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中英:月亮和六便士(57)

2006-08-22 21:50

    Chapter LVII

    AT that moment we were interrupted by the appearance of Madame Coutras, who had been paying visits. She came in, like a ship in full sail, an imposing creature, tall and stout, with an ample bust and an obesity girthed in alarmingly by straight-fronted corsets. She had a bold hooked nose and three chins. She held herself upright. She had not yielded for an instant to the enervating charm of the tropics, but contrariwise was more active, more worldly, more decided than anyone in a temperate clime would have thought it possible to be. She was evidently a copious talker, and now poured forth a breathless stream of anecdote and comment. She made the conversation we had just had seem far away and unreal.

    Presently Dr. Coutras turned to me.

    "I still have in my bureau the picture that Strickland gave me, " he said. "Would you like to see it?"

    "Willingly. "

    We got up, and he led me on to the verandah which surrounded his house. We paused to look at the gay flowers that rioted in his garden.

    "For a long time I could not get out of my head the recollection of the extraordinary decoration with which Strickland had covered the walls of his house, " he said reflectively.

    I had been thinking of it, too. It seemed to me that here Strickland had finally put the whole expression of himself. Working silently, knowing that it was his last chance, I fancied that here he must have said all that he knew of life and all that he divined. And I fancied that perhaps here he had at last found peace. The demon which possessed him was exorcised at last, and with the completion of the work, for which all his life had been a painful preparation, rest descended on his remote and tortured soul. He was willing to die, for he had fulfilled his purpose.

    "What was the subject?" I asked.

    "I scarcely know. It was strange and fantastic. It was a vision of the beginnings of the world, the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve —— que sais-je? —— it was a hymn to the beauty of the human form, male and female, and the praise of Nature, sublime, indifferent, lovely, and cruel. It gave you an awful sense of the infinity of space and of the endlessness of time. Because he painted the trees I see about me every day, the cocoa-nuts, the banyans, the flamboyants, the alligator-pears, I have seen them ever since differently, as though there were in them a spirit and a mystery which I am ever on the point of seizing and which forever escapes me. The colours were the colours familiar to me, and yet they were different. They had a significance which was all their own. And those nude men and women. They were of the earth, and yet apart from it. They seemed to possess something of the clay of which they were created, and at the same time something divine. You saw man in the nakedness of his primeval instincts, and you were afraid, for you saw yourself. "

    Dr. Coutras shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

    "You will laugh at me. I am a materialist, and I am a gross, fat man —— Falstaff, eh? —— the lyrical mode does not become me. I make myself ridiculous. But I have never seen painting which made so deep an impression upon me. Tenez, I had just the same feeling as when I went to the Sistine Chapel in Rome. There too I was awed by the greatness of the man who had painted that ceiling. It was genius, and it was stupendous and overwhelming. I felt small and insignificant. But you are prepared for the greatness of Michael Angelo. Nothing had prepared me for the immense surprise of these pictures in a native hut, far away from civilisation, in a fold of the mountain above Taravao. And Michael Angelo is sane and healthy. Those great works of his have the calm of the sublime; but here, notwithstanding beauty, was something troubling. I do not know what it was. It made me uneasy. It gave me the impression you get when you are sitting next door to a room that you know is empty, but in which, you know not why, you have a dreadful consciousness that notwithstanding there is someone. You scold yourself; you know it is only your nerves —— and yet, and yet. . . In a little while it is impossible to resist the terror that seizes you, and you are helpless in the clutch of an unseen horror. Yes; I confess I was not altogether sorry when I heard that those strange masterpieces had been destroyed. "

    "Destroyed?" I cried.

    " Mais oui; did you not know?"

    "How should I know? It is true I had never heard of this work; but I thought perhaps it had fallen into the hands of a private owner. Even now there is no certain list of Strickland's paintings. "

    "When he grew blind he would sit hour after hour in those two rooms that he had painted, looking at his works with sightless eyes, and seeing, perhaps, more than he had ever seen in his life before. Ata told me that he never complained of his fate, he never lost courage. To the end his mind remained serene and undisturbed. But he made her promise that when she had buried him —— did I tell you that I dug his grave with my own hands, for none of the natives would approach the infected house, and we buried him, she and I, sewn up in three pareos joined together, under the mango-tree —— he made her promise that she would set fire to the house and not leave it till it was burned to the ground and not a stick remained. "

    I did not speak for a while, for I was thinking. Then I said:

    "He remained the same to the end, then. "

    "Do you understand? I must tell you that I thought it my duty to dissuade her. "

    "Even after what you have just said?"

    "Yes; for I knew that here was a work of genius, and I did not think we had the right to deprive the world of it. But Ata would not listen to me. She had promised. I would not stay to witness the barbarous deed, and it was only afterwards that I heard what she had done. She poured paraffin on the dry floors and on the pandanus-mats, and then she set fire. In a little while nothing remained but smouldering embers, and a great masterpiece existed no longer.

    "I think Strickland knew it was a masterpiece. He had achieved what he wanted. His life was complete. He had made a world and saw that it was good. Then, in pride and contempt, he destroyed, it. "

    "But I must show you my picture, " said Dr. Coutras, moving on.

    "What happened to Ata and the child?"

    They went to the Marquesas. She had relations there. I have heard that the boy works on one of Cameron's schooners. They say he is very like his father in appearance. "

    At the door that led from the verandah to the doctor's consulting-room, he paused and smiled.

    "It is a fruit-piece. You would think it not a very suitable picture for a doctor's consulting-room, but my wife will not have it in the drawing-room. She says it is frankly obscene. "

    "A fruit-piece!" I exclaimed in surprise.

    We entered the room, and my eyes fell at once on the picture. I looked at it for a long time.

    It was a pile of mangoes, bananas, oranges, and I know not what. and at first sight it was an innocent picture enough. It would have been passed in an exhibition of the Post- Impressionists by a careless person as an excellent but not very remarkable example of the school; but perhaps afterwards it would come back to his recollection, and he would wonder why. I do not think then he could ever entirely forget it.

    The colours were so strange that words can hardly tell what a troubling emotion they gave. They were sombre blues, opaque like a delicately carved bowl in lapis lazuli, and yet with a quivering lustre that suggested the palpitation of mysterious life; there were purples, horrible like raw and putrid flesh, and yet with a glowing, sensual passion that called up vague memories of the Roman Empire of Heliogabalus; there were reds, shrill like the berries of holly —— one thought of Christmas in England, and the snow, the good cheer, and the pleasure of children —— and yet by some magic softened till they had the swooning tenderness of a dove's breast; there were deep yellows that died with an unnatural passion into a green as fragrant as the spring and as pure as the sparkling water of a mountain brook. Who can tell what anguished fancy made these fruits? They belonged to a Polynesian garden of the Hesperides. There was something strangely alive in them, as though they were created in a stage of the earth's dark history when things were not irrevocably fixed to their forms. They were extravagantly luxurious. They were heavy with tropical odours. They seemed to possess a sombre passion of their own. It was enchanted fruit, to taste which might open the gateway to God knows what secrets of the soul and to mysterious palaces of the imagination. They were sullen with unawaited dangers, and to eat them might turn a man to beast or god. All that was healthy and natural, all that clung to happy relationships and the simple joys of simple men, shrunk from them in dismay; and yet a fearful attraction was in them, and, like the fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they were terrible with the possibilities of the Unknown.

    At last I turned away. I felt that Strickland had kept his secret to the grave.

    " Voyons, Rene, mon ami, " came the loud, cheerful voice of Madame Coutras, "what are you doing all this time? Here are the aperitifs. Ask Monsieur if he will not drink a little glass of Quinquina Dubonnet. "

    " Volontiers, Madame, " I said, going out on to the verandah.

    The spell was broken.

    这时候库特拉斯太太看朋友回来,我们的谈话暂时被打断了。库特拉斯太太象一只帆篷张得鼓鼓的小船,精神抖擞地闯了进来。她是个又高大又肥胖的女人,胸部膨脝饱满,却紧紧勒着束胸。她生着一个大鹰钩鼻,下巴耷拉着三圈肥肉,身躯挺得笔直。尽管热带气候一般总是叫人慵懒无力,对她却丝毫没有影响。相反地,库特拉斯太太又精神又世故,行动敏捷果断,在这种叫人昏昏欲睡的地带里,谁也想不到她有这么充沛的精力。此外,她显然还是个非常健谈的人;自踏进屋门的一分钟起,她就谈论这个、品评那个,话语滔滔不绝。我们刚才那场谈话在库特拉斯太太进屋以后显得非常遥远、非常不真实了。

    过了一会儿,库特拉斯医生对我说:

    “思特里克兰德给我的那幅画一直挂在我的书房①里。你要去看看吗?”

    ①原文为法语

    “我很想看看。”

    我们站起来,医生领着我走到室外环绕着这幢房子的阳台上。我们在外面站了一会儿,看了看他花园里争奇斗妍的绚烂的鲜花。

    “看了思特里克兰德用来装饰他房屋四壁的那些奇异的画幅,很久很久我老是忘不掉,”他沉思地说。

    我脑子里想的也正是这件事。看来思特里克兰德终于把他的内心世界完全表现出来了。他默默无言地工作着,心里非常清楚,这是他一生中最后一个机会了。我想思特里克兰德一定把他理解的生活、把他的慧眼所看到的世界用图象表示了出来。我还想,他在创作这些巨画时也许终于寻找到心灵的平静;缠绕着他的魔鬼最后被拔除了。他痛苦的一生似乎就是为这些壁画做准备,在图画完成的时候,他那远离尘嚣的受折磨的灵魂也就得到了安息。对于死他勿宁说抱着一种欢迎的态度,因为他一生追求的目的已经达到了。

    “他的画主题是什么?”我问。

    “我说不太清楚。他的画奇异而荒诞,好象是宇宙初创时的图景——伊甸园,亚当和夏娃……我怎么知道呢①?是对人体美——男性和女性的形体——的一首赞美诗,是对大自然的颂歌;大自然,既崇高又冷漠,既美丽又残忍……它使你感到空间的无限和时间的永恒,叫你产生一种畏惧的感觉。他画了许多树,椰子树、榕树、火焰花、鳄梨……所有那些我天天看到的;但是这些树经他一画,我再看的时候就完全不同了,我仿佛看到它们都有了灵魂,都各自有一个秘密,仿佛它们的灵魂和秘密眼看就要被我抓到手里,但又总是被它们逃脱掉。那些颜色都是我熟悉的颜色,可是又有所不同;它们都具有自己的独特的重要性。而那些赤身裸体的男男女女,他们既都是尘寰的、是他们揉捏而成的尘土,又都是神灵。人的最原始的天性赤裸裸地呈现在你眼前,你看到的时候不由得感到恐惧,因为你看到的是你自己。”

    ①原文为法语。

    库特拉斯医生耸了一下肩膀,脸上露出笑容。

    “你会笑我的。我是个实利主义者,我生得又蠢又胖——有点儿象福斯塔夫②,对不对?——抒情诗的感情对我是很不合适的。我在惹人发笑。但是我真的还从来没有看过哪幅画给我留下这么深的印象。说老实话③,我看这幅画时的心情,就象我进了罗马塞斯廷小教堂一样。在那里我也是感到在天花板上绘画的那个画家非常伟大,又敬佩又畏服。那真是天才的画,气势磅礴,叫人感到头晕目眩。在这样伟大的壁画前面,我感到自己非常渺小,微不足道。但是人们对米开朗基罗的伟大还是有心理准备的,而在这样一个土人住的小木房子里,远离文明世界,在俯瞰塔拉窝村庄的群山怀抱里,我却根本没想到会看到这样令人吃惊的艺术作品。另外,米开朗基罗神智健全,身体健康。他的那些伟大作品给人以崇高、肃穆的感觉。但是在这里,虽然我看到的也是美,却叫我觉得心神不安。我不知道那究竟是什么,但它确实叫我不能平静。它给我一种印象,仿佛我正坐在一间空荡荡的屋子隔壁,我知道那间屋子是空的,但不知为什么,我又觉得里面有一个人,叫我惊恐万状。你责骂你自己吧;你知道这只不过是你的神经在作祟——但是,但是……过一小会儿,你就再也不能抗拒那紧紧捕捉住你的恐惧了。你被握在一种无形的恐怖的掌心里,无法逃脱。是的,我承认当我听到这些奇异的杰作被毁掉的时候,我并不是只觉得遗憾的。”

    ②莎士比亚戏剧《亨利四世》中人物,身体肥胖,喜爱吹牛。

    ③原文为法语。

    “怎么,毁掉了?”我喊起来。

    “是啊①。你不知道吗?”

    ①原文为法语。

    “我怎么会知道?我没听说过这些作品倒是事实,但是我还以为它们落到某个私人收藏家手里去了呢。思特里克兰德究竟画了多少画儿,直到今天始终没有人编制出目录来。”

    “自从眼睛瞎了以后他就总是一动不动地坐在那两间画着壁画的屋子里,一坐就是几个钟头。他用一对失明的眼睛望着自己的作品,也许他看到的比他一生中看到的还要多。爱塔告诉我,他对自己的命运从来也没有抱怨过,他从来也不沮丧。直到生命最后一刻,他的心智一直是安详、恬静的。但是他叫爱塔作出诺言,在她把他埋葬以后——我告诉你没有,他的墓穴是我亲手挖的,因为没有一个土人肯走近这所沾染了病菌的房子,我们俩把他埋葬在那株芒果树底下,我同爱塔,他的尸体是用三块帕利欧缝在一起包裹起来的——他叫爱塔保证,放火把房子烧掉,而且要她亲眼看着房子烧光,在每一根木头都烧掉以前不要走开。”

    半天半天我没有说话;我陷入沉思中,最后我说:

    “这么说来,他至死也没有变啊。”

    “你了解吗?我必须告诉你,当时我觉得自己有责任劝阻她,叫她不要这么做。”

    “后来你真是这样说了吗?”

    “是的。因为我知道这是一个伟大天才的杰作,而且我认为,我们是没有权利叫人类失去它的。但是爱塔不听我的劝告。她已经答应过他了。我不愿意继续待在那儿,亲眼看着那野蛮的破坏活动。只是事情过后我才听人说,她是怎样干的。她在干燥的地板上和草席上倒上煤油,点起一把火来。没过半晌,这座房子就变成了焦炭,一幅伟大的杰作就这样化为灰烬了。”

    “我想思特里克兰德也知道这是一幅杰作。他已经得到了自己所追求的东西。他可以说死而无憾了。他创造了一个世界,也看到自己的创造多么美好。以后,在骄傲和轻蔑的心情中,他又把它毁掉了。”

    “我还是得让你看看我的画,”库特拉斯医生说,继续往前走。

    “爱塔同他们的孩子后来怎样了?”

    “他们搬到马尔奎撒群岛去了。她那里有亲属。我听说他们的孩子在一艘喀麦隆的双桅帆船上当水手。人们都说他长得很象死去的父亲。”

    走到从阳台通向诊疗室的门口,库特拉斯医生站住,对我笑了笑。

    “我的画是一幅水果静物画。你也许觉得诊疗室里挂着这样一幅画不很适宜,但是我的妻子却绝对不让它挂在客厅里。她说这张画给人一种猥亵感。”

    “水果静物会叫人感到猥亵?”我吃惊地喊起来。

    我们走进屋子,我的眼睛立刻落到这幅画上。很久很久我一直看着它。

    画的是一堆水果:芒果、香蕉、桔子,还有一些我叫不出名字的东西。第一眼望去,这幅画一点儿也没有什么怪异的地方。如果摆在后期印象派的画展上,一个不经心的人会认为这是张满不错的、但也并非什么杰出的画幅,从风格上讲,同这一学派也没有什么不同。但是看过以后,说不定这幅画就总要回到他的记忆里,甚至连他自己也不知道为什么。据我估计,从此以后他就永远也不能把它忘掉了。

    这幅画的着色非常怪异,叫人感到心神不宁,其感觉是很难确切说清的。浓浊的蓝色是不透明的,有如刻工精细的青金石雕盘,但又颤动着闪闪光泽,令人想到生活的神秘悸动;紫色象腐肉似的叫人感到嫌恶,但与此同时又勾起一种炽热的欲望,令人模糊想到亥里俄嘉巴鲁斯①统治下的罗马帝国;红色鲜艳刺目,有如冬青灌木结的小红果——一个人会联想英国的圣诞节,白雪皑皑,欢乐的气氛和儿童的笑语喧哗——,但画家又运用自己的魔笔,使这种光泽柔和下来,让它呈现出有如乳鸽胸脯一样的柔嫩,叫人神怡心驰;深黄色有些突兀地转成绿色,给人带来春天的芳香和溅着泡沫的山泉的明净。谁能知道,是什么痛苦的幻想创造出这些果实的呢?该不是看管金苹果园的赫斯珀里得斯三姐妹②在波利尼西亚果园中培植出来的吧!奇怪的是,这些果实都象活的一样,仿佛是在混沌初开时创造出来的,当时任何事物还都没有固定的形体,丰实肥硕,散发着浓郁的热带气息,好象具有一种独特的忧郁的感情。它们是被施展了魔法的果子,任何人尝了就能打开通向不知道哪些灵魂秘密的门扉,就可以走进幻境的神秘宫殿。它们孕育着无法预知的危险,咬一口就可能把一个人变成野兽,但也说不定变成神灵。一切健康的、正常的东西,淳朴人们所有的一切美好的情谊、朴素的欢乐都远远地避开了它们;但它们又具有莫大的诱惑力,就象伊甸园中能分辨善恶的智慧果一样,能把人带进未知的境界。

    ①一名埃拉嘉巴鲁斯(205?—222),罗马帝国皇帝。

    ②根据希腊神话,赫斯珀里得斯姐妹负责看管赫拉女神的金苹果树,并有巨龙拉冬帮助守卫。

    最后,我离开了这幅画。我觉得思特里克兰德一直把他的秘密带进了坟墓。

    “喂,雷耐,亲爱的①,”外面传来了库特拉斯太太的兴高采烈的响亮的声音,“这么半天,你在干什么啊?开胃酒②已经准备好了。问问那位先生③愿意不愿意喝一小杯规那皮杜邦内酒。”

    ①②③原文为法语。

    “当然愿意,夫人④,”我一边说一边走到阳台上去。

    ④原文为法语。

    图画的魅力被打破了。

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