现代英文选评注 | Skeffington's Decision to Run for Re-election 市长决心竞选 Edwin O'Connor


下面几段采自长篇小说《最后一次欢呼》(The Last Hurrah)之第一章。《最后一次欢呼》写一老年政客再度竞选市长的故事,内容轻松幽默,作者埃德温·奥康诺(Edwin O'Connor,1918 - 1968)态度于讽刺中带有同情,文笔有力。该书于1956年出版,即成畅销书,纽约时报评为:“The best novel about American politics.”

该书虽是小说,但其主角乃影射原也任麻州州长的波士顿市长James Michael Curly。近百年来的波士顿城,爱尔兰人的政治势力一直很大。本书作者奥康纳原籍爱尔兰,Curly与书中的市长也是原籍爱尔兰的。

It was early in August when Frank Skeffington decided—or rather, announced his decision, which actually had been arrived at some months before—to run for re-election as mayor of the city. This was a matter about which there had been public speculation for a good while: for, in fact, four years, ever since he had been inaugurated for what his opponents had fondly hoped was the last time. Since the beginning of the current year, however, the speculation had increased, not alone because the deadline was drawing nearer, but also because there were no other elections of importance coming up—the municipal elections took place in off years politically and so did not have to share the spotlight with national or state contests. Thus interest had mounted, and as it had, so had the hopes of Skeffington's opponents. For while he was admittedly among the most durable of politicians, he was just as admittedly getting older, and in recent speeches and press conferences he had expressed little interest in continuing his long political career. On one memorable occasion he had gone so far as to speak with a certain dreaminess of the joys of retirement, of the quiet time of withdrawal which would follow a lifetime spent in the service of the public.

  • 从第一句可以看出来,英文意义之力求准确。此人是八月初决定竞选(to run)蝉联(re-election)市长的。话是这么说了,但是作者立刻自己修正。更正确(rather)的说法是:此人在八月初只是正式宣布决心竞选而已。那决心本身(which)是在几个月之前,就培养好了。英文说“达到”(arrived at)某种决心。
  • 此句的decided,跟后面的to run。横线中间的补充语句中的decision,也是跟后面的to run。这样的句法结构很紧凑。
  • mayor of the city:注意mayor前面不用限定冠词the。
  • matter:决心竞选这件“事情”。
  • public speculation:公众的推测。市长任期快满了,他要不要再度竞选呢?大家纷纷猜测,如由中国学生写来,这一句中的“猜测”很可能用一个动词,不大可能用一个名词(speculation)的。大致说来,表示动作的字,如用名词来表示,全句的主要动词仅用一个平凡的be(这里是had been),这样一个句子,比较平稳而欠生动。现在作者只想平铺直叙地开头,这样平稳的句法,比较合宜。要看生动的场面,后面多的是。
  • there had been:曾经有过。for a good while:猜测了好久。作者又加以补充说明,把for一字重复地用(for, in fact, four years)。事实上是,猜测了四年,从(ever since)他上次当选就任那时开始,就有人猜想他会不会任满后竞选连任了。
  • inaugurated:就任。反对他的人希望那就是他的最后一任,for连the last time:最后一次,但是这样说法作者认为还不够严格,for后面加了一个“what”clause:他们所希望的最后一次。fondly hoped:一厢情愿地希望。
  • the current year:本年度,今年。这一句用speculation做主语,呼应上一句的speculation,句与句之间连接得很紧。not alone=not only。deadline:限期。他是否想竞选连任,应该有所表示了。drawing near:移近;这是成语。
  • municipal elections:市区选举,选举市长等官员。off years:通常说来,不选举总统的美国选年都可称为off years。1952,1956,1960等年才是大选年。(按:参议员、州长何年选举,每州情况不一样,市长何年竞选,各大都市情形也不同。1993年是个off year,但纽泽西州竞选州长,纽约市竞选市长也很热闹。)politically:就政治方面说来,若是有更重要的选举(全国性或全州性的竞争[national or state contests]),波士顿一般市民对于市长竞选一事,不会这么关心。现在所以推测增多,传说纷纭,就是为了这两个原因:一、他表明态度的日期日益迫近;二、此外别无重要选举事宜。
  • spotlight:舞台或照相馆用的集光照明灯。光集中一点,和floodlight(光线遍照各处的泛光灯)不同。集光灯所照之处,必是使人最注目之处。现在只有这一样选举,市民只关心这么一件事,好像只有它一件事,为强光灯所照射;它无需(did not have to)和别种选举去分占这盏强光灯(或者说,去分占市民的注意力)。
  • mounted:增高。and as it had=and as interest had mounted。就在市民的兴趣增高的时候,Skeffington的政敌的希望也增高了。so had=had mounted。
  • 为什么他的政敌觉得有希望呢?因为他虽然公认(admittedly)是政海中的一个不倒翁(政客之中政治生命最长[most durable]的一个),可是同样也是公认的(just as admittedly),此人的春秋日高,恐怕将要退休。press conference:记者招待会。political career:政治生涯。
  • with a certain dreaminess:以梦想式的态度或语调。had gone so far as to:居然走得这样远;居然这样明白地表示。speak…of the joys of retirement:说起退隐之乐。of the quiet time的of,也是连speak的。
  • withdrawal:退出(政界)。follow:一生为公众服务之后,“继”之以退隐。

"Far from the madding crowd," he had said, gazing at the reporters expressionlessly. "The declining years spent in solitude and contemplation. Possibly in some rustic retreat."

This hint had not been received without a measure of cynicism; one reporter from the chief opposition paper had led the questioning which followed.

  • Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife:本是Thomas Gray诗中的句子。madding即mad,远离疯狂的人群。
  • he had said:此人在八月初公开表示要竞选,但是在此之前,他“曾经”暗示过要退休。他的再度竞选,既是“过去”的事,他一切关于退休的话,当然都是属于“过去的过去”。本文第一句用了It was early in August,决定了时间先后的标准。在此以前所发生的事,该用过去完成时态。
  • the reporters:记者们,这是在记者招待会上。
  • declining years:晚年,衰龄。spent:是过去分词。这是不完全句子。some rustic retreat:某处乡村偏僻的地方。retreat也可解作隐居的地方,或不受人打扰的地方。如宿舍里太闹不能读书,一定要在图书馆里才读得成书,那么图书馆也就是你的retreat。
  • hint:暗示。received:(被动语态)领受,听到。那些记者听见此话,并不相信。not…without:两重否定,即成肯定。a measure of:某些分量的。cynicism:此字很难译,《简明牛津字典》把cynical解作incredulous of human goodness:不相信天下有好人好事;把cynic解作sneering fault-finder:抱冷笑的态度专找别人错处的人。这样说法虽然简单一点,但还算能道出cynicism这一种态度的要义。(普通英汉字典把它译成“犬儒主义”,这样非得大讲哲学史上这个字的来源不可了。)
  • the chief opposition paper:反对党方面一家主要的报纸。the questioning:发问,发问是那个记者领导(led)的。which followed=which followed the hint。

"Tell us, Governor," he had said (for, as Skeffington had twice been governor of the state, the courtesy title lingered long after the office itself had been lost), "just how would you propose to adjust yourself to this rustic life? Wouldn't it be pretty quiet? What would you do?"

  • Governor:州长。the state:这里指Massachusetts。Skeffington是市长,为什么人家称他做州长呢?
  • courtesy title:礼貌上的尊称。lingered:停留不走;继续被人使用。the office:州长那个职位。
  • just:用以加重how的语气。propose:建议;这里当然是自己向自己建议,想办法。adjust yourself to:调整改变,以求适应。
  • pretty(用作副词)=fairly:略为。
  • 这几段的对话,我们可以想象美国政界要人所召开的记者招待会上,是可以听得到的。读者不妨给自己一个测验:这种话我能脱口而出吗?哪一天能讲到这个样子,英文会话可以说已经学通了。

"Read," Skeffington had replied promptly, "and reflect."At this his pale blue eyes had closed, and an expression of extraordinary benignity crossed the full, faintly veined and rather handsome face; the long, heavy head inclined perceptibly forward, and the reporters found themselves looking at the silver crown of his hair. It was almost as if, in anticipation, he were paying pious tribute to the time of ultimate retreat.

  • promptly:不加思索地。reflect:思想。
  • At this:说到这里。下面就是说明上面说过的a certain dreaminess了。benignity:慈祥。crossed the…face:掠过他的脸。他的脸是丰满的,青筋隐约可见(vein:静脉),相当清秀。
  • long, heavy head:脑袋长而且厚实。perceptibly:可看得见地。眼睛闭了,头往前倾:正是像耽于冥想的样子。the silver crown of his hair:一头银发。
  • in anticipation:心里先行准备。paying tribute:致敬。pious:虔敬的。ultimate:最后的。

The reporter had coughed. "We know you've always been a great reader, Governor," he had said, a trifle sardonically. "Any idea of the kind of books you'd take with you?"

Skeffington's reply, made with eyes still closed, had been characteristically elusive. "The great books," he had said.

The reporter had been persistent. "Which great books, Governor?"

  • coughed:想必是假咳,干咳。
  • great reader:读书很多的人。a trifle sardonically:略带讥讽。
  • Any idea:前面省略了Have you等字样。you'd=you would。日常对话中,subjunctive mood的用场是很大的。市长是否退隐,尚不得而知,故用虚拟式。
  • made是过去分词。characteristically:这一点很能代表他说话的特色。elusive:闪烁其辞,使人捉摸不定。
  • persistent:坚持的,打破沙锅问到底。

Skeffington's eyes had opened, the silver head had lifted, and once more the reporters met the deadpan look. "I don't know whether you'd know them or not." he had said thoughtfully. "The Bible, which is a book composed of two parts, commonly, called the Old and the New Testaments. The poems and plays of Shakespeare, an Englishman. And during the winter months I would also take the paper which you represent."

  • 市长对新闻记者说,他要到乡间去隐居读书。敌党的报纸记者紧紧地追问他读什么书。他本来有点梦想的样子,现在他眼睛睁开,头抬起来了。记者们所看见的,又是他的板板的没有表情的脸了。
  • deadpan:无表情的;呼应前文gazing at the reporters expressionlessly。
  • 他答复的话很简单,但是很刻薄。《圣经》和莎翁是为英语国家家喻户晓的,他瞧不起那记者,故意替他解释:圣经是怎么样的一本书,莎士比亚是何国的人。
  • the paper which you represent:阁下所代表的那张报纸。

The reporter had said warily. "Thanks for the compliment, Governor. I suppose there's some special reason."

Skeffington had nodded. "During the long winter months a glowing fire might be welcome," he had said, "and I have found from long experience that your paper burns very well. Makes good kindling. I don't imagine, by the way, that most people are aware of that. If they were, your paper's very small circulation might be substantially increased. Any more questions, gentlemen?"

  • warily:小心翼翼地。这个老政客忽然赞美起敌党的报纸来了,恐怕话中有因。
  • compliment:(隐含的)赞美,捧场。
  • burns(不及物动词)very well:容易着火。
  • Makes的主语It省略。kindling:引火物。他所以要定这份报纸原来是拿它来作生火之用。
  • by the way:顺便可以一提的。“我以为,很多人不知道贵报有这点长处。”原文作:“我不以为很多人知道……。”imagine在这里的意思很轻,同think,suppose的用法相仿。
  • If they were:假如他们知道(were aware)。very small circulation:很小的销路。substantially increased:着实增加。大家都要来订你们的报纸来引火生炉子了。
  • gentlemen:各位先生,指各报记者。这个问题已经充分得到解答,别的还有什么问题吗?

It had been a typical enough interview, save for the suggestion of retirement. None of Skeffington's opponents quite believed in this, but on the other hand, neither could they afford to discount it. On the whole, any hint of this kind was felt to be encouraging rather than otherwise, especially when related to certain other signs. For example, there were the heartening rumors of Skeffington's ill health: among the true optimists it was confidently whispered that a mysterious disease was devouring his brain bit by bit, so that now there occurred intervals in every day during which he reverted to the habits of his childhood and expressed a desire to play marbles or hide-and-seek. The newspaper whose combustibility Skeffington had praised offered support of a more oblique kind. It began to run editorials reminding the voters that while the life span of man undoubtedly had been prolonged, the problem of senectitude had by no means been conquered, and that aged men in positions of public trust could constitute a definite hazard.

  • interview:访问。typical enough:有足够代表性的。他往常跟记者们的谈话,也是语带刻薄的。此次谈话若有什么与以前不同之处,那就是他提到了退休(retirement)。save意即except,但save较古雅。
  • discount it:对于此话半信半疑,把这句话打折扣。neither could they afford:如不相信此话,对他们自己也有害处。
  • any hint of this kind:任何这一类的暗示(关于他的退休)。
  • encouraging rather than otherwise:他的政敌觉得有鼓励的作用,此种作用大于别种作用。related是过去分词,形容hint。他自己既暗示要退休,这种暗示同别种迹象(signs)联系起来时,政敌们更有跃跃欲试取而代之之意。
  • heartening和前面的encouraging相仿,都是从他的政敌的立场说话的。optimists也是政敌之中的乐观主义者。rumors:谣言。
  • it was confidently whispered中的it是代替后面的that a mysterious…这个clause。
  • devouring:吞噬。there occurred中的there和普通there is中的there相仿,没有什么特别意义。intervals:短时期。reverted to:回复到。play marbles:玩(彩石或玻璃的)弹子。hide-and-seek:捉迷藏。
  • combustibility:易燃性。support:(对于上述谣言之)支持。oblique:间接的。
  • run:连续发表。(竞选也是run,run这个字的用处真大。)life span:生命的长度,寿命。
  • senectitude:衰老。此字罕用,美国有些报纸的社论文章做得很古雅,这种罕用字、僻字、古字有时也会搬出来。舞文弄墨,为中外所共喜,不能独责美国报纸的社论作者也。(此处没有用引号,但是这种句子很像有些报纸里社论的句子。)
  • that aged men 中的that是连接词,也是连前面reminding the voters使选民们勿忘此事。aged men in positions of public trust:老年人而居高位,身负万民重托。constitute=make up:形成。hazard:危险。(这种种话无非要叫市长真的任满不干。)

But Skeffington smashed them all in a matter of minutes.

On his seventy-second birthday Frank Skeffington had lunch with his nephew, and over the meal told him of his plan to run again. That night, at a birthday dinner given him by the party leaders, he made the announcement public. It was substantially the same announcement that he had delivered in private that noon.

  • smashed:打碎。a matter of有about之意:不消几分钟,把敌方的流言都打碎了。
  • announcement:呼应全文开头的announced his decision。
  • delivered in private:私下表示的。

"My decision represents a submission to the will of the populace," he said, "and is against my very personal desire. I had hoped, at the end of my current term, to retire to a well-earned rest, but unfortunately one look at the names of those who have declared themselves as candidates for this office forced me to change my decisions. Why, the mind positively boggles at the presumption of these men! As one looks down this bold list one would think that the only qualification necessary to run for mayor of this great city was to be without any qualification whatever. This is a time for experience, for leadership; I cannot abandon this fine city to the care of such fumbling hands. And so, dutifully if reluctantly, I submit my name to you once again, realizing full well that while my own health and rest are important, it is far more important that this city of ours should not be allowed to revert to Government by Pygmies!"

  • 这段话是市长在生日宴会上,对党内显要发表的谈话。市长年逾古稀,但是所说的话还是虎虎有生气,话里还骂了人。
  • submission to:屈服于(人民的意志)。
  • I had hoped:用过去完成时态,那是因为同本句的另一动词forced比较而得。forced在后,hoped在前,但是forced也是过去的事,所以一个用过去式,一个用过去完成式。my current term:这一届任期。a well-earned rest:凭劳力挣来的休息;做了几十年公仆,老来也该享享清福。one look:一看。这一看使我改变了主意。
  • boggles:突然受惊,因此停止不前。presumption:胆大妄为。
  • As one looks down和前面的one look不同。这里的one不是“一次”,而是“某个人”,即说话的人自己。this bold list:胆大的人的名单。他们凭什么资格来竞选市长?我们将要以为,竞选市长的唯一资格就是没有什么资格;只有“一无所长,一无足取”的人才配来做这个大城市的市长。
  • for experience, for leadership:用了两个抽象名词;其实是我们需要有经验的“人”,有领导才干的“人”,英文于此地不用“人”这个概念,此乃中英文思想不同之处。
  • fumbling:笨拙的,瞎摸的。to the care of such fumbling hands:交到这种人的手里去。
  • dutifully if reluctantly:心虽不愿,但是为了波士顿八十万市民计……。submit my name:把我的名字提出来。realizing full(副词)well:同时我充分了解这点道理。后面随一"that" clause,此clause中又先出一"while" clause,后面又用it代替另一"that" clause(that this city…)。
  • revert:此字前面已见过,是“返老还童”;这里也有“开倒车”之意。Government by Pygmies:林肯有government by the people(由人民来作主的政府)的名言。这里是由Pygmies(侏儒,小人物)来作主的政府。

This announcement had been carefully timed so that it would appear in the city edition of all morning papers; in this way, the maximum desirable effect would be achieved; the majority of his opponents would learn the bad news over their morning coffee. It was a thought which appeared to afford him a virtually limitless satisfaction.

  • timed:time作动词用,解作“时间算准”。city edition:本市版。
  • the maximum desirable effect would be achieved:可以达到希望中的最大效用。
  • It was a thought:(他的那些政敌一早起来,翻开报纸就看见他再度竞选的消息,不禁先则愕然,继则愤然,再则黯然)他一想到这点,心里就感到无限安慰。他事前封锁消息到那天晚上再公布,目的就要使他的敌人生一天气。virtually limitless:几乎是无限的。