英译中国现代散文选 | 师陀 邮差先生


Mr. Postman

Mr. Postman would walk up the street with a bundle of letters in his hand. Working in a small town as postman-stamp seller, he still had lots of spare time. Every day he would sit bending over his desk scissor-cutting flower patterns, wearing a pair of glasses for farsighted old people. All this, plus age, had given him a bent back. When the mail arrived, he would stand up, run his eyes over it, pick out the letters he was to deliver, and carefully bundle them up.

"This letter is from a real far place!" he could not help sighing inwardly when he happened to catch sight of a letter from a remote province, such as Yunnan or Gansu. He had never thought of a place farther than that, though he himself had no clear idea at all where it was located. Who was to blame for its being so far away that people had to deny themselves, for life, the pleasure of eating, say, millet in Gansu or salted turnip in Yunnan?

Mr. Postman was now carrying various kinds of letters in his hand. Few, however, came from Gansu or Yunnan. Most of them were probably sent by students to their parents.

"Here's another letter pressing for the allowance," said he to himself. "It'll take the poor old man at least three or four days to raise the money."

While walking on the deserted open street, he reminded himself that in case he met a sow approaching with her piglets following close behind he must take care to skirt round them. The small town sun was shining down on his greying head and on the back of his black mandarin jacket. The dust kicked up from under his feet was lucky enough to settle on his white socks and leg wrappings. As a small town postman, he was not liveried. A father would grumble to him again about his own student-son, "Hum, to see him finish school... I'll be finished myself!" Mr. Postman listened smilingly to the poor old man's oft-repeated well-meaning complaints about his beloved son. Of course, not all senders knew him and none would even think of him. But that didn't matter, for he knew about them all and he also knew when they had a new address.

Mr. Postman knocked at a door, and stepped inside if it was left ajar.

"Anybody at home?" he called loudly from the passageway.

As was often the case, he had to wait quite a while. Finally an old lady emerged. Perhaps her son-in-law was doing business elsewhere, or perhaps her son had gone soldiering somewhere. A dog behind her was barking furiously. The old lady had come out in a hurry. She must have been busy with household chores, as witness her hands still dripping wet with water.

"What's up?" she inquired.

"A letter," Mr. Postman answered, "a registered one. You're required to stamp your seal here."

The old lady didn't have a seal.

"Then you have to find a shop guarantor for yourself and come later to the post office for the letter. Maybe there's money in it. "

"How much?"

"I said 'maybe.' Can't tell if there is any money in it."

What else could he do with this good old lady? After doing a lot of explaining, Mr. Postman was finally on his way down the street again. With the top of his greying head bathed in the small town sunlight, he looked dignified and calm with a characteristic bearing of his own. People would probably think he was out taking a walk at his leisure. In fact, he had no need for hurrying at all. He had plenty of time to finish delivering all the mail in his hand. Could there be anything urgent in this town calling for his prompt attention? Yes, once in a while, to his great regret, he did deliver a letter with a bit of unhappy news. It was very seldom though, and he wished it would never happen again.

"Hey, any letter for me?" a playful youngster suddenly stopped him.

"Your letter?" Mr. Postman smiled. "It hasn't arrived yet. For this moment it's dozing on its way."

Mr. Postman kept on walking along the street with the mail in his hand. Not a vehicle in sight, nor a noise within hearing. The sun was beating down on sidewalks, roofs and walls. The whole town was immersed in a silent brilliance. He felt like sweating. Were it not for his age and long beard, he said to himself, he would break out humming a tune. He gasped with admiring wonder, "What a beautiful day!"




①“他兼任邮务员,售票员”中的“售票员”指“售邮票的人”,故译stamp seller,不能按字面译为ticket seller。全句也可译为Working in a small town as both postman and stamp seller,今译Working in a small town as postman-stamp seller,较为简洁。

②“老花眼镜”即“远视眼镜”,也可译为presbyopic glasses,但欠通俗,不如glasses for farsighted old people切合文体。

③“真远”本应译为really far,今译real far,其中real为副词,等于really,较切合口语。

④“又来催饷了”语气幽默,因“饷”字旧时指“薪金”。全句的意思是“又来要钱了”,故译Here's another letter pressing for the allowance(或pressing for money),不可译为Here's another letter pressing for pay。

⑤“毕业,毕我的业”是双关语,意即“等他毕业,我就完蛋了”,故译为Hum, to see him finish school... I'll be finished myself,其中finished也是双关语。又,Hum(哼)表示不满,是译文中的添加成分,用以衬托原有语气。

⑥“他有时候要等好久”中的“有时候”意即“通常的情况是……”,如译为Sometimes似欠确切,故用从句As was often the case表达。

⑦“干什么的?”也可译为What's happening?,但不如What's up切合口语。

⑧“他为这个小城送来——”根据上下文,送来的明显是坏消息,故译he did deliver a letter with a bit of unhappy news。

⑨“没有一辆车子阻碍他,没有一种声音教他分心”译为Not a vehicle in sight, nor a noise within hearing,前后对称,简洁顺口。如逐字直译,难免逊色。