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【双语阅读】乔治·奥威尔:我为什么写作
FMT-  AnnatarVictorNate 2016-06-16 21:16:24 发表于  [  资料共享  ]
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Why I Write

George Owell


From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.

I was the middle child of three, but there was a gap of five years on either side, and I barely saw my father before I was eight. For this and other reasons I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my schooldays. I had the lonely childs habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life. Nevertheless the volume of serious — i.e. seriously intended — writing which I produced all through my childhood and boyhood would not amount to half a dozen pages. I wrote my first poem at the age of four or five, my mother taking it down to dictation. I cannot remember anything about it except that it was about a tiger and the tiger had ‘chair-like teeth’ — a good enough phrase, but I fancy the poem was a plagiarism of Blakes ‘Tiger, Tiger’. At eleven, when the war or 1914-18 broke out, I wrote a patriotic poem which was printed in the local newspaper, as was another, two years later, on the death of Kitchener. From time to time, when I was a bit older, I wrote bad and usually unfinished ‘nature poems’ in the Georgian style. I also attempted a short story which was a ghastly failure. That was the total of the would-be serious work that I actually set down on paper during all those years.

However, throughout this time I did in a sense engage in literary activities. To begin with there was the made-to-order stuff which I produced quickly, easily and without much pleasure to myself. Apart from school work, I wrote vers doccasion, semi-comic poems which I could turn out at what now seems to me astonishing speed — at fourteen I wrote a whole rhyming play, in imitation of Aristophanes, in about a week — and helped to edit a school magazines, both printed and in manuscript. These magazines were the most pitiful burlesque stuff that you could imagine, and I took far less trouble with them than I now would with the cheapest journalism. But side by side with all this, for fifteen years or more, I was carrying out a literary exercise of a quite different kind: this was the making up of a continuous ‘story’ about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to imagine that I was, say, Robin Hood, and picture myself as the hero of thrilling adventures, but quite soon my ‘story’ ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head: ‘He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted on to the table, where a match-box, half-open, lay beside the inkpot. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across to the window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf’, etc. etc. This habit continued until I was about twenty-five, right through my non-literary years. Although I had to search, and did search, for the right words, I seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside. The ‘story’ must, I suppose, have reflected the styles of the various writers I admired at different ages, but so far as I remember it always had the same meticulous descriptive quality.

When I was about sixteen I suddenly discovered the joy of mere words, i.e. the sounds and associations of words. The lines fromParadise Lost —

So hee with difficulty and labour hard
Moved on: with difficulty and labour hee.

which do not now seem to me so very wonderful, sent shivers down my backbone; and the spelling ‘hee’ for ‘he’ was an added pleasure. As for the need to describe things, I knew all about it already. So it is clear what kind of books I wanted to write, in so far as I could be said to want to write books at that time. I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their own sound. And in fact my first completed novel, Burmese Days, which I wrote when I was thirty but projected much earlier, is rather that kind of book.

I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writers motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(iv) Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time. By nature — taking your ‘nature’ to be the state you have attained when you are first adult — I am a person in whom the first three motives would outweigh the fourth. In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer. First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession (the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma), and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes, and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism: but these experiences were not enough to give me an accurate political orientation. Then came Hitler, the Spanish Civil War, etc. By the end of 1935 I had still failed to reach a firm decision. I remember a little poem that I wrote at that date, expressing my dilemma:

A happy vicar I might have been
Two hundred years ago
To preach upon eternal doom
And watch my walnuts grow;

But born, alas, in an evil time,
I missed that pleasant haven,
For the hair has grown on my upper lip
And the clergy are all clean-shaven.

And later still the times were good,
We were so easy to please,
We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep
On the bosoms of the trees.

All ignorant we dared to own
The joys we now dissemble;
The greenfinch on the apple bough
Could make my enemies tremble.

But girls bellies and apricots,
Roach in a shaded stream,
Horses, ducks in flight at dawn,
All these are a dream.

It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:
Horses are made of chromium steel
And little fat men shall ride them.

I am the worm who never turned,
The eunuch without a harem;
Between the priest and the commissar
I walk like Eugene Aram;

And the commissar is telling my fortune
While the radio plays,
But the priest has promised an Austin Seven,
For Duggie always pays.

I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls,
And woke to find it true;
I wasnt born for an age like this;
Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?

The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows. And the more one is conscious of ones political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing ones aesthetic and intellectual integrity.

What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.

It is not easy. It raises problems of construction and of language, and it raises in a new way the problem of truthfulness. Let me give just one example of the cruder kind of difficulty that arises. My book about the Spanish civil war, Homage to Catalonia, is of course a frankly political book, but in the main it is written with a certain detachment and regard for form. I did try very hard in it to tell the whole truth without violating my literary instincts. But among other things it contains a long chapter, full of newspaper quotations and the like, defending the Trotskyists who were accused of plotting with Franco. Clearly such a chapter, which after a year or two would lose its interest for any ordinary reader, must ruin the book. A critic whom I respect read me a lecture about it. ‘Why did you put in all that stuff?’ he said. ‘Youve turned what might have been a good book into journalism.’ What he said was true, but I could not have done otherwise. I happened to know, what very few people in England had been allowed to know, that innocent men were being falsely accused. If I had not been angry about that I should never have written the book.

In one form or another this problem comes up again. The problem of language is subtler and would take too long to discuss. I will only say that of late years I have tried to write less picturesquely and more exactly. In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it. Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write.

Looking back through the last page or two, I see that I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I dont want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface ones own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.

1946

THE END

----------------------

在我很小的时候,也许五、六岁,我就知道我长大后要当个作家。十七到二十四岁之间我试图抛弃这个想法,不过我很清楚,那时我是在挑战和违反自己的天性,而我迟早会定下心来写书的。


我是家里三个孩子中的第二个,但上下年龄差异都有五年。八岁前我很少见到父亲。由于这个和其它的原因,我是个比较孤独的孩子,而且很快养成了一些令人讨厌的言行习惯,在我读书期间很不受人欢迎。我有孤单孩子的习惯:编造故事、和想象中的人对话。我认为,从一开始,我的文学野心就是和寂寞和被轻视的感受混合在一起的。我知道自己有驾驭文字的能力,也有正视不愉快事物的魄力,我觉得它们造就了一个私密的世界,使我能补偿自己在日常生活中的失败。但是,我童年和少年时期所写的严肃东西 – 即有严肃意图的东西 – 总合起来也不超过半打的页数。四、五岁的时候我写了第一首诗,是我口述、母亲记下来的。有关这首诗,我唯一能记得的是有一只老虎,老虎有“椅子般的牙齿”- 这句还不错,但我猜想那首诗是剽窃布雷克的《老虎、老虎》。十一岁,1914-18战争爆发时,我写了一首爱国诗歌,发表在当地的报纸上。两年后,我又写了关于基钦纳之死的诗歌,也在报上发表。再大一点,我有时会写一些乔治时代风格的“大自然诗歌”,写得不好,也没有发表。我还试着写一篇短篇小说,但以惨败告终。那些年,我写下的有严肃意图的东西,总共也就这些。

但在那段时间里,可以说我参加了一些和文学有关的活动。首先,我快速而轻而易举地创作了一些别人定制的东西,但我自己并不感到愉快。除了学校作业外,我写了vers d’occasion (法语: 为特殊场合写的短小轻快的诗歌 - 译者注)。我写那些半滑稽诗歌的速度很快,现在都令我惊奇。十四岁的时候,我用一星期的时间写出了一部模仿亚里斯多芬的押韵剧本。我还协助编辑一份有印刷和手写两种版本的校刊。这些刊物是你能想象得出的最可怜的搞笑东西,但比起现在那些廉价的报章杂志来,我对它们并无很大的反感。这以后十五年,在做那些事情的同时,我还在进行着一种很不同的文学操练:我在连续地编写一个有关自己的“故事”,在头脑里记日记。我相信这是儿童和青少年常有的习惯。我很小的时候经常想象自己是个诸如罗宾汉之类的人,一个刺激历险中的英雄。不过很快,我的“故事”就不再是粗糙的自恋了,而越来越多地在描写自己的所见所闻和所做的事情。我会连续好几分钟在脑子里想像:“他推开门,走进屋子。一线黄色的阳光从细薄的窗帘外渗透进来,斜照在桌子上。桌上的墨水瓶旁边,有一只半开的火柴盒。他把右手插在口袋里,走向窗子。在楼下的街上,有一只玳瑁色的猫咪在追逐一爿枯叶”, 等等,等等。我在那个非文学的时期一直保持了这个习惯,直到我大约二十五岁。虽然我也需要、也确实是在搜寻字眼,但这似乎是一种外来的冲动,我在作这种描写的时候是不能自己的。我想,那个“故事”是反映了我在各个年龄曾赞赏过的不同作家风格,但就我所记得,它总是带有同一种过度细腻的描写性质。大约十四岁时,我突然发现了字词本身,即字词的声音、字词的联想。这是《失乐园》里的两行:

So hee with difficulty and labour hard
Moved on: with difficulty and labour hee.

现在看来并不怎么神奇,但当时它们让我感觉背脊发冷。把he 拼写成 hee, 是一个额外的喜悦。至于对描写的需要,那时我都知道了。如果说那个时候我想写书,那么我想写什么样的书,就很清楚了。我想写的,是一部巨长的、自然主义的、结局悲惨的小说,有很多具体的描写,引人入胜的比喻,花俏繁复的段落,使用字词的目的部分在于它们的发音。事实上,我写的第一部完成了的小说《缅甸的日子》,就是这种类型的书。这部小说是我在三十岁时写成的,但很早就开始酝酿了。

我之所以提供这些背景材料,是因为我觉得除非了解一点作家的早期发展,否则你是不能理解他的写作动机的。他的题材是由他所处的时代决定的,至少在我们这种骚乱、革命性的时代是这样的情况。但是,在他开始写作之前,他已经具有一种永远不能完全回避的情感心态。无疑,他的任务是约制自己的性情,不让自己陷在某个不成熟的阶段或变态的情绪里。但是,如果他完全逃离了自己的早期影响,他就会扼杀自己的写作冲动。且不提养家糊口的需要,我认为共有四种重要的写作动机,至少是非诗歌的写作。它们在每个作家身上都不同程度地存在。在同一个作家身上,它们的比例会根据环境气氛随时变化。

(1)赤裸裸的自私。炫耀才华、希望得到关注、死后成为不朽的欲望、对小时候轻视过你的成年人的报复,等等。假装这个动机不存在是虚伪的,而且这是个很强大的动机。不仅作家,科学家、艺术家、政治家、律师、军人、成功商人,所有的社会精英,都有这个特点。实际上,人类大众的自私心并不十分严重。人们在大约三十岁后基本上放弃了任何个人主义的理念,而是在为别人存在了,或者被单调乏味的日常生活所埋没。但还有一小批有天赋的、任性的人,他们决心把自己的日子过到底,作家就属于这种人。我得说,严肃作家总的来说比报刊记者更虚荣、更自私,虽然更少对金钱有兴趣。

(2)美学的热情。这是对外部世界美丽事物的感知,或从另一方面说,对文字和它们的恰当组合的感知,在语音的碰撞、坚实的文字、有节奏的好故事中所取得的愉悦感,希望分享自己认为宝贵而不可缺少的体验。美学动机在不少作家身上很薄弱,但即使是广告或教科书的写作者,也有一些自己喜欢的、没有功利性的字句。有的人很注重印刷字体、版心留白等等事项。除了火车时刻表外,几乎所有的书都带有一定的美学意图。

(3)历史冲动。一种实事求是、寻找并为后代储存真实事件的欲求。

(4)政治目的。这里的“政治”有极广泛的意义:把世界向某个方向推进,改变人们为之奋斗的社会的理念。同样,没有一本书是完全脱离政治倾向的。有人认为艺术应该和政治无关,这本身就是一种政治态度。

可想而知,这些不同的动机会互相矛盾,并因时或因人而动荡变化。我的天性(这里“天性”是指一个人在刚成年时的状况)是,前三个动机比第四个动机更重要。在和平的年代,我也许会写一些描写性、装饰性很强的书,也许不太意识到自己的政治忠诚。但现在的情况是,我已被迫成为一个政治小册子作家。首先,我在一个不适合自己的职业里度过了五年(我是缅甸“印度帝国警察”的一员);后来我又经历了贫困和挫折。这就增强了我原来就有的对当权者的愤恨,第一次完全意识到劳动阶级的存在。缅甸的那个工作又让我理解了帝国主义的性质。但这些经历都不足以给我一个准确的政治倾向。接下去希特勒来了,西班牙内战,等等。到了1935年底我还没有形成一个坚定的志向。记得我那时写了一首小诗来表达自己的为难处境:

如果是两百年前,

我会是个快乐的牧师,

宣扬永恒的灾难,

目睹我的胡桃长大。

但是我生在罪恶的时代,

错过了那愉快的港湾,

上唇长了胡子,

神职人员却没有胡子。

再以后的日子也不错,

我们很容易满足,

在大树的环抱中,

我们让烦恼入睡。

我们无知地胆敢拥有

现在佯装的快活。

苹果树枝上的金翅鸟

可以让敌人颤抖。

可是女孩的肚子,还有杏子,

阴影下小溪里的鳊鱼,

马匹,清晨飞过的鸭子,

这一切,全是睡梦。

不许再做梦了,

我们切断或隐藏快乐:

马匹是铬合金做的

骑马的都是小胖子。

我是永不得翻身的蚯蚓,

没有女人窝的太监。

我就像尤金·艾伦,

走在神父和委员长之间。

委员长为我算命,

同时广播里在播音,

神父答应我一辆奥斯丁七型,

大款会掏腰包。

我梦见一个大理石厅,

醒来发现是真的;

我不该生活在这个时代;

而他呢?她呢?你呢?

西班牙内战和1936-37年间的其它事件起了决定性作用。那以后我就知道自己到底想要什么了。1936年后我所写的每一行严肃的字,都在直接或间接地反对极权主义,并主张我所理解的民主社会主义。在我们这个时代,想要回避这些话题似乎是荒唐的。每个人都写它们,只是穿了不同的外衣而已。唯一的问题就是你站在哪一边,或采取哪一种方式。你越是清楚自己的政治倾向,就越能够在不牺牲美学和知性诚实的基础上走一条政治的道路。

过去十年里我最想做的事情,是把政治写作转化成艺术。我总是从一种党派倾向的感觉开始,即一种对不公平现象的感觉。我坐下写一本书的时候,我并不对自己说:“我现在要创作一部艺术品了”。我要写,是因为我想揭露一个谎言,或揭示一个事实,我首先关心的是要让别人听到我的声音。但是无论是一本书,还是一篇杂志长文,如果不同时是一个美学体验,我就写不下去。任何愿意审视我的文章的人都会看到,即使是赤裸裸的政治宣传,它都包含着一些专业政治家会认为毫不相干的内容。我童年时所获得的世界观,我无法、也不愿意完全放弃。只要我还健康地活着,我就会继续珍视文字风格,热爱这片土地,在有形的物件和无用的信息中得到愉悦。压抑自己的这一面是无济于事的。我有自己的喜恶,也有这个时代强迫于我们每个人的公开的非个人活动。我的任务就是在这两者之间达到妥协。

这并不容易做到,因为会产生结构和语言的问题,也以新的形式产生诚实性的问题。我可以举一个比较粗糙的例子,来说明这里会产生的困难。我的有关西班牙内战的书《向加塔隆尼亚致敬》,是一部很坦然的政治性质的书,但总的来说,它在某个程度上是超脱于政治的,而且很重视文学形式。在书里,我确实很努力地揭示事实,同时不违背自己的文学本能。但是它有一个很长的章节,里面全是类似报纸引言的内容,捍卫被指勾结弗朗哥的托洛茨基分子们。很显然,这样一个章节在过了一、两年后就会失去普通读者的兴趣,它肯定会破坏这部书。一位我很尊敬的评论家教训了我一顿。“你为什么把那些东西都放进书里去呢?”他说,“你把本来好好的一部书变成了报刊文章。”他说得很对,但我只能这样做。我恰巧知道一些无辜的人被错误地指控,而英国只有很少有人知道。如果我不对这件事感到愤怒,我是不会写这部书的。

这个问题以不同的形式再三出现。语言的问题比较微妙,谈起来要花太长时间。我只说,最近几年我试图写得不那么别致生动,而力图写得更准确。不管怎么说,我发现,当你完善了自己的写作风格时,你的年龄已经超过了它。《动物农场》是我第一部完全有意识地把政治目的和艺术目的结合起来的书。我已有七年没写小说了,但我希望不久再写一部。它一定是个失败,所有的书都是失败,但我确实清楚自己想要写什么样的书。

回过头去再看看我前面写的一、两页,我看到似乎我的写作动机完全来源于公众精神。但我不想给读者留下这个最后的印象。所有的作家都虚荣、自私、懒惰,在他们写作动机的背后,都有一个秘密。写书是一种让人精疲力尽的可怕挣扎,就像生了一场痛苦的大病。有一个既不能逃避又无法了解的魔鬼在驱动着我们,否则我们是不会去做这样一件事情的。我们都知道,这个魔鬼,就是使婴儿为得到关注而哭叫的同一个本能。但同时这一点也成立:我们必须不断地努力抹去自己的性格,否则写出来的东西无法读。好的文字风格像一扇窗子。我说不出哪一种动机在我身上最强烈,但我知道哪一种动机值得追求。回头读读我的作品,我可以看到,在缺少政治动机的时候,毫无例外,我的作品也是最没有活力的,它们显露了华而无实的段落,充满了无意义的词句、装饰性的形容词。总之,都是些荒唐的胡说八道。

一九四六年


FMT -  AnnatarVictorNate 2021-05-06 23:23:05 重新编辑

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