现代英文选评注 | A Writer's Life 作家甘苦 Catherine Drinker Bowen


本文作者波文(Catherine Drinker Bowen,1897 - 1973)为美国著名传记作家,所著以Yankee from Olympus,?A Biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes最为世所传诵。本文原题“Discipline and Reward: A Writer's Life”,刊于1957年《大西洋月刊》12月号。文中所述作家生活之甘苦,凡曾经用心写过文章的人,想必都有同感。本文风格近乎美国口语,很少经营刻划的痕迹。

In 1920, I sold my first piece to a magazine. I have been writing fairly steadily ever since. And fairly steadily I have been asked the same questions:

"Do you write at regular intervals, or do you wait for inspiration?"

"How do you manage with children, husband, household, and find time to write?"

  • piece:一篇文章。sold:投稿录取。
  • fairly:相当;steadily:不停地,不懈地。第二句的动词时态have been writing表示写作已有数十年历史,现在还是在写;这可以说是完成进行式的典型的例子。
  • 第三句把第二句的两个副词重复地用。所不同者:第二句中,副词放在动词之后;第三句中,副词放在主语之前。这样用法使前后两句连接得很稳。
  • at regular intervals:经常的间隔(如一天工作几小时,一星期工作几天等)。这句用现在式,表示习惯如此。
  • manage在这里是不及物动词,《简明牛津字典》解作:succeed in one's aims(实现你写作的愿望,同时还得对付[manage with]家务)。

Now, in answering these questions I shall go beyond them to talk about discipline, about the rewards and sacrifices of a writer's life. I shall speak out of my own experience, though I have no way of knowing if my experience will prove of value to anyone besides myself.

  • go beyond them:超过这两个问题的范围。go这个字应用很广,在这个场合,中国学生大致想不到用go字的。discipline:纪律,自律(想做的事不许做,不愿做的事偏该做)。
  • rewards and sacrifices:报酬与牺牲,甘苦。about重复地用,也是使语气通畅的一法。about后面,如有三个宾语,读起来难免气急辞促之弊,这里about discipline两个字自成一段落,读文至此换一口气,换气之后再读about the…,岂不是语气就通畅了吗?
  • out of my own experience:从我自己的经验里面。no way of knowing:无法知道。if=whether。of value:有价值。

That is the risk I take: the risk of boring my audience, the risk of ridicule from overexposure of the person. This is the risk we all take when we walk on stage, or send our painting to be exhibited, our manuscript to a publisher: the risk of public exposure. It is no small thing, the incurrence of this risk, and it runs from beginning to end of a writer's life. After thirty-five years of writing for publication, I suffer from it more than I did in the beginning. As one gains in reputation, the risk becomes somehow larger, or one thinks it does. Consciousness of it generally strikes in the night when one wakes. Actual physical sweating takes place, loud moans are rendered, and the question is put, "Why in God's name did one undertake such a venture, such a presumptuous, enormous, unlikely book? Why can't one be content to live an anonymous, respectable life?"

  • take the risk:冒险(I take是定语从句)。risk重复地用,也是使语气通畅之一法。本文原为一篇演讲稿,起稿时当把听众存在心头。risk重复地用,节奏分明,容易唤起读者的注意。
  • 第一句说的是:我自己的经验,别人也许听了不感兴趣,我就冒了一个使听众生厌(boring)之险;我把自己的私人生活(或意见)过分在人前暴露(overexposure),也就冒了一个惹人嘲笑(ridicule:这里是名词)之险。
  • 第二句把第一句的意思作更进一层的发挥。不但是我讨论自己的写作经验,是冒了“抛头露面”(public exposure)之险,其他一切艺术活动如登台演戏、图画展览、投稿卖文又何独不然?
  • incurrence的动词形式是incur:招惹。这一句用了一个expletive "it"做主语,it就是下面的incurrence。所以如此说法,也是为了要语气通畅平易近人之故。如易成The incurrence of this risk is no small thing,读起来就较为庄重;而且开头用了incurrcnce这种书卷气的字,后面no small thing这样平凡的字跟上去就有点不配了。照现在这样用法,主语是It,incurrence云云只是陪衬,读起来比较轻松。
  • runs:请参考前面我所说关于go字的一点意见。人一做作家,就有这种危险,到停止创作搁笔不写时为止。
  • writing for publication:写文章不是为了自己怡情悦性之用,而是为了发表。more than I did:初发表文章时,固然怕出丑露乖,现在比过去更怕了。
  • gains in reputation:声名日盛。这句主语改用one(不用I),表示是一般情形。one thinks it does=one thinks the risk becomes larger。名作家出丑的危险不一定更大,但他自以为危险很大。盛名之累,不得不更兢业从事。
  • Consciousness:觉得(自己在冒出丑之险)。strikes:这个字可以易以别个动词(如happens),但是strikes较有力量。充分表示:作者想到自己万一写糟了那时的惶恐情形。in the night when one wakes:午夜梦回之时。
  • sweating:出汗。吓得一身冷汗不是过甚其辞的说法,是实实在在身体上出汗。takes place:发生。中国人说英文,很难做出sweating takes place这样的句子,我们很可能说one sweats这样的话。把动词sweat,化成动名词sweating,然后再找一个动词来配合成一个句子——这一点是和中国人思想习惯不合的。
  • rendered:发出。the question is put:自己问自己。in God's name:只是为加重语气之用。venture:带点冒险性的尝试,成败难测的事情。presumptuous:自以为了不起的。unlikely:不可能写得好的。
  • anonymous:没没无闻的。respectable:令人尊敬的。这个字本来的含意是好的,但是现代英文中,这个字含有一点不好的意思:指的是不求真正的善,只是表面上的规规矩矩,奉公守法。

Well, I can't. And neither can anyone who intends to write. Perhaps this fear of the public is healthy. I think I like writers to be afraid. They can show their fear by a noble defiance in their work or by a beguiling charm and grace in seeking to win their public. At least fearful ones are not writing for themselves alone. They are seeking to communicate, and their fear is their proof of it.

  • can't:不能安分守己没没无闻地做人。neither can:重复can't。
  • fear of the public:怕群众的指责。healthy:健康的;这种心理是有益的。
  • I like writers to be afraid:我喜欢作家有这种“畏人言”的心理。
  • noble defiance:昂然不顾的态度。故意标新立异,不投阿时好——抱这种态度的人,心里面明明有一个对象在。beguiling:讨人喜欢的。
  • At least补充前面的healthy一字:至少这一点是有益的。fearful ones:心存恐惧的作家们。
  • communicate:表达,有话说给人听。proof:证明作家不是在“自说自话”,写作确是有对象的。

Nevertheless this fear is something to wrestle with, especially in the beginning, at the outset of a career. Women writers are notably tender in this regard, possibly because women are trained, from the cradle, to please. It is the quite practical business of women to please. One way or another, most of us women get our living by it.

  • to wrestle with:与之搏斗,力求解决。at the outset:意即in the beginning。
  • tender:敏感。notably:可以叫人特别注意地。in this regard:在这一点上。
  • from the cradle:从摇篮时开始。to please:此处用作不及物动词。妇女有讨人喜欢的习惯;女作家的文章也特别地要使读者读来感到舒服。
  • one way or another:方法不一。by it:使别人喜欢。

"Oh no, Mrs. Bowen," young women writers say to me. "Oh no! I mustn't write that scene. I couldn't put it on paper as I have just told it to you. I can't describe that child, that man, that mother, in such terms!"

The writer, I maintain, cannot afford such reservations. He must find a technique that will let him describe anybody, anything, any situation—a technique that will permit him to use all his experience of living, tragic, comic, embarrassing, cruel, beautiful.

  • young women writers:年轻的女作家。
  • scene:场景。剧本里的一个小段落称为场景(大段落是幕:act),通常借用作文章里写得生动的一节;有景物,有人物,有动作,有对白;其有声有色犹如舞台上的一个“场景”。
  • couldn't:此字含有轻微的假定语气——即使我要写,我也不能这样写。平常说话中,I couldn't是常听得到的。指的是这件事我非但不能做,而且也不“会”去做的。I can't则单指:我没有这种能力。
  • told:青年作家同前辈作家在讨论写作的问题。谈话的前一段是给作者省略了。我们可以想象:青年作家嘴里在讲一段事情给前辈作家听,但觉得有些顾忌,不能把它写下来,前辈作家则劝她写下来。
  • in such terms:用这种话。
  • maintain:主张。reservations:保留。我说“我什么都会”,这句话就是“没有保留”;我承认我有些事情能做,有些事情不能做,这就是“保留”。
  • can afford:能够负担,而不致吃亏。cannot afford such reservations:作家假如有这种保留,他就不成其为作家了。
  • technique:技巧。这字重复地用,充分表示写作技巧的重要。在表达一方面,作家应该能够描写任何人物、任何事物、任何情境;在做人一方面,作家有了某种技巧,才能利用他所有的人生经验:悲剧的,喜剧的,令人窘迫的,残酷的,或是美丽的。

Few writers are born with this technique. They must search until they find it. The search, if it teaches nothing else, in the end will teach them to know themselves. Actually it is a little difficult to separate the techniques of writing from the techniques of living—which is another way of saying the style is the man. I have no patience with that view of writing—a quite prevalent view—which looks on style as a trick and on the great techniques of writing as a bag of tricks. I have heard people say to a writer, "Ah, but you could describe that man! I envy you. You could tell that incident as it really happened. You have the gift of words."

  • 这种技巧,不是生而致之,而是学而致之。Few:可以说是“绝无仅有”。
  • search:寻觅(即学习)。find:寻得。search先用作动词,后用作名词。作家努力学习写作技巧,这种努力可使他很得益;别种得益且不必说(if it teaches nothing else),作家至少因此可以了解自己。写作技巧和做人有什么关系呢?这就是本文所要阐明的。
  • the style is the man:文如其人,这是法国批评家Buffon(1707—1788)的名言。本文作者说:作文技巧和生活技巧颇难分隔(二者颇有牵连),这就是Buffon名言的另一种说法了。
  • have no patience with:不能忍受,听不入耳。prevalent:流行很广的。style:文章风格。trick:小手法,雕虫小技。bag of tricks:一大堆小玩意儿。
  • you字两次重读,表示一般人对于作家描写能力的羡慕。
  • describe that man:作家所写书中的某一个人物。that incident:书中某一件事。
  • gift:天赋能力。

These people seldom tell a writer, "You have this gift of perception, this passionate concern with life and living, that enables you, or compels you, to watch and learn."

  • 一般人只知道欣赏作家的天才,谁能了解作家的苦心孤诣呢?因此他们不会说出正确的赞美的话。
  • 正确的赞美的话该怎么说呢?我们得承认作家有洞烛事物的能力(gift of perception),作家对于生活中的万事万物有强烈的关切(passionate concern),这种能力或关切使得作家观察人生,向人生学习。
  • 说“使得”恐怕还太轻,我们应该说“迫得”(compels)。作家所以肯细心观察学习,实在受本性所驱使,不得不然。
  • life and living:life是大事情,living是小事情。人的生命全部是life。他要做人(to live)就得做很多事情(如吃饭、穿衣、赚钱),这些事情就是living。

Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind him.

  • 写作与生活不可分。double living:双重生活。作家和普通人不一样;普通人只生活一次,作家要生活两次。一次是真实的生活;一次是拿生活作为材料,从事回忆、考验、分析、综合、研究和写作。
  • 作家的身前或身后,总有一面镜子在侍候着他。他在这面镜子里,把自己的生活再过一次。例如逃难:普通人逃难逃过就算了,作家要拿逃难的经验,仔细地思索,作为他写作的材料,充实他写作的(同时也是生命的)内容。

I maintain that this double living, these hours and scenes twice experienced, make up the inevitable sign of the natural-born writer. There is a compulsion to relive everything, repeat conversation to oneself, mimic a speaker's accent, tone of voice, gesture, as carefully as if one were rehearsing to do it before an audience. It is an odd practice and serves no immediate purpose, certainly. I sometimes think it derives from sheer love of life, or infatuation with life, even the parts of life that we hate and fear. The practice takes its toll, also, in fatigue, a peculiar exhaustion. A double life is a double burden.

  • these hours and scenes twice experienced与this double living是同位语:人生中有些时刻,有些景象,人是要经验两次的(经验一次之后,还要加以玩味)。
  • make up:造成(部分造成整体)。动词用复数形式,值得注意。很明显的,make是跟靠近的hours and scenes,而不是跟较远的living的。inevitable:不可避免的,非有不可的。sign:表记,特征。natural-born writer:有写作天才的人。
  • a compulsion to relive everything:把任何东西生活两次的冲动。repeat是和relive平行的,前面的to省掉了。mimic(模仿)也是和它平行的。
  • 把听来的谈话,在心里(然后在笔底下)重演一次;某一个人说话时候的(原文作:一个说话人的)特殊的腔调、声调、姿势,私下细心模仿,好像练好了(rehearsing:正式公演前的预演)要演给人(audience)看似的。
  • 如此做法(practice)无疑是很奇怪(odd)的,而且没有直接(immediate)的好处。
  • it derives from:如此做法的来源是,对于人生纯粹(sheer)的爱,或者说是,对于人生的着迷。
  • 前面说过,人生的经验有tragic,comic……等多种。天生的作家爱人生,迷恋人生,不单是人生中的可喜可爱的部分而已,人生中有令人憎恨害怕的部分,作家们对此也依恋不舍。(如前举的逃难的例子;又如小时候给老师打手心。)
  • also:非但没有用处(serves no purpose),而且有害处。
  • takes its toll:叫人付出代价。这种代价是疲乏,一种特殊的心力交瘁(exhaustion)之感。人生本是负担,双重生活岂不是双重负担吗?
  • 前面都用double living讲的是作家的“生活方式”,是动的。这里用double life是概括地讲一种生活,是静的(把流动的生命当作一个整体看),因此可以压在人的身上。

However, I happen to think a writer's life is the most privileged there is in our society. It is a life exciting, varied. If success comes, it is a life that lends itself to expansion both materially and spiritually. Expansion, surely, is what counts. Expansion is the prize of life. And, as with all of the best things in this world, the writer pays for that prize every inch of the way. Let us say he pays by the establishment and acceptance of certain disciplines, more rigorous than the disciplines that other people follow. I will try to destribe them.

  • 作家的忧患欢乐,都比人多一倍。作家的精力支出,也比别人多。做作家该是苦事了。可是我恰巧(happen to think)有一种想法:作家的生活是现社会所有的各种生活之中,最为幸运的(privileged:享有特权的)。there is前面省了个关系代名词that。
  • exciting:令人兴奋的。varied:多变化的,多彩多姿的。这两个形容词放在名词后面,重心就落在这两个形容词上,句子读起来有劲。如把形容词放在名词前面,这一句读起来便松。而且主语It就是a writer's life,这个字和表语a life,靠得很近,连接得很牢,好像成了That life is a life一般,这样句法自然紧凑。如在a与life之间,放了两个形容词,句子就松了。
  • If success comes:一旦写作成功。
  • it is a life再出现一次,不过这里life后面跟的是定语从句。lends itself to:把自己出让,把自己交托给,使自己能够适合于扩张。both materially and spiritually:物质精神双方。
  • what counts(表语从句):人生有价值的东西。count(不及物动词):有价值,或能发生作用。
  • prize:奖品。(生命的)扩张是宝贵的。何谓生命的扩张,作者这里似乎交待得不够清楚。但是读者不妨想象一个成功的作家过的是什么样的生活。
  • as with all:就跟世界上一切(最好东西)一样,没有不劳而获的。pays for:得到这个奖品是付了代价的。every inch of the way:这五个字是adverbial phrase(前面无需介词,和every morning之为adverbial phrase一样)。赛跑得奖,每一英寸都是用力跑出来的。
  • pays两次都是不及物动词:付代价。作家的生活,最后假如能够得到什么“扩张”的酬报,作家需付出的代价是:建立并接受某种纪律,这种纪律比别种人(并非作家)所守(follow)的纪律,更要严格。
  • 作家要服从什么严格的纪律呢?且听我一一道来。

There is a channel down which your work pours. That channel must be kept clear, free-running. At all costs it must be so kept. Pain does not clog it, nor misfortune.

  • channel:水流之道。pours:如水一般地倾泻而下。本文作者并不主张文章应该“不加点窜,一气呵成”。一本大书,可能经年累月,始能竣工。可是在这许多年月之中,作家不可让杂务分心;宜专心一致,把全副精神放到写作里去。如此文思畅达,文章亦如长江大河,滔滔不绝,往前直流。
  • clear:没有阻碍。不要让石块污泥来阻碍水的行进。
  • At all costs:不惜任何代价。so即是clear, free-running。
  • Pain:人生的病痛;甚至是因写作用脑过度而产生的病痛。clog:阻塞。人生有病痛,有不幸之事,但是作家能忍受,决不让这些事阻断他写作。孟子曰:“原泉混混,不舍昼夜,盈科而后进,放乎四海。”这句话送给作家也是合适的。

What clogs the channel is laziness, inattention, timidity, the propensity to lie to oneself, to avoid looking straight at a situation—perhaps at the situation of your own work, the story or chapter you have just finished or thought you had finished. The most scrupulous honesty is necessary, in a writer. To know what one is doing, to ask oneself from time to time, Why am I writing this book? Whom am I trying to reach with my messsage, and have I message? (You have, or you shouldn't be writing.) By a message I do not mean a moral. I mean a central idea which caused you to write your piece in the first place. Or your story, or your book, or any particular chapter in your book.

  • 写作的阻碍是:一、懒惰;二、注意力不够,不用心;三、胆怯(难写的怕写,不合一般趣味的不敢写);四、……。
  • propensity:倾向。to lie:说谎。作家对自己说谎,那么不真实的描写,不是由衷而发的意见都可以随随便便写出来了。
  • looking straight at a situation:正视某一情境。“正视”就是把一个情境仔细研究过,仔细想过,不歪曲,不掩饰,不畏惧,不加以美化。
  • 有些情境是你还没有写的,有些情境是你已经写过的。假如你草草了事,就算写好,那么你写作之“流”,就算给阻塞住了。
  • story:单独的一篇故事。chapter:书里的一章。thought:你自以为已经写好(但事实上可以修改之处很多)。
  • scrupulous:多所顾忌,小心翼翼。honesty:随时责问自己,我有没有据实写下?我有没有敷衍塞责?假如能够“不自欺”,就是“诚实”。
  • To know:此系不完全句子。To know与to ask恐系说明honesty者。
  • reach:送达;说给谁听?message:使命,道理。
  • 括弧里面的话,是作者代你答复。你自己问自己:我有没有什么要紧的话要对人说呢?代答:有的;否则你也不会写作了。be writing:问话的时候,你“正”在写作,故用进行式。
  • By A I mean B:我所说的A,意思就是B。这种句法,是常常可以看见的。这里message一字,意义欠明。作者作进一步的说明。她说她用这个字,并不是指的moral。moral在这里是名词,解作“寓意,教训”。《伊索寓言》于每则故事终了,必列一行moral,说明本故事用意是劝人如何如何。近代人的写作,不可能有如此浅显之寓意,所以这里的message并不是指moral。
  • 可是你在写作之初,必有一中心思想;你一开头(in the first place)所以要写这篇东西(piece)(或某篇故事,或某一本书,或书里的某一章),就是受这个中心思想的驱使的。

I am trying to say that your central idea need not be noble. It can be frivolous or shabby. But it must be looked at honestly by the writer. There can be no cessation, during composition, of this honesty of purpose. No cessation of caring. No slacking of this high wire on which you have elected to dance. No turning to easier, less hazardous matters.

  • 话愈说愈多了,我所想要说明的,就是你的中心思想不一定是要高贵的(不一定要冠冕堂皇)。
  • frivolous:没有什么了不起的(并不高明伟大)。shabby:陈旧的,(并无新意)。可是作家一定要诚实地正视这个思想。
  • during composition:在写作的过程中。no cessation of this honesty of purpose:一心一意地把握住你的宗旨。cessation:停止。后面跟着No开头的三句,都是不完全的句子,句首There can be都省掉了。作者喜用不完全句子,大约是模仿口语之故。四句平行式的句子,也可以使语气通顺。
  • caring:用心。
  • slacking:放松。high wire:高架钢丝。elected:挑选。你既然选中了要在钢丝上跳舞,那么钢丝不可放松。写作之难,可以和走钢丝相比。因为钢丝既不可松,脚步尤其错乱不得也。
  • turning to:改写。less hazardous:危险性较少的东西。文章往往写到中途写不下去了,那时一定要“不背初衷”,坚持写下去,不可马虎了事。至于写作之所以有危险性者,大约是因为有些东西很难写,不用心写就有“写坏”的危险。

The writer is in the position of a person who has accepted a grave responsibility, a task that is within his powers—his best powers—and which he has dedicated himself to accomplish. It means that the writer must live, during working hours, at the peak of his capacity. If one's best hours, best productive hours, are, say, four out of the twenty-four, it means that the other twenty hours must be ordered to this effect.

  • in the position of a person:作家所处的立场是同于这一种人的。他好像是担任下来一项重大的责任(简直可以和负守土卫民之责的军人相比;本文用discipline处很多,本来军人才有纪律,文人谈什么纪律呢?),他的任务按照他的能力是可以完成的(within),但是他得把全身本事(his best powers)都拿出来。
  • dedicated himself:奉献自己;献身。accomplish:完成。
  • during working hours:在写作的时候。live…at the peak of his capacity:(紧张地)生活,把自己的能力发挥到最高点。
  • best productive hours:文思最灵敏,写作效率最高的时候。一天有二十四小时,但是真能用以写作的时间只有四小时(say:不妨如此假定)。另外二十小时,就要好好安排(ordered),使得这四个小时可以发挥作用(如何安排,下文要说明)。

Such a discipline can be extremely irksome over a long period of time, the more so as it is self-imposed and can be so readily broken. Irksome is too weak a word, if the job is a long one—say, five or six years. Painful describes this discipline more exactly. Anxiety goes along with it, anxiety lest you break rhythm and the momentum be lost.

  • irksome:令人心烦的,伤脑筋的。the more so as…:因为如何如何,所以更是如此(令人心烦)。(这一种句法是很常用的。)
  • self-imposed:这种纪律是自己约束自己的,随时(so readily:多么容易地)可以破坏。自找麻烦,所以更为难受。
  • 一本书有时要五六年才写得完,那时的苦不是irksome所能表示,只好说是painful了。痛苦之外,更有anxiety(忧虑;原文作:忧虑跟着这种纪律一起来的)。
  • rhythm:节奏。每天写三五百字,成了习惯,生活好像有了“拍子”。几天不写,拍子就断掉了。momentum:(物理学中的)动量;冲劲,势头。写文章有一股劲,隔了一个时候不写,这股劲就没有了。作家一面以纪律约束自己,一面又担心文章脱了节,泄了气。
  • lest是连词:唯恐;所怕的是。break和be,都是虚拟式。你所担忧的事尚未发生,而且不一定发生,所以要用虚拟式。普通语法书里规定:lest后面要用should(即should break),这里没有用。不用should,单用虚拟式动词也可以。

If you are a morning worker, with your best hours from, say, nine to one, your afternoons will have to be devoted to outdoor exercises, neglected housework if you are a wife, the tender loving care and feeding of family or whatever is necessary to make daily life go on, clearing the decks for tomorrow morning and keeping you in top health besides.

  • morning worker:早晨工作的人。前面说过best productive hours。有些人适宜于早晨工作,有些人适宜于晚上工作,今以早晨工作的人为例。
  • will have to be:这里的will不含“将来”的意思。在“条件句子”里,前面“if”clause假如用现在式,后面的主句通常用将来式。这是习惯用法如此,那个将来式仅是表示“猜测”,并不表示“将来”。have to be:不得不。devoted to:奉献给。下面跟五样东西。
  1. outdoor exercises:户外运动。作家为保持身心康健计,也该锻炼身体。
  2. 受到忽略了的家务(假如你是个主妇)。
  3. 照顾子女等等。
  4. 这是个暗喻:“清除甲板”是海军作战前的准备。作家为明天早晨的工作,此时亦可稍事准备,如买稿纸、墨水,整理书桌等。
  5. 保持自己的康健(睡个午睡亦自不妨)。top是形容词:上好的;“巅峰状态”。

When five P. M. comes, if you are a biographer or historian you will have to stop what you are doing with fly screens or hemlines and begin reading for tomorrow's writing or for next week's or next month's writing, depending upon how you plan your research for a long book. With a pencil in hand, making notes or marking passages, you will read on and off until ten o'clock, when you go to bed. I myself usually climb in bed with my notes in hand for tomorrow's start, read them over casually, trying not to think, and turn out the light. I am a firm believer in the action of the subconscious during sleep. At supper or dinner that evening, you have not overeaten because it would disturb your sleep, and you know from experience that eight hours of sleep are necessary to put you through a morning's work, though you know also, from experience, that you can afford to miss one night's sleep occasionally. But not two nights, unless you are prepared to sacrifice your work on the third morning.

  • 本段第一句的will,意义同上段。fly screens:防苍蝇的纱窗。hemlines:衣服的镶边。下午你本来在装纱窗,或者做各种家庭杂务。到五点钟,你应该开始读书。(假如你所写的是传记或历史;其实写小说的人,暇时也该拿名著小说一读,读写并进,是有助于灵感的启发的。)
  • depending upon:你所准备的是明天的,或是下星期的,或是下个月的写作,究竟是明天的还是下个月的,就看(“倚靠”)你写这部长书的时候,如何计划你的研究工作了。
  • marking passages:在书中某几段文章上做记号。read on and off:断断续续地读。when you go to bed:“那个时候”,你上床睡觉了。这种补充用的定语从句(non-restrictive clause),中国学生不大会用。文章如求松散自然,这一种的用法是值得模仿的。
  • climb in bed:前面刚说go to bed,这里不好再说go to bed了。又,go to bed并不含有多少“动作”的意义,climb in bed才是真正的动作。casually:随随便便地。turn out the light:关掉电灯。
  • the action of the subconscious:潜意识的作用。上床前不用脑筋思想,因为睡熟以后,潜意识也会替你“思想”。“灵感”之来,人莫能测。但是神经如果放松,优游自得,灵感可能不召自来。
  • disturb your sleep:晚饭多吃,有妨睡眠。睡眠不好,第二天写文章就没有精神。
  • miss one night's sleep:偶然一晚上失眠,也无大害。
  • But not two nights:这是不完全句子。全文是:You cannot afford missing two nights' sleep.

Long ago, when I was in my twenties, I came across an awe-inspiring saying, in French: "If you abandon art for one day, she will abandon you for three."

  • In my twenties:我二十几岁的时候。came across:遇见;读到(这么一句使人肃然起敬的话,原文是法文)。
  • 这句话是:你假如把艺术搁置一天,她就会把你丢弃三天。意思同中文格言“一曝十寒”,“拳不离手,曲不离口”相仿。
  • art这里是“人格化”了,故代名词用she。通常英文里是用it来代替art的。

It is true. It is all too lamentably true. Even with Friday's notes sitting on your table staring you in the face—a map to guide you into Saturday's territory—even then, if you skip Saturday's work, on Sunday those selfsame notes will likely have gone dead. They will sit there, avoiding your eye. No message comes up; they are cold script. If Saturday's interruption has been forced from outside, something I could not help, like going to the oculist, I work every bit as well next day. Probably because I have sat in the oculist's office raging and impatient, with my chapter never out of mind. On the other hand if I succumb to invitation and go out to lunch, an interesting lunch on a working day, I am ruined. Or even an interesting dinner, which should not, practically speaking, interfere with morning working hours at all! But a dinner party means what shall one wear, or going to the hairdresser, or even looking in the shops for a new dress, and this is fatally distracting. Giving a party is the finish, in my judgment, to several days' work.

  • all too lamentably:太使人悲哀了。假如作家能够马马虎虎,高兴写就写,做人岂不是可以快乐得多?但是写作这个东西,是一天也不能搁的。前面一句格言既是真话,作家就苦了。
  • Friday:随便举一天。notes:星期五下午所做的笔记,应该是供星期六早晨写作之用的。但是假如星期六你没有写(skip:跳过),星期天早晨再写,那些笔记可能对你就毫无意义了(will likely have gone dead,此处will同前文所用的意义一样)。那些笔记本来是带你进入“星期六的领土”的地图,但是你停了一天,现在(notes这里是“人格化”了),它们只是坐在桌子上,对你发愣(stare a person in the face是成语)。或者它们坐在那里,不来理你。(avoiding your eye:避免你的眼睛,故意不来看你,这也是成语。)
  • selfsame=precisely the same。
  • message:那些笔记可以激发你的思想,可以传“话”给你,但是现在“话”不来了,你写不出东西了。它们成了“冰冷的文字”,没有生命的东西。
  • 写文章是耽搁不得的。但是耽搁的情形有两种:

假如外面有力量(from outside)打断了我的写作,假如我碰到了一件“无可奈何”(something I could not help)的事情(例如星期六我眼睛有病,要去瞧眼科大夫:oculist),那么你星期天写作的时候,仍旧是文思通畅的(every bit as well:一点也不差)。原因可能是:我在眼科大夫那里,神魂不安,等得不耐烦,又很生气(raging:因为觉得光阴浪费可惜)。人虽在等大夫来给我治病,心中念念不忘的是我今天该写的那章书。


  • lunch:后面跟着一个同位格的lunch,说明这是工作的日子的一顿有趣的午餐。
  • ruined:这个字用得也很重——“我就毁了,完蛋了。”那天上午就不用想写什么好文章了。
  • dinner:美国通常是晚餐。晚上去赴宴,照理说不会影响你上午的写作的。
  • means:赴宴并不简单,它引起了许多别种考虑。对于女太太们说来,有人请客就“等于”(means)考虑这些事情:我要穿些什么(照语法书规定,这几个字的次序应排作what one shall wear),去洗头烫发(替女人“做头”的人是hairdresser),或者到店里去,找一件新的晚礼服。
  • distracting:分心的。fatally:给你致命打击。作家之心不可旁骛,连宴会都不宜参加,这种生活多苦!
  • 应召赴宴固然不可,自己请客(Giving a party)更有大害。你有好几天静不下心来,工作也不能进行了。
  • finish这里是名词,连后面的to:“照我看来,你好几天的工作都要无法进行了。”

I dare not overwork. Let me write for too many hours, sit too long at the typewriter, and rubbish emerges on the page. When I am tired I write as a drunken man might write, deceived into spurious ecstasy. Spurious ecstasy is easy to achieve. But it is not communicable. I think the young writer should always remember that he is writing for strangers. And strangers require to be won. So when lunchtime comes, I tamely stop and eat. After lunch I read over what I wrote in the morning, correct it, add marginal notes of things I have left out or facts that need checking historically. Also, if at lunchtime I am still primed with ideas, I put them on slips of paper marked with the next day's date: "Raleigh's arrival for trial at Winchester. Horn at gate… Only 2 days between R. and his fate."

  • Let me…and…:这种句法相当于假定句子——假如我如何如何,我就如何如何。
  • sit…at the typewriter:中文大约应该说,坐在打字机的“前面”。rubbish:不通的文字。emerges:出现。
  • 我如疲倦,我的文章就像醉汉所作(might write是虚拟式:我不一定知道醉汉的文章是怎么样的)。我糊里糊涂的笔底有一种狂热(ecstasy),但是这是假的(spurious)狂热。自以为文气很盛,其实是语无伦次(deceived into:受骗而做出某样事情)。这种假的狂热是不难写出来(achieve:达到)的。
  • communicable:可以使人看懂的。你自言自语,如醉语梦呓,别人是不能了解或欣赏的。青年作家该记住:写作是给别人看的,不是让你来自鸣得意的。读者你是不认得的(strangers),你该争取(won)他们,使他们欢喜你的作品。
  • tamely:乖乖地。上午写了四个钟头,到午饭时就停。
  • add marginal notes:上午所写的文章中,如有东西遗漏(left out),或者有些考据之事,一定要查书才能证实正误的,我就加“眉批”注明。但是补写是要等到明天再来,今天下午我只是休息或是处理杂务了。
  • primed:充满。有的时候文章欲罢不能,到午饭的时候,人虽疲倦,但是文思未尽。那时我还是停止工作,我把文思写在几张纸条上,注明明天的日期,等明天再来发挥。
  • 举一个例子:作者曾写过一部英国文艺复兴时期的英雄Sir Walter Raleigh的传记。Raleigh后来是判处死刑的,这几章文章可以写得很精彩。但是到该停的时候,她还是停下来。她只是记着:“Raleigh到Winchester,准备受审。门口号角声……他还有两天可活……”这种笔记是不用脑筋的,写来不费力。今天先养精蓄锐,明天好好地来写。