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人类的故事 The Story of Manking

  The history of the world is the record of a man in quest for his daily bread and butter.

  —— Hendrik van Loon

  提起历史书,我总是敬而远之,因为它总是给我摆出一副老学究的严肃面孔,滔滔不绝地说着一些古人的事,列举不同的“深度”和“意义”。《人类的故事》是90年前一位叫房龙的荷裔美国人写的一本历史巨著,该书以轻松平易的风格,从人性的角度来描述历史,用幽默风趣的语言讲述艰深的内容,用通俗易懂的故事揭示人类的智慧。这是一本全景式反映人类历史的书,一本能畅销不衰的书,一本获最佳少儿读物奖的书,一本被好莱坞拍成了电影的书。

  1921年,美国的Boni and Liveright公司首次出版《人类的故事》,立刻在读者中引起巨大的反响。作者房龙也因此一举成名。在随后的几十年中,《人类的故事》在美国由不同的出版社至少出版了三十多个版本,仅美国的总销量就达一千万册以上。它很快被译成二十多种文字,至今在世界各地畅销不衰,其历久弥新的魅力创造了阅读和出版的奇迹。《人类的故事》首版后仅4年,商务印书馆便出版了沈性仁女士翻译的第一个中译本,在中国立即引发了持续不衰的“房龙热”,并极大地影响了整整一代年轻学人。


美式发音 适合精听

   Chapter 35The Mediaeval City (Excerpt) 第35章中世纪的城市

  The early part of the Middle Ages had been an era of pioneering and of settlement. A new people, who thus far had lived outside the wild range of forest, mountains and 1)marshes which protected the north-eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, had forced its way into the plains of Western Europe and had taken possession of most of the land. They were 2)restless, as all pioneers have been since the beginning of time. They liked to be “on the go.” They cut down the forests and they cut each other’s throats with equal energy. Few of them wanted to live in cities. They insisted upon being “free,” they loved to feel the fresh air of the hillsides fill their lungs while they drove their herds across the wind-swept pastures. When they no longer liked their old homes, they pulled up stakes and went away in search of fresh adventures.
人类的故事 The Story of Manking  中世纪初期是一个拓荒与定居的时代。一个新的民族出现了。他们原本一直生活在罗马帝国东北部的森林、高山与沼泽之外广阔的荒野地带。如今,他们强行穿越这道天然的防护屏障,闯进西欧地区的肥沃平原,将大部分土地据为己有。像历史上所有的拓荒者一样,他们天生厌恶安分守己的生活,他们喜欢“在路上”的感觉,宁愿不断迁移。他们精力充沛地砍伐森林,开荒放牧;他们也以同样的精力相互厮杀,割断对手的喉咙。他们大都不喜欢城市生活,希望保持“自由自在的”生活方式。他们喜欢驱赶着羊群越过劲风拂面的草坡,让山间树林的清新空气充满他们的五脏六腑。当久居的旧家已经令人生厌时,他们便拔起帐篷,出发开始下一个征程。

  The weaker ones died. The hardy fighters and the courageous women who had followed their men into the wilderness survived. In this way they developed a strong race of men. They cared little for the graces of life. They were too busy to play the fiddle or write pieces of poetry. They had little love for discussions. The priest, “the learned man” of the village (and before the middle of the thirteenth century, a layman who could read and write was regarded as a “sissy”) was supposed to settle all questions which had no direct practical value. They managed the affairs of their castle and the surrounding country to the best of their ability.
  在这个过程中,弱者被淘汰,只有坚强的勇士和跟随她们的男人勇敢进入荒野的女人幸存了下来。就这样,他们发展成一个强健坚韧的种族。他们对生活中优美细致的东西不甚在意。他们总是在奔波忙碌,没有闲情逸致去玩乐器或写诗词。他们也不喜欢讨论问题。教士作为村里唯一“有学问的人”(在13世纪中期以前,一个会读能写的男人一般被视为“女人气的男子”),人们都仰赖他解决所有的问题,也就是那些没有直接实用价值的问题。他们尽最大的努力来处理好自己的城堡和四野乡村的事务。

  It was not an ideal world in which they found themselves. The greater part of the people were serfs or “villains,” farm-hands who were as much a part of the soil upon which they lived as the cows and sheep whose 3)stables they shared. Their fate was not particularly happy nor was it particularly unhappy. But what was one to do?
  当然,他们身处的并非一个理想的世界。在这里,大部分人都是农奴或庄稼汉。这些人和牛羊同住于牛栏羊圈,自身也和牛羊一样,变成了依附土地的一部分。他们的命运谈不上特别幸福,也算不得异常悲惨。除此之外,他们还能怎样呢?

  When you grow up you will discover that many people do not believe in “progress” and they will prove to you by the terrible deeds of some of our own 4)contemporaries that “the world does not change.” But I hope that you will not pay much attention to such talk. You see, it took our ancestors almost a million years to learn how to walk on their 5)hind legs. Other centuries had to go by before their animal-like 6)grunts developed into an understandable language. Writing—the art of preserving our ideas for the benefit of future generations, without which no progress is possible was invented only four thousand years ago. The idea of turning the forces of nature into the obedient servants of man was quite new in the days of your own grandfather. It seems to me, therefore, that we are making progress at an unheard-of rate of speed. Perhaps we have paid a little too much attention to the mere physical comforts of life. That will change 7)in due course of time and we shall then attack the problems which are not related to health and to wages and plumbing and machinery in general.
  当你们长大之后,你们会发现身边有许多人不相信“进步”。他们会列举出一些我们这个时代的人做的一些可怕的事,来向你证明“世界从来如此,毫无变化”。不过我倒是希望,你们不要太受这种论调的蛊惑。你看,我们远古的先祖几乎花费了一百万年,才学会用下肢直立行走。又耗费了许许多多个世纪,他们才最终能够把动物般的咕咕声发展成可以相互理解与沟通的语言。文字——保存我们思想,为后代造福的艺术,缺少了它人类的任何进步都是没有可能的,但它的发明也只不过是在短暂的四千年之前。那种驯服自然力,让其为人类服务的新奇思想,仅仅是在你们祖父生活的时代才出现的。因此在我看来,我们人类其实是以一种闻所未闻的飞快速度进步着。也许,我们对物质生活的舒适与否关注得稍微多了一些,但这种趋势到了一定的时候必然会扭转。到那时,我们会集中力量去对付那些与身体健康、工资收入、城市下水管道和机械制造无关的问题。

  But please do not be too sentimental about the “good old days.” Many people who only see the beautiful churches and the great works of art which the Middle Ages have left behind grow quite 8)eloquent when they compare our own ugly civilization with its hurry and its noise and the evil smells of backfiring motor trucks with the cities of a thousand years ago. But these mediaeval churches were invariably surrounded by miserable 9)hovels compared to which a modern10)tenement house stands forth as a luxurious palace. It is true that the noble Lancelot and the equally noble Parsifal, the pure young hero who went in search of the Holy Grail, were not bothered by the odor of gasoline. But there were other smells of the barnyard variety—odors of decaying refuse which had been thrown into the street—of 11)pigsties surrounding the Bishop’s palace—of unwashed people who had inherited their coats and hats from their grandfathers and who had never learned the blessing of soap. I do not want to paint too unpleasant a picture. But when you read in the ancient chronicles that the King of France, looking out of the windows of his palace, fainted at the 12)stench caused by the pigs 13)rooting in the streets of Paris, when an ancient manuscript recounts a few details of an epidemic of the 14)plague or of small-pox, then you begin to understand that “progress” is something more than a catchword used by modern advertising men.
  不过,千万不要对所谓“古老的好时光”抱有过多的感伤之情。有许多人在将我们时代充斥着行色匆匆的人们、噪音的喧嚣和汽车尾气的恶臭的丑陋文明与一千年前的城市相比较时,他们的眼睛只看到中世纪留下的壮丽教堂和伟大的艺术作品,往往拿它们来喋喋不休。要知道,在富丽宏伟的中世纪教堂边上,无一例外地布满了大量悲惨肮脏的贫民窟。与之相比,连现代最简陋的公寓也堪称豪华奢侈的宫殿。是的,高贵的兰斯洛特和同样高贵的帕西发尔,当这两位年轻纯洁的英雄上路去寻找圣杯时,他们当然用不着忍受汽油的臭味。可当时另外有着许许多多的其他臭味,如谷仓牛栏的味道,扔到大街上的垃圾腐烂发酵的味道,包围着主教大人宫殿的猪圈的味道,还有那些穿戴祖父传下的衣服和帽子、一辈子不知肥皂为何物、也没洗过澡的人们身上的味道。我不愿意描绘出一副大煞风景、十分令人不快的画面。不过当你阅读古代编年史,看到法国国王在其皇宫内悠然眺望窗外,却被巴黎街头拱食的猪群发出的冲天臭气熏得昏倒时;当你看到某本详细叙述了一些天花和鼠疫横行的惨状的古代手稿时,你才会真正明白“进步”一词绝非现代广告人使用的时髦话。

  翻译参考刘海译本,略有改动。

扩展阅读:房龙《新的家园》 http://www.joyen.net/article/reading/1/201104/4074.html

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