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经济学人:最好,最坏的城市

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Books and Arts; London fiction

文艺;伦敦小说

The best of cities, the worst of cities

这是最好的城市,也是最坏的城市

The capital as inspiration for novelists

首都伦敦,小说家灵感之源

London is a “great cesspool” into which the loungers and idlers of life irresistibly drain, wrote Arthur Conan Doyle in one of his Sherlock Holmes stories. But it has proved to be a fertile dumping ground, an inspiration for each generation of novelist and every genre of fiction.

亚瑟·柯南道尔在一集福尔摩斯故事中写道,伦敦是个“污水坑”,不可避免地集聚了游手好闲,无所事事的懒汉。但伦敦也是块相当肥沃的垃圾场,每一代小说家,每一种小说体裁都从中汲取着灵感。

The capital's most famous and still unparalleled chronicler is Charles Dickens. His template for the London novel has never dated, flinging together characters from every walk of life into dazzling, swarming, state-of-the city narratives. In his London the rich cannot escape the poor, and the do-gooders and swindlers quaff ale elbow-to-elbow. The inanimate actors are as vivid as the living: the miserable workhouse that harboured Oliver Twist is no less legendary than the poor, begging boy himself or his criminal chum, the Artful Dodger; the “sooty spectre” of fog coloured the capital's image long after the industrial pea-soupers had disappeared.

这座城市最著名且仍罕有匹敌的记录者当属查尔斯·狄更斯。他为伦敦小说定下的模板至今仍未过时,各行各业的角色在其叙述中粉墨登场,眼花缭乱,纷纷攘攘,世态万象。在他笔下的伦敦,富贵阶级与贫苦人家低头不见抬头见,大善人和诈骗犯并肩痛饮麦芽酒。无生命的角色也同有生命的一样栩栩如生:奥利弗·特弗斯特待过的那家阴暗凄凉的车间,与这个可怜的小乞儿本身或是他邪恶的朋友亚瑟·道奇比起来,同是一段传奇;即使工业时期的浓雾早已散去,那“幽灵般灰蒙蒙”的雾霾仍笼罩在伦敦的形象周围,挥之不去。

Few novelists have so successfully managed such vast and varied casts. In contrast, Sherlock Holmes rattled “through the silent streets”; his cases invariably depend on a few players. Yet Conan Doyle did almost as much as Dickens to establish another enduring theme of London-lit: that every character conceals a secret. No wonder the capital is such a popular setting for crime fiction, from Margery Allingham to Ruth Rendell.

少有几个小说家像狄更斯这样,笔下的人物鱼龙混杂,截然迥异,处理起来却依旧得心应手。相反,歇洛克·福尔摩斯的车轮辘辘“驶过寂静的街道”;他的故事里一贯只牵涉寥寥几个人物。但柯南道尔同样确立了伦敦小说另一个经久不衰的主题:人人皆有秘密,就这一点其几可与狄更斯比肩。难怪从马杰里·艾林翰到露丝·蓝戴尔的作品,犯罪小说常常以伦敦为背景。

In the early 20th century the city was the backdrop for despair. Virginia Woolf's London in “Mrs Dalloway” (1925) is mournful, offering little succour after the first world war. J.B. Priestley's “Angel Pavement” (1930) offers a latter-day Dickensian tale of cheats, bankruptcy and failed firms. By the 1960s Muriel Spark guided readers through a new metropolis, where women gushed at the thought of sex and film stars, and penned unanswered letters to famous writers. Yet the delights of works such as “The Girls of Slender Means” are overshadowed by the threat of nuclear war.

20世纪初,这座城市的舞台上演着绝望。维吉尼亚·伍尔芙《达洛维夫人》(1925)中的伦敦死气沉沉,不给一战结束后的人们半分慰藉。J.B.普里斯特利的《天使街》(1930)则是近代的狄更斯翻版,讲述欺骗,破产和倒闭的公司。20世纪60年代,穆里尔·斯帕克引领读者在这座焕然一新的大都市中穿梭,女人一想到性和电影明星便兴奋得大呼小叫,还热衷于给著名作家寄去一封封石沉大海的信件。但在核战威胁的阴影面前,《窈窕淑女》这类轻快俏皮的小说顿时黯然失色。

Across the decades the capital has inspired potboilers and sizzling romances, but it was not until the 1980s, when London was booming again, that the city itself returned to centre stage. Martin Amis's “London Fields” (1989) was a triumph, a black comedy about lust and low-lifes that fizzed with a rare energy.

数十年内,围绕伦敦编就的蹩脚小说层出不穷,风流传奇泛滥成灾,但伦敦本身真正重回到镁光灯下,还是在20世纪80年代这座城市重振旗鼓之后。马丁·艾米斯的《伦敦场地》(1989)大获成功,这部黑色幽默叙述着欲望,以及暗潮汹涌的底层生活。

As London has grown in all dimensions, authors have chosen to present a segment of it rather than a Dickensian sweep. The most pioneering modern London novel was Hanif Kureishi's “The Buddha of Suburbia” (1990), set amid one of the many ethnic and immigrant communities that fiction—and many Britons—had ignored for decades. It introduced readers to the city's southern outskirts, and threw in sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.

随着伦敦全面发展,作家不再像狄更斯一样力求面面俱到,而是择其一二展开阐述。最先锋的现代小说当属汉尼夫·库雷什的《郊区佛陀》(1990),书中的主角是伦敦众多种族移民群体中的一支,多年来一直为小说界和许多英国人忽略。这部小说引领读者深入伦敦南郊,其间穿插着性,毒品与摇滚乐。

A new genre was born. The multicultural and dysfunctional families of Zadie Smith's “White Teeth” (2000) brought celebrity to London's lesser-known boroughs. Like Dickens's characters, Ms Smith's are preoccupied with roots—yet class and identity had come to mean something quite different.

一种新的体裁应运而生。扎迪·史密斯的《白牙》(2000)中分崩离析的多文化家庭使伦敦不为人熟知的街区出了名。与狄更斯笔下的人物一样,史密斯女士刻画的角色也一心牵挂着根系所在——但阶级与身份的内涵已大相径庭。

Monica Ali's “Brick Lane” (2003) brilliantly evokes the Bangladeshi community. When her heroine walks down the famous East End street one step behind her husband, she sets the novel's tone in a single scene. A year later London's gay community was given a new voice with Alan Hollinghurst's “The Line of Beauty”, which won the Man Booker prize.

莫妮卡·阿里的《砖巷》(2003)则触动着孟加拉裔群体的心弦。著名的东区大街上,女主人公落在丈夫后面一步,单这一幕便已奠定了这本小说的基调。一年后,阿兰·霍灵赫斯特的《美丽线条》赋予了伦敦的同志群体新的声音,荣获曼布克奖。

The novels of London are now coming full circle, bringing a fuller cast into focus through two modern preoccupations: economic crisis and terrorism. Two recent examples, John Lanchester's “Capital” and Sebastian Faulks's “A Week in December”, fail to define their age as Dickens or Conan Doyle did. But they also point to a new cosmopolitan cesspool, where a similar set of worries beset every strata of society, uniting and dividing it along new lines.

如今,伦敦小说又再次回到原点,借由当代两大忧患——经济危机与恐怖主义,拓宽视角,聚焦于方方面面。以最近的两本小说为例,约翰·兰彻斯特的《首都》和塞巴斯蒂安·福克斯的《十二月的一周》未能像狄更斯或柯南道尔的作品那样,成为一个时代的印记。但它们也展现了一个新的大都市版“污水坑”,同样有无尽烦恼纠缠着各个社会阶层,令他们在新的战线上分分合合。

重点单词   查看全部解释    
inspired [in'spaiəd]

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adj. 有创见的,有灵感的

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celebrity [si'lebriti]

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n. 名人,名誉,社会名流

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bankruptcy ['bæŋkrəptsi]

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n. 破产

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comedy ['kɔmidi]

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n. 喜剧,滑稽,幽默事件

 
triumph ['traiəmf]

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n. 凯旋,欢欣
vi. 得胜,成功,庆功

 
community [kə'mju:niti]

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n. 社区,社会,团体,共同体,公众,[生]群落

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fiction ['fikʃən]

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n. 虚构,杜撰,小说

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vast [vɑ:st]

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adj. 巨大的,广阔的
n. 浩瀚的太

 
quaff [kwɑ:f]

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v. 一口气喝干,大口地喝 n. 一饮而尽,痛饮

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theme [θi:m]

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n. 题目,主题

 


关键字: 经济学人 城市

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