作者伊恩·麦克尤恩(1948— ),作为英国当代最为走红的小说家之一,创作了多部小说,如The Comfort of Strangers(《陌生人的安慰》)、The Innocent(《纯真》)、Amsterdam(《阿姆斯特丹》),而其中Amsterdam获1998年度英国布克奖。2002年发表的Atonement(《赎罪》)摘取了美国年度书评家协会奖。2007年,该书的同名电影上映,由英国当红演员詹姆斯·麦克沃伊和凯拉·奈特莉领衔主演,取得了极佳的口碑与票房。
On the first-floor landing, as she [Cecilia] was about to open her door, she gave Briony a look, a cool glance to let her know that nothing had changed, nothing had softened. She led Briony into her flat. Briony stood where Cecilia had stood, with her back to the sink and, unable to meet her sister’s eye, said, “What I did was terrible. I don’t expect you to forgive me.”
“Don’t worry about that,” she said 1)soothingly. “I won’t ever forgive you.”
“And if I can’t go to court, that won’t stop me telling everyone what I did.”
As her sister gave a wild little laugh, Briony realized how frightened she was of Cecilia. Her 2)derision was even harder to confront than her anger. At a sound, she 3)started. The bedroom door was opening and Robbie stood before them. He wore army trousers and shirt and polished boots, and his 4)braces hung free at his waist. He was unshaven and 5)tousled, and his gaze was on Cecilia only. As he crossed the room, he made a brief nod in Briony’s direction. “Excuse me.” Then heard the bathroom door close. Briony’s knees were actually beginning to tremble. So she stood by the wall, pretending not to lean against it, and watched her sister. Briony wanted to tell her how wonderful it was that Robbie had come back safely. But how 6)banal that would have sounded. At last she heard the click of the lock on the bathroom door. Briony moved away from the door, further down toward the darker end of the room. But she was in his sight line as he came in. He had half raised his right hand in order to shake hers, and his left 7)trailed, about to close the door behind him. As soon as their eyes met, his hands dropped to his sides and he gave a little 8)winded sigh as he continued to look at her hard. However intimidated, she felt she could not look away. The shock was how much older he looked, especially round the eyes. “So it was you,” he said finally. “What are you doing here?”
She said, “I had to talk to Cecilia.”
“Oh yes. And what about?”
“The terrible thing that I did.”
Cecilia was going toward him. “Robbie,” she whispered. She put her hand on his arm, but he pulled it clear.
“I don’t know why you let her in.” Then to Briony, “I’ll be quite honest with you. I’m torn between breaking your stupid neck here and taking you outside and throwing you down the stairs.” He did not raise his voice, though it was 9)straining with contempt. “Have you any idea at all what it’s like inside?” She shook her head faintly. “No, of course you don’t. And when I was inside, did that give you pleasure?”
“But you did nothing.”
“There isn’t much time. Robbie has to report for duty at six tonight and he’s got a train to catch. So sit down. There are some things you’re going to do for us.” It was the 10)ward sister’s voice. Not even 11)bossy. She simply described the inevitable. He was staring at the flowers as he cleared his throat. When he began to speak, his voice was 12)purged of emotion. “You’re to go to your parents as soon as you can and tell them everything they need to know to be convinced that your evidence was false. You’ll go to a 13)solicitor, a 14)commissioner for oaths, and make a statement which will be signed and witnessed. In it you’ll say what you did wrong, and how you’re 15)retracting your evidence. You’ll send copies to both of us. Is that clear?”
And then, “It’s time to go.”
There was so much more that could have been said. As they were about to leave, he was holding the door open for the sisters. Once through the front door, it seemed to Briony that she was stepping into another day. There was not enough room on the pavement to go three 16)abreast. Robbie and Cecilia walked behind her, hand in hand. They walked on in silence.
They stood outside Balham tube station. They stared at her, waiting for her to leave. But there was one thing she had not said. She spoke slowly. “I’m very, very sorry. I’ve caused you such terrible distress.” They continued to stare at her, and she repeated herself. “I’m very sorry.”
Now it is five in the morning and I am still at the writing desk, thinking over my strange two days. I’ve been thinking about my last novel, the one that should have been my first. The earliest version, January 1940, the latest, March 1999, and in between, half a dozen different drafts. The second draft, June 1947, the third…who cares to know? My fifty-nine-year assignment is over. There was our crime—Lola’s, Marshall’s, mine—and 17)from the second version onward [sic], I set out to describe it. I’ve regarded it as my duty to disguise nothing—the names, the places, the exact circumstances—I put it all there as a matter of historical record. There was a crime. But there were also the lovers. Lovers and their happy ends have been on my mind all night long. It is only in this last version that my lovers end well, standing side by side on a South London pavement as I walk away. All the preceding drafts were 18)pitiless. But now I can no longer think what purpose would be served if, say, I tried to persuade my reader, by direct or indirect means, that Robbie Turner died of 19)septicemia at Bray Dunes on 1 June 1940, or that Cecilia was killed in September of the same year by the bomb that destroyed Balham Underground station. That I never saw them in that year. How could that constitute an ending? Who would want to believe that they never met again, never fulfilled their love? I couldn’t do it to them. I know there’s always a certain kind of reader who will be compelled to ask, “But what really happened?” The answer is simple: the lovers survive and flourish. As long as there is a single copy, a solitary typescript of my final draft, then my 20)spontaneous, 21)fortuitous sister and her medical prince survive to love.
I’ve been standing at the window, feeling waves of tiredness beat the remaining strength from my body. I like to think that it isn’t weakness or 22)evasion, but a final act of kindness, a 23)stand against oblivion and despair, to let my lovers live and to unite them at the end. If I had the power to conjure them at my birthday celebration…Robbie and Cecilia, still alive, still in love, sitting side by side in the library, smiling at 24)The Trials of Arabella? It’s not impossible.
But now I must sleep.