我的初恋叫历史 Confessions of a History Geek

我的初恋叫历史

还在懵懂之时,我就邂逅了我的初恋情人——历史。与她的相识、相知带给我一种无与伦比的感受:我为她丰富而深刻的内涵所倾倒,为她教授我的是非之理、古今之道所折服,为她带给我的犹如坐过山车般的惊险而兴奋。我决心与她不离不弃,相伴终生。我知道,不是每一个人都能领略她的独特芳芬,不是每个人都能洞穿她的深厚底蕴,对于那些不理解,甚至嘲笑我对她的痴迷的人,我只能说:“别人笑我太疯癫,我笑他人看不穿。”

My first love was not named Jenny or Sandra or Kay or Jackie. My first love’s name was “history”. I first met this mistress long before I knew its actual name. As far as love goes, our relationship has been remarkably stable and predates any dealings I ever had with the opposite sex. History as a paramour2) will never leave me. We are wedded for life. It will forever enrich my knowledge of the human condition while providing insight into the future. Santayana3)’s words could not be more prophetic4). I have found that those who forget the past never cease to repeat it.
我的初恋名字不叫珍妮、桑德拉、凯伊或者杰姬。我的初恋名叫“历史”。我和这位初恋情人的相识,早在我知道它的芳名之前就已开始了。就爱情而言,我们的关系牢不可破,而且比我和任何异性之间的交往都要早。历史这位红颜知己永远都不会离开我,我们终生不离不弃。它将永远丰富我关于人类境况的知识,并使我能够洞察未来。桑塔亚纳的话堪称一针见血,我已经发现,那些忘记历史的人总会重蹈历史的覆辙。

This enduring affair commenced at exactly age four when I began reading and taking out books at the Southfield Public Library in Michigan. After my father spent endless hours getting me to master the child’s Munster easy reading series, and whatever else he could find, I started to check out more difficult works even though I couldn’t read them yet. On one occasion at the library, fate directed me to a shelf that contained Louis L. Snyder5)’s The First Book of World War II. It could have been called The Little Person’s Guide to World War II with its big print and light text. The work was amazingly simple but astoundingly accurate. On page 9 there is a picture of Mussolini, Tojo, and Hitler. Next to their faces in black print are the words “The Dictators”. Yes, things really were much simpler back then. I was not yet at the level of proficiency to read the book by myself so I begged my uncle to read it out loud to me. I spent many a summer afternoon on his lap listening to Snyder’s free seminar on those years of infamy6).
这份恒久不渝的恋情,在我刚好四岁时就已经开始了,那时我已学会阅读,经常去密歇根州的南田市公共图书馆读书。父亲投入了大量的时间让我通读蒙斯特儿童简易读物系列丛书以及他所能找到的其他书籍。之后,我就开始寻找难度更大的作品,尽管当时我还读不懂。有一次,在图书馆里,命运之神把我带到了藏有路易斯·L·斯奈德的《第二次世界大战第一部》的书架前。这本书使用大字体、浅色文本印刷,可以称得上是“有关第二次世界大战的儿童指南”。这部作品的文字非常浅显易懂,内容却无比准确精当。在书内第九页上,有一张图片,上面是墨索里尼、东条英机和希特勒的照片,在他们的面孔旁边用黑体字印着“独裁者”几个字。瞧,在过去那个年代,事情真的比现在要简单得多。不过那个时候,我自己还不能流畅地阅读这本书,于是就总央求叔叔读给我听。那年夏天,无数个下午,我就这样坐在叔叔腿上,聆听斯奈德关于那段丑恶岁月的免费讲座。

Perhaps it seems startling that I can still remember the book so well, but there is a shameful reason as to why. At the age of eight, I had not yet developed a firm sense of character, so I decided to abscond7) with the book when we moved. I had checked it out countless times before we left and could not bear the thought of never hearing those stories again.
1  我至今仍清晰地记得这本书的内容,这听起来也许有点不可思议,但其中的缘由说来却令人羞愧。八岁的时候,我尚未形成对优良品格的坚定信念,因此,我们搬家的时候,我决定将这本书从图书馆偷偷地“顺”走。走之前我已经一遍又一遍地去图书馆看过这本书。想到再也听不到书中那些故事,我就觉得无法忍受。

An interesting question is whether there is a genetic disposition behind a person’s fields of interest. My mind is not made up on the matter. My father never directed or coerced8) me into studying history and English, but that’s exactly what I decided to do. In college I was torn as to which one I liked better, so I played it safe by majoring in both. Later, I would do graduate work in psychology, but its historical context was also of great interest to me.
一个有趣的问题是:人的兴趣所在是否和基因倾向有关?在这一点上我尚未有明确的答案。我父亲从来没有引导或强迫过我学习历史或英语,但这两者却恰恰都是我决定要学的。在大学里选专业时,我曾左右为难,不知自己究竟喜欢哪一个多一些,因此,为保险起见,我决定两个专业都学。后来,我攻读心理学专业的研究生,但这一学科的历史背景仍然是我深感兴趣的东西。

My love of history was the basis for my first serious vocational opportunity. It happened about a month before I was due to graduate from John Carroll University. The history department chair invited me to his office, which is something he did for all graduates, and inquired as to what I thought of the program. I spoke briefly about which professors I liked and which ones I didn’t and about which texts were good and which ones were not. Then I spent 15 minutes telling him how wonderful our particular branch of knowledge was and how much it had benefited every day of my life. The professor was wide eyed and was very impressed with the sincerity of my admiration for the field, and asked me if I’d consider becoming a recruiter for the university. I declined his invitation but sometimes wish I hadn’t.
我对历史的钟爱为我带来了第一次真正的就业机会。这个机会出现时,距离我从约翰·卡罗尔大学毕业还有大约一个月的时间。当时,历史系主任请我去他办公室——这是他对每个毕业生都要做的例行工作——问我对历史专业的学科设置有什么看法。我简要地谈了谈我喜欢哪些教授,不喜欢哪些教授,哪些课文是好的,哪些不好。然后,我花了15分钟时间告诉他历史这门学科是多么美妙,我每一天的生活如何从中获益匪浅。听完我的讲述,教授惊讶地睁大了眼睛,我对历史学科发自内心的喜爱给他留下了深刻的印象,他问我是否可以考虑成为该大学的一名招生人员。我拒绝了他的好意,但有时候,我真希望自己当初没有拒绝。
Shortly thereafter I took a trip to the British Isles. It was there that I realized that my bond with the past is a spiritual one. I’ve always treasured old things, and when I was in Britain, I was unable to resist the temptation to collect various “free” mementos9) that I stumbled upon10) during my stay. Before my flight back home, a customs agent in Heathrow11) pointed to the x-ray camera and asked, “What are those things?”
之后不久,我去不列颠群岛做了一次短期旅行。就是在那里,我意识到自己与历史间的不解之缘乃是一种精神之恋。我一直珍爱古老的东西,在英国时,我总是抵制不了诱惑,搜集了许多各种各样的“免费”纪念品,都是我在逗留期间无意中发现的。在我飞回国之前,希思罗机场的一位海关官员指着X光摄像机中的东西问:“这些是什么东西?”

“Rocks.” I answered. I began to feel rather guilty and added, “But I didn’t take them from any buildings or castles. They were strewn12) out along the lawn. The coloring of the rocks made me certain that they were once part of the structures though.” Surprisingly, he nodded and let me through with my precious cargo. When I got home, I showed them to all who’d see.
“是石头。”我回答道。说完我忽然有一种犯罪感,于是补充道:“但它们可不是我从什么建筑物或者城堡里偷来的,是我在草坪上捡的。只是这些石头的颜色让我觉得它们肯定曾经是某个建筑物的一部分。”令人惊讶的是,他点了点头,竟然让我带着这些宝贝通关了。回到家后,我把它们展示给了所有感兴趣的人看。

The love of history has also been interpersonally influential. On one occasion, I was invited by my French neighbor, Fabian, to attend a party that he was holding. The crowd appeared to all be in their early twenties, and the atmosphere was rather relaxed. My neighbor introduced me as a sage13) who could tell them anything they wanted to know about World War II, which struck me as an odd thing to say to that particular crowd, but they paid me little notice. I then sat at the party and conversed with a frivolous14) Deutschlander15). As I listened to his marijuana16) steeped blather17), a very blonde and Aryan girl suddenly pulled her chair over to mine. She stuck her finger in my face and began questioning me.
对历史的钟爱对我的人际关系也产生了影响。有一次,我的法国邻居费边邀请我参加他组织的一个聚会。参加聚会的人看起来都是二十来岁,气氛十分轻松。我的邻居在介绍我时,说我是一个“历史通”,如果他们关于二战有什么想知道的,都尽可以问我。他以这种方式把我介绍给聚会上的这群人,倒让我觉得怪别扭的,但他们对我也没怎么在意。然后,我就坐了下来,和一个轻浮的德国人聊了起来。就在我听着他那仿佛吸了大麻似的喋喋不休的废话时,一位金发碧眼的雅利安女郎突然把她的椅子拉到了我旁边。她用一根手指指着我的脸,开始审问起我来。

“Why do you like World War II?” she demanded.
“你为什么喜欢第二次世界大战?”她质问道。

“What?”
“你说什么?”

“What do you like World War II? What is wrong with you that you would like a war?”
“你到底喜欢第二次世界大战的什么?你是不是有毛病啊,竟然喜欢战争?”

Now, this is not an effective way to go about getting information from me, as I despise people I don’t know disrespecting me like that. However, I politely explained myself to her. “I didn’t say I liked it. I said I liked studying it. It’s a fascinating period of history.”
听着,谁要想以这种方式从我这儿问出点什么,门儿都没有!因为我鄙视不相识的人对我如此无礼。不过,我还是彬彬有礼地向她解释道:“我并没有说我喜欢战争,我是说我喜欢研究战争。这是一段很让人着迷的历史。”

“No, it isn’t. You must not ever say that you love World War II again.”
“不,不是这样的。你千万不要再说你喜欢第二次世界大战了。”

With that one command, I lost my temper. I cannot tolerate others telling me what I will or will not read. If only I had one of those historical dunking chairs18) at that point in time, but I digress19). “Oh, in that case Miss, I love World War II! I love it, love, love, love it!”
听到这句命令,我怒了。我无法容忍由别人来告诉我该读什么不该读什么。此时此刻,我真希望手边有一把古时候用的浸水椅,好好惩罚一下这个女人。但我还是言归正传吧。“哦,小姐,你要是那样说的话,那我就是喜欢二战!我喜欢二战,喜欢,喜欢,就是喜欢!”

She said no more, but glared at me for the remainder of the night, and then when I tried to leave, she grabbed my hand and asked me to stay. As I walked out, I realized that an important iron law of life had been demonstrated: Those who oppose historical study are nuts20).
她不再出声了,但在晚会剩下的时间里,她一直对我怒目而视。再到后来,等我站起来想要离开的时候,她却一把抓住我的手,要我留下。走出去的时候,我意识到刚才发生的事情展示了一条重要的人生定律:反对历史研究的人全是疯子。

Years later, I ascertained21) that for those completely politicized in outlook, it is impossible to value history independent of its ability to support their own individual agenda. The political animals usually are bored by history, but only like to use it to establish victimology22) claims or make one group of citizens seem more righteous than another. It’s a sad and empty outlook that I am grateful not to share.
若干年后,我看清了一个事实:历史有一种功能,即被人用来服务于他们个人的目的,对于那些观点完全政治化的人来说,抛却这个功能来客观地评价历史是不可能的。那些政治动物通常对历史是不感兴趣的,但却喜欢利用历史来做出受害者的姿态以主张某种权利,或者使某一群体显得比另一群体更为“正义”。幸运的是,对于这种悲哀的、毫无意义的观点,我并不苟同。

At present I still enjoy the roller coaster of thrills that historiographers craft. Biography is one of my favorite sub-areas in the field. Today, like tomorrow, is the perfect time to exhume23) and rehabilitate24) the personalities that committed errors we may avoid. To those who wish to know about psychology and relationships, I echo the words embossed on the Lincoln Memorial: “Study the Past!”
迄今为止,我仍然沉醉于历史学家所创造的那种如坐过山车般惊险刺激的感觉。传记是历史领域内我最喜爱的一个子范畴。今天,还有明天,是我们发掘历史、恢复历史人物原貌的最佳时机。他们所犯下的错误,我们都应避免重蹈覆辙。对于那些有志研究心理学和关系学的人们来说,我愿以林肯纪念堂里铭刻的一句话和他们共勉:“以史为鉴!”

1. Bernard Chapin:伯纳德·蔡平,美国作家、演讲家、心理学者
2. paramour [ˈpærəˌmʊə(r)] n. 情人
3. Santayana:乔治·桑塔亚纳(George Santayana, 1863~1952),美国著名自然主义哲学家、美学家,美国美学的开创者。他有一句著名的言论:“The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again. ”(忘记过去的人注定会重蹈覆辙。)
4. prophetic [prəˈfetɪk] adj. 预言的,先知的
5. Louis L. Snyder:路易斯·L·斯奈德(1907~1993),美国学者、作家
6. infamy [ˈɪnfəmi] n. 声名狼藉,丑名,丑行
7. abscond [əbˈskɒnd] vi. 拐带,拐逃
8. coerce [kəʊˈɜː(r)s] vt. 强制,强迫
9. memento [məˈmentəʊ] n. 纪念品,纪念物
10. stumble upon:偶然发现
11. Heathrow:(英国伦敦的)希思罗机场
12. strew [struː] vt. 散播,点缀,撒满
13. sage [seɪdʒ] n. 哲人
14. frivolous [ˈfrɪvələs] adj. 轻佻的,轻浮的
15. Deutschlander [ˈdɔɪtʃˌlændə] n. 德国人
16. marijuana [ˌmærɪˈwɑːnə] n. [植] 大麻
17. blather [ˈblæðə(r)] n. 废话,胡说
18. dunking chair:浸水椅,一种酷刑工具。在美国和英国,浸水椅通常用来惩罚女巫、妓女、泼妇等。
19. digress [daɪˈɡres] vi. 离题
20. nut [nʌt] n. 疯子,怪人
21. ascertain [ˌæsə(r)ˈteɪn] vt. 确定,弄清
22. victimology [ˈvɪktɪmɒlədʒi] n. 被害者研究(指对受害者在遭受侵害中的行为及作用的研究)
23. exhume [eksˈhjuːm] vt. 掘出,发掘
24. rehabilitate [ˌriːəˈbɪlɪteɪt] vt. 使恢复名誉,使复原