现代英文选评注 | A Professor in Retirement 退休教授 Jean Stafford

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珍·斯塔福(Jean Stafford,1915 - 1979)是美国当代名女作家,她的第一部长篇小说Boston?Adventure于1944年出版,一举成名。后来,她又写了The Mountain?LionThe Catherine Wheel等长篇,以及短篇小说多种。珍·斯塔福是个很精细的作家,描写不厌其详,可是笔触轻灵,同情的态度中还略带讽刺。美国当代作家,文字风格的差别很大,有极端的粗犷,也有极端的细腻。珍·斯塔福是用精细的手法,来表现她对世界的看法的。

本文原题“A Reasonable Facsimile”,刊于1957年8月3日The New?Yorker杂志。讲一个老教授和一个青年人的故事。这里选录几段,读者虽不能观全豹,但是她的英文还是可以叫人喜欢的。

Far from withering on the vine from apathy and loneliness after his retirement as chairman of the Philosophy Department at Nevilles College, Dr. Bohrmann had a second blooming, and it was observed amongst his colleagues and his idolatrous students that he would age with gusto and live to be a hundred. He looked on the end of his academic career—an impressive one that had earned him an international reputation in scholarly quarters—as simply the end of one phase of his life, and when he began the new one, he did so with fresh accoutrements, for, as he had been fond of saying to his students, "Change is the only stimulus."

  • 第一句相当长,但是内容也丰富。读者试把第一句里所讲的事情,一一列出,然后再把这些事情,集在一句句子里面,这句句子读起来,又要流利漂亮,你就会发现:不要说写篇好文章是件难事,写一句好句子也是不容易的。
  • 这位Bohrmann博士,是Nevilles College的哲学系主任,现在因年老退休了,但是他的精神老而弥健。这一句分前后两节,两节以and联系。
  • 普通人到了退休的年龄,因为对于世事冷淡(apathy),而且亲人凋零,生活孤寂(loneliness;老教授甫丧妻,这点以后就要说到),不免像一颗干瘪的葡萄,在藤上(on the vine)萎谢了,但是这位教授不然。本句用Far from开头,很见力量。普通人是这样的,他可不是这样。Dr. Bohrmann是主语。had a second blooming:第二次开花。第一次开花大约是在青春时期,那时人做事有劲,肯用心学习,老教授退休以后,重新表现青春的活力。blooming当然是和withering对比的。
  • observed:观察;也解作“发表意见”。it代表下面的“that”clause。amongst就是among:在这些人中间,有这样一个意见。colleagues:同事们。此字重音,在第一音节。idolatrous:崇拜的(此字之根是idol:偶像)。学生们平日把这位教授,敬崇之若神明。在庸手写来,这件事大约又需要一句句子,但是这里只用一个字就够了。
  • age是动词:年龄老下去(aging形容词:垂老,渐老)。gusto:(做事,做人)津津有味的精神。live to be a hundred:活到一百岁。
  • the end of his academic career:学术(教授)生涯的结束。looked on连后面的as:他把退休这件事只看作是生活一个阶段(one phase)的结束。career后面,有一个说明。两条横线的作用,等于括弧。an impressive one=an impressive career。impressive:给人深刻印象的,不平凡的。他教了几十年书,替他在学术圈子里挣来了国际上的声誉。him是indirect object;但是这种indirect object和普通indirect object不同。普通的间接宾语,可以说是省掉了介词to,这一种(语法书上称为dative of interest)间接宾语可以说是省掉了介词for,例如:

He has built me a house.(他替我造了一所房子。)

It will last the owner a lifetime.(用这件东西的人,用它一辈子也用不坏。)

  • the new one=the new phase。
  • he did so=he began the new one,先用了一个“when”clause,再把从句里的话,在主句重复一遍,这个办法可以使文字流利。
  • accoutrements(此字通常用复数形式):配备。新的“配备”是些什么东西,下文有说明。
  • Change is the only stimulus:变化是唯一的刺激。这句话他是常常喜欢对学生们说的。他退休以后为怕精神颓唐,力求改变生活方式与生活环境(新的“配备”),以“改变”作为刺激自己的方法。

He took up the study of Japanese; he took up engraving and lettering (designed a new bookplate, designed a gravestone for his dead wife); he began to grow Persian melons under glass; he took up mycology, and mycophagy as well, sending his fidgety housekeeper off into shrill protests as he flirted with death by eating mushrooms gathered in cow pastures and on golf links. He abandoned chess for bridge, and two evenings a week played a cutthroat game with Miss Blossom Duveen, the bursar's blond secretary, as his partner and as his opponents Mr. Street, the logician, and Mr. Street's hopelessly scatterbrained wife.

  • took up the study of Japanese:开始研究日文。
  • engraving:镌刻(一种艺术)。lettering:刻美术字。
  • bookplate:藏书凭单。西洋藏书家,喜欢印一种凭单,粘贴在书的内封里。单上有图案画,并有“EX LIBRIS so-and-so”(某某之藏书)等字样。这位教授既然学了镌刻之术,便替自己设计(designed)了一种新的藏书凭单。gravestone:墓碑。他的太太已故,此处顺便提一笔。
  • grow(此处为及物动词):培育。under glass:在花房(greenhouse)里种波斯瓜。
  • mycology:研究蕈菇这类东西的学问。这种学问,研究研究倒也无所谓,可是他吃起野蕈来了。mycophagy:普通字典中可能不载此字。此字源自希腊,myco原义是“蕈”,phagy原义是“吃”,两者连起来,就成“吃蕈”。
  • sending…off into protests:使(某人)提抗议。(send one crazy是英文成语:使某人发疯。)他那管家婆,原来就容易激动(fidgety),看见他从放牛场(pastures)和高尔夫球场(golf links)上找野蕈来吃,觉得这是在跟生命开玩笑(flirted with death:和死神调情),不由得尖声地大叫:使不得。
  • bridge:桥牌。原来下象棋的,现在改为桥牌。cutthroat(形容词):竞争激烈的,谁也不肯饶谁的。(American College Dictionary引有cutthroat competition这样一个成语)。
  • bursar:(大学的)出纳主任。blond:金发的。这位秘书小姐是教授打桥牌的partner。Mr. Street和Miss Blossom Duveen一样,都是with的宾语。可是as his partner放在Duveen的后面,as his opponents(对手方)放在Mr. Street的前面,这样句法就不呆板。
  • logician:逻辑学家(逻辑教授)。hopelessly scatterbrained:心神不集中到不可救药的程度。这两个字一用,他们每星期两次牌局的情形,也稍为提到一点了。

But the radical thing about his new life was the house he had built for himself in the spring semester of his last year at the college. It was a house of tomorrow—cantilevered, half glass—six miles out on the prairies that confronted the mountain range in whose foothills lay Adams, the town where the college was. The house, though small and narrow, was long, and it looked like a ship, for there was a deck that went all the way around it; from certain points Dr. Bohrmann could see Pikes Peak, a hundred and fifty miles away, and from every point he could watch the multiform weather: there dark rain, here blinding sunshine, yonder a sulphurous dust storm, haze on the summit of one peak, a pillow of cloud concealing a second, hyaline light on the glacier of a third. The house amazed that nondescript, stick-in-the-mud Western town, which from the day it was founded, had been putting up the worst eyesores it could think of. Whoever on earth would have dreamed that the professor, absent-minded and old, riding a bicycle, wearing oldfangled gaiters and an Old World cape, would make such an angular nest for himself and drastically paint it bright pink? The incongruity between the man and his habitat could not possibly have been greater.

  • 上面这许多改变,还不算特别。根本(radical)改变的是他造了一所新房子。
  • a house of tomorrow:设计非常新颖的房子。cantilevered:这是建筑学上的名词。cantilever是“悬臂梁”,墙上横伸出来的梁,一头悬空。和两头有靠的正梁(beam)不同。他这座房子,可能是只用悬臂梁,不用正梁的。half glass:一半是玻璃。这两点都是新式建筑的特点。
  • prairies:大草原。他的房子造在大草原上,离镇六英里。mountain range:山脉。foothills:山脉下面的丘陵。他们的大学所在地,名Adams镇,镇倚山而建。
  • deck:甲板。that went all the way around it:房子的样子像船,周围有甲板,人可以在上面散步。went有“伸张”之意;around it=around the house。
  • Pikes Peak:Rocky Mountains(后面要讲到)的高峰之一。在“甲板”上散步,从某几处远望,可见高峰矗立。可是无论从那一点望出去,四时昼夜天气之变幻,尽收眼底(multiform:形状有多种的)。那边黑沉沉的在下雨;这边太阳亮得叫人睁不开眼睛,再远一点(yonder)是尘土飞扬,黄而且热,同硫磺相仿(sulphurous);某一个山峰顶上是暖暖雾气;巨云一朵(pillow是枕头,好譬喻)把另一个山头遮掩住了;再有一个山峰上是冰河一片,发出玻璃样的光(hyaline light)。
  • 镇上的人(town)看了这座奇怪的房子大为惊奇。原来他们那个处在美国西部的镇,落后而不随时代前进,好像是插在泥里一样(stick-in-the-mud),外表也是非驴非马的难看(nondescript)。eyesores:看了使人眼睛不舒服的东西。镇上的人能够想到有多难看的房子,就造(putting up)多难看的。
  • 这样一个教授,怎么会造这样一座奇形怪状的房子(angular nest),而且更过激地把它漆成明亮的粉红色呢?(drastically:激烈地。)
  • 这一句里面还把教授的服饰,顺便描写了一下。他是骑脚踏车的,腿上扎了老式的裹腿(oldfangled gaiters),身上披了一种旧式披风(cape)。Old World原指旧世界(东半球),这种披风该是欧洲人的服饰,美国人很少穿的。披风裹腿都是骑脚踏车时候的装束。
  • habitat:住地。这样一个老派的老人,住这样一座新派的房子,其不调和(incongruity)已达极点(不可能有更不调和的东西了)。

Imagine this character, with his silver beard, wearing a mussed green tweed suit, those gaiters, a stiff-collared shirt, a Tyrolian hat, sitting in a black sling chair on the front deck of this gleaming, youthful house, drinking ginger beer out of an earthenware mug and looking through binoculars at eagles and the weather. Or look at him pottering in his pretty Oriental garden, shading himself with the kind of giant black bumbershoot one associates with hotel doormen in a pouring rain. No matter where you placed him in that house, he simply would not match. It was the joke of Adams, but a good-natured one, for Dr. Bohrmann was the pet of the town.

  • this character:这个人,这个“角色”。character:行为乖僻的人。(He is a character:他是个怪人。)
  • mussed(美国俗话):皱而脏的;邋遢的。tweed:毛糙的花呢。suit:西装。those gaiters:上面所说的裹腿。stiff-collared:硬领。Tyrolian:大约是指奥地利Tyrol地方的。这种帽子,以及种种打扮,都是旧式的。
  • sling chair:可折叠的椅子。gleaming, youthful:这两个字形容这座粉红色的新派房子,很贴切。
  • ginger beer:一种饮料,香港人称作“姜啤”。earthenware mug:陶器大杯。binoculars:双目望远镜。eagles:此字点明了远处的高山和辽阔的空间。
  • pottering:吊而郎当地工作。Oriental garden:中国式或日本式的花园布置,在美国是时髦玩意。
  • bumbershoot:一种大帽子,可张开收拢如伞。教授在花园里作杂工,就戴这样一顶帽子,以避阳光(shading himself)。此字后面省了一个关系代名词。这种帽子通常是旅馆的看门人在大雨倾盆(pouring rain)时候戴的,我们(one)看见这种帽子,就会把它同那种看门人联在一起。associates:联想。
  • placed:不论你把他“放”在这座房子的什么地方,他总是不相称的。“你”是指读者,前面两句用命令式,也是请读者“想象”,请你来看。
  • joke:镇上的人把这座房子引为笑谈。可是笑话里面并不含有挖苦的成分(good-natured),因为镇上的人都喜欢这位教授。pet:被人爱抚的动物(或人)。

Dr. Bohrmann and his wife, who died two years before his retirement, had arrived in Colorado from Freiburg by way of Montreal, where, just as he was beginning to make his presence felt at the university, he was halted in his stride by a sudden, astounding hemorrhage of the lungs. When, after seventeen wan, lengthy months, he was discharged from the sanitorium, not as cured but as arrested, his careful doctors counseled him to go West, to the Rocky Mountains, under whose blue, bright skies he could, in time, rout the last bacterium. On their further recommendation, he applied for an appointment at Nevilles College, since Adams was famous for the particular salubrity of its air. And providence was pleased to accommodate him, having a few months earlier created a vacancy on the staff through the death—from tuberculosis—of a young instructor.

  • 第一句所包含的内容又很丰富。教授太太是在他退休之前两年故世的;他们俩本来是从德国的Freiburg地方来到美洲,卜居在美国的Colorado州。在来美国之前,曾在加拿大的Montreal教过一阵书。by way of:经过(Montreal来到Colorado)。在Montreal的大学教书刚刚露点头角(to make his presence felt:使自己的“存在”被人家觉得;使人家知道有他这样一个青年教师),他忽然咯血。hemorrhage of the lungs:肺出血。his stride:他的大踏步往前迈进(教育界的地位蒸蒸日上),忽然被咯血所阻止。sudden, astounding:突如其来的,吓人的。
  • 这许多事情,要写在一句之内,不是一件容易的事情。读者如要揣摩何谓“用英文思想”(to think in English),对于这种句子应该细心模仿。作者风格的特点还是她的松散自然,从容不迫。她并不因为句子内容丰富而显得手忙脚乱,无法应付。所以如此者,恐怕是因为她多用loose construction的缘故。讲起教授的太太,作者就随随便便地插一个定浯从句(non-restrictive clause),说明她已经死了。句子到Montreal本来可以完了,作者又加了个定语从句(where…),说明他的如日方升的事业,忽受扼于肺疾。中国学生作文时如能把定语从句任意活用,于文字通畅之道,已思过半矣。
  • 教授咯血后,在疗养院(sanitorium)里住了十七个月(过了十七个惨淡[wan]漫长的月),此后他出院了(discharged:释放),病没有医好,只是算已经停止恶化(arrested:已被遏止);他的医生(careful:怕他旧病复发)劝他到西部去,到落矶山去。说到这里,作者为维持一贯的loose construction的作用,又用了一个定语从句。落矶山区,天空明亮作纯蓝色。他住在那里,隔了相当时候,可以把体内最后一个结核杆菌(bacterium)消灭(rout:击溃)。本句下半句连用好几个comma:计West后有一个,Mountains后有一个,blue后有一个,could后有一个,time后有一个。这许多逗点使句子的进行缓慢,吞吞吐吐,有言尽而意不尽之妙。若求句子爽利,当然不是用这个写法的了。
  • 迁居不难,但是生活也得维持。医生们有更进一步的建议,他根据(on)这个建议,向Nevilles College申请谋职(appointment=office assigned:指派的职位),因为该校所在地Adams镇空气清新,有益健康(salubrity的形容词形式是salubrious),向来有名的。
  • providence:上帝。代替God的字有好几个,如说上帝可以为人安排一切,这种场合我们可以用providence。上帝很高兴把他好好安插(accommodate him),原来该校在几个月以前,有个年轻教员害结核病故世:上帝在该校的教职员群(staff)中制造了一个空缺(having…created a vacancy)。

Adams was high above sea level and its prospect of soaring palisades and pinnacles of rock was magnificent, if, at first, dismaying to European eyes that had been accustomed to grandeur on a smaller scale. Moreover, the faculty of its college was remarkable—was, in part, illustrious—because so many of its members had come here for Dr. Bohrmann's reason; if their distemper had been of a different nature, they would have lectured in much grander but moister groves—in New Haven or Princeton, in Oxford or Bonn. For the most part, they accepted their predicament with grace—it is no myth that the tubercular is by and large a sanguine fellow—and lived urbanely in rented houses, year by year meaning it less and less when they stated their resolve that as soon as their health was completely restored they would go back to the East or to their foreign fatherlands.

  • Adams海拔甚高,悬崖壁立,奇峰插云,气势壮阔。prospect:广阔的风景。soaring:高入云表的。palisades(此字在此场合常用复数):悬崖绝壁,排成一排的。pinnacle:尖峰。
  • 这种奇景,即使(if)欧洲人初来,看来要目眩神移(dismay),但是总可以说是壮观(magnificent)。欧洲人的眼睛也认识伟大,但是他们所见惯的伟大,格局要比美国的小(grandeur on a smaller scale)。这句话其实就是说:欧洲人惯见的“山”,气势格局不如美国的,但是这里不说accustomed to mountains,而说accustomed to grandeur。中文用具体名词的地方英文常常可用抽象名词。这里的grandeur范围当然不限于“山”,欧洲的伟大的东西,格局上大多不如美国的。if后面省了it (=the prospect) was二字。
  • faculty:大学教员(集体名词)。上一段有一个staff,此字通常意义是“某一个机关的职员的总称”,范围较广。faculty是“学科”,后转作“某学科或某大学的教员的总称”。教员乃是member of the faculty。
  • Nevilles College地虽偏僻,它的“教授阵容”却相当可观(remarkable),有一部分还是赫赫有名的(illustrious)人物。
  • for Dr. Bohrmann's reason:Dr. Bohrmann到这里来,是一半教书,一半养病,教授中有很多位也是抱了养病的目的来的。所以该校容易招得到好教员。
  • distemper:病。假如那辈教授害的不是肺结核(假如他们的病换了一种性质),按他们在学术界的声望,应该在有名的大学任教,不会到这个小地方来的。New Haven:在美国的Connecticut州,耶鲁(Yale)大学所在地。Princeton:在美国的New Jersey州,为普林斯顿大学所在地。Bonn:通常译作“波恩”,曾是西德首都,该地也有著名的波恩大学。
  • groves:古希腊雅典城附近有一片园林(grove),名Academe,为柏拉图讲学之地。现在英文里的Academy解作“学校”或“研究院”;稍“雅”的说法有the groves of Academe,解作“学校”(或“学园”、“学府”),连带地,groves这个字都代表“学校”了。耶鲁等等大学,规模是较大,可是那些地方空气较潮湿(moister),不宜肺痨病人疗养。
  • predicament:倒霉的命运(生肺病)。这辈教授,大部分不怨天不尤人地(with grace)承受了自己的命运。(grace:潇洒乐观的态度。)
  • by and large=in every way,in all respects。有人说,结核病人(the tubercular)是十足的乐天知命的人(a sanguine fellow),这句话并不是瞎说(no myth)。
  • 他们承受了自己的命运,租了房子住(住在租来的房子里),过一种高雅的生活(urbanely,意思是说:虽然那地方是偏僻的,他们还可以讲究派头)。
  • 他们常常向人表示决心(stated their resolve):一俟病躯全部康复,他们就要回到东部去(美国东部开发较早,文化程度较高),或者回到他们在外国的老家去。可是一年一年过去(year by year),他们的病可能养好了,但是他们也爱上这块地方,不想迁移。因此嘴上虽说要走,心里要走的意思越来越少了。mean it:真心地说这句话。(例:I meant it. 我不是开玩笑。)meaning it less and less:心里的意思同“嘴上的话”(it)距离越来越远。

Although their?New York Times?came four days late, and although perhaps they were not in the thick of things, neither did their minds abide in Shangri-La. Visiting lecturers and vacationing friends were bound to admit that the insular community was remarkably au courant and that within it there was an exchange of ideas as brilliant and constant as the Colorado sun.

  • New York Times:《纽约时报》;知识分子爱读的报。因为地方偏僻,该报要迟来四天。not in the thick of things:置身世事之外。thick(名词):浓密的部分。abide:居留。
  • Shangri-La:英国小说家James Hilton所著小说The Lost Horizon中所描写的“世外桃源”。
  • Visiting lecturers:从别处来讲学的人。vacationing friends:度假期的朋友。were bound to:不得不。
  • insular community:与世隔绝的小社会。(insular:孤岛似的)。au courant(法文):适应潮流;跟得上时代,并不落后。
  • within it:在这个小社会之中,大家不断交换意见(所以说:那辈教授的心并不是在世外桃源里)。Colorado州的太阳,光华灿烂,四季永照(constant);那辈教授在思想上的互相砥砺,也是四季不断,而且所讨论的内容也是非常精彩的。轻轻的一笔,就把那地方的天气,和那地方的学术空气连在一起,文势俯仰自如,令人佩服。

At first, when the Bohrmanns came, in 1912, they had no intention of lingering any longer than was absolutely necessary. But after little more than a year, neither of them could imagine living anywhere else; the immaculate air was deliciously inebriating and the sun, in those superlative heavens, fed them with the vibrancy of youth. They daily rejoiced in their physical existence, breathed deeply, and slept like children. They admired the turbulent colors of the sunsets, the profound snows of winter, the plangent thunderstorms of summer. There was, they said, some sort of spell upon the place that bound them to it; roving the tablelands, whence one could gaze for miles on miles upon the works of God, they paused in silence, their hands upon their quickened, infatuated hearts. And besides the land, they loved the people of it, both the autochthonous Town and the dislocated Gown; students thronged their house at the?gemiitlich?coffee hour, and their coevals and their elders came at night to drink wine or beer and, endlessly, in witty, learned periods, to talk.

  • intention:意图。lingering:逗留。the Bohrmanns:他们一家人;这里仅指夫妇二人,他们没有孩子。他们此来,原为先生养病。病养了几年,也会好的,好了就可搬走。他们初来之时,无意在此地逗留:养病绝对必需多少年,他们在此的居住期限,本不想超过养病所需要的日子。
  • imagine:想象。这里住了一年多,他们就不能想象在别的地方怎么能再住下去了。
  • immaculate:清净,不带丝毫尘垢。inebriating:有陶醉的力量。前面的一个副词用得也很妙:deliciously inebriating(空气醉人,又叫人舒服)。
  • the sun:这个字连动词fed。本文作者善用comma,前面已经说过。这里第一句就用了三个逗点。the sun后面,又插了一个“说明短语”“in those superlative heavens”,目的无非要使句子内容丰富,句子进行缓慢。superlative:最高级的,特别好的。heaven作“天空”解,常用复数形式。
  • fed them with:以……供养他们的心灵,使他们的心灵充满了……。vibrancy of youth:青春的颤动(?)。fed与vibrancy二字,都是作者“炼字”的结果。fed一字还不怎么难用,vibrancy一字则很见功夫。此字如易以vigor或vitality,似亦可通;但是这种字意思虽是“活力”,还是显得呆笨;唯有vibrancy最能表示“生命力之活跃”。这种“活跃”也不是激烈的活跃,只是轻轻的、自强不息的那种朝气。这个字,配以本句前半的deliciously inebriating,最能表示高爽地区中的空气和阳光对人身心的良好作用。
  • physical existence:物质的生命。并不是指吃得好,穿得好,或是周围风景好。只是觉得做人有意思。人有了这个身体,就觉得快乐,身体不复是累赘,而是直接可以给人快乐的工具。人的快乐有好几种:有理智的快乐,有灵魂的快乐——他们的快乐只是“身体的快乐”。
  • turbulent这个字来形容夕阳的色彩,也是精炼所致。此字原义是“大动乱的”,试思日落之时,艳红火黄,金紫满目,好像是倒翻了染料缸。得此一字,情境如在目前。
  • profound:深,而且附有“神秘”的联想。snows:积雪。plangent:惊心动魄的响。
  • spell:魔力。that bound them to it:把他们“拴”在这个地方,所以他们不想搬动了。
  • roving:漫步。此字在此处用作及物动词。tablelands:高原。从高原上望出去,重岭叠翠,嵯峨崔嵬,绵延数英里乃至数十英里,凡此皆上帝之杰作也;他们不得不停步瞻望,肃然无语,他们的手按在心上,那时候的心是着了迷了(infatuated),心跳也加速了。quickened, infatuated两个形容词放在这个地方,文字经济。若叫庸手写来,为了这两个字,就得另外造一个句子。
  • 他们不但爱这块地方,也爱这地方的人。town and gown原为英文成语,作者拿它来活用,分前后两节来说。这个成语原来指牛津、剑桥等“大学城”的居民,town是不属于大学的普通老百姓,gown(身穿学士服的)指大学的教员和学生。
  • autochthonous:土生的(学生和教员可能是从别地方来的)。此字的ch读若/k/,重音在第二音节/tOk/。
  • dislocated:脱离了原来地方的。此字重音在第一音节。
  • thronged:群集。gemütlich(德文):欢愉的(教授原为德籍)。
  • their coevals:和他们年龄相仿的人。年轻教授和资深教授晚上到他们家里喝酒,不断地谈。
  • in witty, learned periods:此一短语,按正常次序,应放在talk之后。但是作者在用了endlessly之后,故意让读者等候,隔了这四个字,才把to talk说出来。periods:句子,完整的句子。他们谈话中的句子,句句完整,有思想内容(learned),话又说得俏皮(witty)。这种谈话当然不会使人厌倦。

Sometimes Dr. Bohrmann and Hedda spoke of summering in Europe—in spite of their contentment, they were often grievously homesick for Freiburg—and occasionally they went so far as to book passage, but something always prevented them from going. One year, Wolfgang was engaged in writing a monograph on Maimonides for the?Hibbert Journal, another year Hedda was bedridden for a long while after a miscarriage that doomed them, to their everlasting sorrow, to childlessness. After the Second World War, they no longer even spoke of going back, for the thought of how Freiburg now must look sickened them.

  • 教授的名字叫做Wolfgang,太太的名字叫做Hedda,前面没有说明,现在在本段出现,读者也不难了解。summering:(在某某地方)过夏天。(winter也可以用作动词:过冬。)
  • contentment:满足。美国山区生活虽好,他们也常常想念德国的老家。grievously:很厉害地。
  • book(动词):订座(戏院等)。book passage:定船票(或飞机票、火车票)。went so far as:他们想家,常常说要回到欧洲去度暑假,他们不仅是说说而已,甚至于“做到订票准备动身的地步”,就差没有走。
  • engaged:专心,忙于。monograph:(专门性的)论文。Maimonides(1135—1204):十二世纪哲学家,西班牙的犹太教法师。Hibbert Journal:杂志名。
  • bedridden:缠绵床笫,卧病。miscarriage:流产。that doomed them to childlessness:太太从此不能生育;此事判定他们这一辈子没有孩子的了。to their everlasting sorrow:使他们悲伤不已。to常用以表示“产生某种情感”,如to my surprise, to my astonishment等。
  • 他们没有孩子,他们很悲伤——这是他们生命中的大事,可是作者把这件事放在一个从句里。本段所说的是,为什么他们这些年来从来没有回德国去一次,这是主要的意思,别的意思都只好成为附庸了。又,本文处处轻描淡写,表现一种闲情逸致;按照这种风格,这种语调(tone),本文是不容许有强烈情感出现的。但是强烈的情感有时非写不可,作者就极力把它压低,使它在文章中占不重要的地位。使情感受到风格的支配,做文章若能懂得这一点,大约也就算写“通”了。that doomed them…这个定语从句含蓄的意思真不少,而它在语法结构上的地位又这样不重要,我在前面本文中说:“中国学生作文时如能把定语从句任意活用,于文字通畅之道,已思过半矣”,这里谨重复一遍。
  • 第二次大战以后,德国疮痍满目,他们更不想回去了。这事也可以引起他们强烈的情感,但是作者又把它压低。how Freiburg now must look:他们故乡的现状(看来要成怎么样一个惨状;how是中立性的字,不言“惨”而“惨”已在意中。must:表示猜测,想上去“一定”很惨)the thought of:想起这件事(就使他们心里难受:sickened them)。

All in all, they had an uncommonly happy life and they so much enjoyed each other that when Hedda died, with no warning at all, of heart disease, Wolfgang's friends were afraid that he, too, might die, of grief. And, indeed, he asked for a semester's leave and spent the whole of it indoors, seldom answering his doorbell and never answering his telephone. But, at the end of that time, he merged as companionable and as exuberant as ever, as much at home with life.

  • All in all:总而言之。enjoyed each other:夫妻二人相亲相爱(二人在一起,日子过得很有趣)。因此(so…that)一个死了,另外一个恐怕也活不长了。
  • died of heart disease:患心脏病而死。with no warning at all:事前一无征兆。
  • he might die之后跟一逗点,表示句子到die本可以结束:“朋友怕他也会死掉的”,但是作者要补充说明:因什么而死呢?忧伤而死。
  • asked for leave:请了(一学期的)假。the whole of it=the whole of the semester。
  • answering the doorbell:有人按门铃,主人出去开门(他难得去开的)。他杜门谢客,心中确乎悲伤到极点。
  • emerged:从隐居的生活中忽然“冒”出来。companionable:善与人交。exuberant:精力饱满。as…as ever:跟平常(太太死前)一样。as much at home with life的后面也该有as ever 二字,这里是省掉了。at home:并无落寞或陌生之感。at home with life:并不自视为遁世的人,正常地过日子。

(本文摘自《现代英文选评注》:京东正版购买链接

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