己的追求是真实的,叫她相信自己的爱情是伟大的,不可能不在他身上唤起同样的爱情来还答她。

    但是我对思特里克兰德的性格的分析,除了因为有许多事实我不了解外,却还有另外一个更为严重的缺憾。因为他同女人的关系非常明显,也着实有令人震骇的地方,我就如实地记载下来,但实际上这只是他生活中一个非常微不足道的部分。尽管这种关系惨痛地影响了别的人,那也不过是命运对人生的嘲弄。实际上,思特里克兰德的真正生活既包括了梦想,也充满了极为艰辛的工作的。

    小说之所以不真实正在这里。一般说来,爱情在男人身上只不过是一个插曲,是日常生活中许多事务中的一件事,但是小说却把爱情夸大了,给予它一个违反生活真实性的重要的地位。尽管也有很少数男人把爱情当作世界上的头等大事,但这些人常常是一些索然寡味的人;即便对爱情感到无限兴趣的女人,对这类男子也不太看得起。女人会被这样的男人吸引,会被他们奉承得心花怒放,但是心里却免不了有一种不安的感觉——这些人是一种可怜的生物。男人们即使在恋爱的短暂期间,也不停地干一些别的事分散自己的心思:赖以维持生计的事务吸引了他们的注意力;他们沉湎于体育活动;他们还可能对艺术感到兴趣。在大多数情况下,他们把自己的不同活动分别安排在不同的间隔里,在进行一种活动时,可以暂时把另一种完全排除。他们有本领专心致志进行当时正在从事的活动;如果一种活动受到另一种侵犯,他们会非常恼火。作为坠入情网的人来说,男人同女人的区别是:女人能够整天整夜谈恋爱,而男人却只能有时有晌儿地干这种事。

    性的饥渴在思特里克兰德身上占的地位很小,很不重要,或勿宁说,叫他感到很嫌恶。他的灵魂追求的是另外一种东西。他的感情非常强烈,有时候欲念会把他抓住,逼得他纵情狂欢一阵,但是对这种剥夺了他宁静自持的本能他是非常厌恶的。我想他甚至讨厌他在淫逸放纵中那必不可少的伴侣;在他重新控制住自己以后,看到那个他发泄情欲的女人,他甚至会不寒而栗。他的思想这时会平静地飘浮在九天之上,他对那个女人感到又嫌恶又可怕,也许那感觉就象一只翩翩飞舞于花丛中的蝴蝶,见到它胜利地蜕身出来的肮脏的蛹壳一样。我认为艺术也是性本能的一种流露。一个漂亮的女人、金黄的月亮照耀下的那不勒斯海湾,或者提香①的名画《墓穴》,在人们心里勾起的是同样的感情。很可能思特里克兰德讨厌通过性行为发泄自己的感情(这本来是很正常的),因为他觉得同通过艺术创造取得自我满足相比,这是粗野的。在我描写这样一个残忍、自私、粗野、肉欲的人时,竟把他写成是个精神境界极高的人,我自己也觉得奇怪。但是我认为这是事实。

    ①提香(1490—1576),意大利威尼斯派画家。

    作为一个艺术家,他的生活比任何其他艺术家都更困苦。他工作得比其他艺术家也更艰苦。大多数人认为会把生活装点得更加优雅、美丽的那些东西,思特里克兰德是不屑一顾的。对于名和利他都无动于衷。我们大多数人受不住各种引诱,总要对世俗人情做一些让步;你却无法赞扬思特里克兰德抵拒得住这些诱惑,因为对他说来,这种诱惑是根本不存在的。他的脑子里从来没有想到要做任何妥协、让步。他住在巴黎,比住在底比斯沙漠里的隐士生活还要孤独。对于别的人他没有任何要求,只求人家别打扰他。他一心一意追求自己的目标,为了达到这个目的他不仅甘愿牺牲自己——这一点很多人还是能做到的——,而且就是牺牲别人也在所不惜。他自己有一个幻境。

    思特里克兰德是个惹人嫌的人,但是尽管如此,我还是认为他是一个伟大的人。

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