您现在的位置: 快乐英语网 >> 阅读天地 >> 经典传奇 >> 正文


马克·吐温  他是举世闻名的幽默大师、技艺高超的小说家、口才一流的演说家。他的文章言辞犀利、妙趣横生,于嬉笑怒骂间论尽人世百态。他是“第一位真正的美国作家”,被誉为“文学史上的林肯”。他就是“真正的美国文学之父”马克·吐温。这位无人不知、无人不晓的文学泰斗究竟怎样影响了美国和世界文坛?又如何用笔下的文字尽数世事悲欢?让我们一同来看……

  William Faulkner2) called Mark Twain “the first truly American writer”; Eugene O’Neill3) dubbed him “the true father of American literature”. Charles Darwin kept The Innocents Abroad on his bedside table, within easy reach when he wanted to clear his mind and relax at bedtime. The Gilded Age gave an entire era its name. Joseph Conrad4) often thought of Life on the Mississippi when he commanded a steamer on the Congo. Friedrich Nietzsche admired Tom Sawyer. Lu Xun was so entranced by Eve’s Diary that he had it translated into Chinese. Ernest Hemingway claimed “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn,” while his fellow Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe5) cited Huck as the book that spoke so powerfully to his condition in war-torn Japan that it inspired him to write his first novel. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the phrase “new deal” from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, a book which led science fiction giant Isaac Asimov6) to credit Twain with7) having invented time travel. When José Martí8) read Yankee, he was so moved by Twain’s depiction of “the vileness9) of those who would climb atop their fellow man, feed upon his misery, and drink from his misfortune” that he wanted to “set off for Hartford10) [Connecticut] to shake his hand.”

  Twain has been called the American Cervantes,Homer, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Rabelais. From the breezy slang and deadpan11) humor that peppered his earliest comic sketches to the unmistakably American characters who populated his fiction, Twain’s writings introduced readers around the world to American personalities speaking in distinctively American cadences12). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was America’s literary Declaration of Independence, a book no Englishman could have written—a book that expanded the democratic possibilities of what a modern novel could do and what it could be.

  Twain helped define the rhythms of our prose and the contours13) of our moral map. He saw our best and our worst, our extravagant promise and our stunning failures, our comic foibles14) and our tragic flaws. He understood better than we did ourselves American dreams and aspirations, our potential for greatness and our potential for disaster. His fictions brilliantly illuminated the world in which he lived and the world we inherited, changing it—and us—in the process15). He knew that our feet often danced to tunes that had somehow remained beyond our hearing; with perfect pitch16) he played them back to us.

  His unerring sense of the right word and not its second cousin taught people to pay attention when he spoke, in person or in print. (“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”)

  Twain’s quirky, ambitious, strikingly original fiction and nonfiction engaged some of the perennially thorny, messy challenges we are still grappling with17) today—such as the challenge of making sense of a nation founded on freedom by men who held slaves; or the puzzle of our continuing faith in technology in the face of our awareness of its destructive powers; or the problem of imperialism and the difficulties involved in getting rid of it. Indeed, it would be difficult to find an issue on the horizon today that Twain did not touch on somewhere in his work. Heredity versus environment? Animal rights? The boundaries of gender? The place of black voices in the cultural heritage of the United States? Twain was there. Satirist Dick Gregory once said that Twain “was so far ahead of his time that he shouldn’t even be talked about on the same day as other people.”
  吐温奇特、大胆而又极为新颖别致的小说和非小说类作品触及了一些我们至今还在苦苦思索的千古难题,譬如说:一个以自由为基石的国家,其缔造者却蓄养奴隶,这该如何理解;我们意识到了科技的破坏力,却还一如既往地信赖科技,这该怎么解释;帝国主义的问题该如何解决,消灭帝国主义又面临着什么样的难题。确实,如今要想在目力所及的范围内找到一个吐温在自己的作品中未曾涉及的问题,非常之难。遗传因素与环境因素的比较?动物权益?性别界线?美国文化传统中黑人的话语地位? 吐温的笔下皆有所涉及。讽刺作家迪克·格雷戈里曾经说过,吐温“远远地走在自己时代的前面,别的人根本就不可与他同日而语”。

  At the beginning of his career, Twain was lauded18) as a talented humorist. But the comic surface turned out to mask unexpected depths. (“Yes, you are right,” Twain wrote a friend in 1902, “I am a moralist in disguise.”) Time and time again, Twain defied readers’ expectations, forging unforgettable narratives from materials that had previously not been the stuff of literature. As William Dean Howells19) once put it, “He saunters20) out into the trim world of letters, and lounges across its neatly kept paths, and walks about on the grass at will21), in spite of all the signs that have been put up from the beginning of literature, warning people of dangers and penalties for the slightest trespass22).”

  Humane, sardonic23), compassionate, impatient, hilarious24), appalling, keenly observant and complex, Twain inspired great writers in the 20th century to become the writers they became—not just in the U.S., but around the world. Writers marveled at the art Twain wrought25) from the speech of ordinary people—speech whose previous appearance in literature had most often been treated with ridicule. Jorge Luis Borges26) observed that in Huckleberry Finn “for the first time an American writer used the language of America without affectation.” Twain taught American authors from Arthur Miller27) to Toni Morrison28), and countless others important lessons about the craft of fiction. Some key figures in the visual arts, as well, found reading Mark Twain transformative. Cartoonist Chuck Jones, for example, who played a key role in developing such icons of American popular culture as Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, and Bugs Bunny, tracks these characters back to his early reading of Mark Twain’s Roughing It.

  Born in 1835 in the village of Florida, Missouri, Sam Clemens (who would take the name “Mark Twain” in 1863) spent his boyhood in the town of Hannibal, Missouri. In 1847, when his father died, 11-year-old Sam ended his formal schooling and became a printer’s apprentice in a local newspaper office, later working as a journeyman29) printer in St. Louis, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and elsewhere. He spent two years learning the river and becoming a riverboat pilot, but his career on the river was ended by the Civil War. After spending two weeks in a ragtag30) unit of the Missouri State Guard that was sympathetic to the Confederacy, he set out for the Nevada Territory with his brother and tried to strike it rich mining silver. Although he failed as a prospector, he succeeded as a journalist. He got his first taste of national fame when his Jumping Frog story (The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County) appeared in 1865. He courted Olivia Langdon of Elmira, New York, and published The Innocents Abroad in 1869, to great popular acclaim. He married, started a family, and began writing the books for which he is best known today while living in the family mansion he built in Hartford, Connecticut. Financial problems forced him to close the house and relocate the family to Europe in the early 1890s. Later in that decade he would pull himself out of bankruptcy by embarking on a lecture tour that took him to Africa and Asia. As the 19th century ended and the 20th century began, he condemned his country—and several European powers—for the imperialist adventures they had pursued around the world, and he became vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League. The accolades and honors bestowed on him in his later years failed to fill the hole in his heart created by the death of his wife and two of his daughters. He died in 1910.

  In 1899, the Times dubbed Twain “Ambassador at Large31) of the U.S.A.” He had seen more of the world than any major American writer had before him, and his books would be translated into over 70 languages. Cartoonists made him as recognizable an icon worldwide as “Uncle Sam”. Twain was one of the U.S.A.’s first genuinely cosmopolitan citizens, someone who felt as at home in the world as in his native land.

  “What is the most rigorous law of our being?” Twain asked in a paper he delivered the year Huckleberry Finn was published. His answer? “Growth. No smallest atom of our moral, mental or physical structure can stand still a year.... In other words, we change—and must change, constantly, and keep on changing as long as we live.” This child of slaveholders who grew up to write a book that many view as the most profoundly anti-racist novel by an American clearly spoke from his own experience. Troubled by his own failure to question the unjust status quo32) during his Hannibal childhood, Twain became a compelling critic of people’s ready acceptance of what he called “the lie of silent assertion”—the “silent assertion that nothing is going on which fair and intelligent men are aware of and are engaged by their duty to try to stop.” Experience also taught him not to underestimate the transformative power of humor. The greatest satirist America has produced wrote that the human “race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon—Laughter. Power, Money, Persuasion, Supplication33), Persecution—these can lift at34) a colossal35) humbug36)—push it a little—crowd it a little—weaken it a little, century by century; but only Laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand.”
  1. Shelley Fisher Fishkin:谢利·费希尔·菲什金,美国斯坦福大学英语教授和美国研究系主任,知名的美国学者,她著有并编辑过有关马克·吐温的很多书籍。
  2. William Faulkner:威廉·福克纳(l897~1962),美国小说家,20世纪最有影响力的作家之一。1949年获得诺贝尔文学奖。他以长篇和中短篇小说见长,同时也是一名编剧家。
  3. Eugene O’Neill:尤金·奥尼尔(1888~1953),美国著名剧作家,表现主义文学的代表作家。1936年获得诺贝尔文学奖。
  4. Joseph Conrad:约瑟夫·康拉德(1857~1924),波兰裔英国作家。17岁开始当水手,后升大副、船长,其航海生活达二十余年。1886年入英国国籍;1889年始用英语从事文学创作。他的作品根据题材可分为航海小说、丛林小说和社会政治小说。他是英国现代小说的先行者之一。
  5. Kenzaburo Oe:大江健三郎(1935~),日本当代著名的存在主义作家,1994年获得诺贝尔文学奖。
  6. Isaac Asimov:艾萨克·阿西莫夫(1920~1992),当代美国著名的科普作家、世界顶尖级科幻小说作家、文学评论家
  7. credit … with:认为……有某种优点或成就等
  8. José Martí:何塞·马蒂(1853~1895),古巴卓越的诗人、杰出的民族英雄、伟大的思想家。马蒂在古巴、拉美乃至世界文学史上占有重要位置,是拉美现代主义的开路先锋。
  9. vileness [5vaIlnIs] n. 讨厌,卑劣
  10. Hartford [5hB:tfEd] n. 哈特福德(美国康涅狄格州首府)
  11. deadpan [5ded5pAn] adj. (讲话、行为)不带感情色彩的
  12. cadence [5keIdEns] n. 节奏,韵律,调子
  13. contour [5kCntuE] n. 等高线
  14. foible [5fCIbl] n. 弱点,(性格上的)缺点,自负的地方
  15. in the process:在进行中;在过程中
  16. pitch [pItF] n. 音调
  17. grapple with:尽力解决
  18. laud [lC:d] vt. 赞美,称赞
  19. William Dean Howells:威廉·迪安·豪威尔斯(l837~1920),美国作家、评论家,曾在《大西洋月刊》(The Atlantic Monthly)当过编辑。他的小说和评论直接影响了后来的很多现实主义作家。
  20. saunter [5sC:ntE] vi. 闲逛,漫步
  21. at will:随意,任意
  22. trespass [5trespEs] n. 过失,罪过
  23. sardonic [sB:5dCnIk] adj. 讽刺的
  24. hilarious [hI5leErIEs] adj. 欢闹的
  25. work [wE:k] vt. 加工,把……做成形;构成。文中的wrought是work的过去式。
  26. Jorge Luis Borges:豪尔赫·路易斯·博尔赫斯(1899~1986),阿根廷作家。他的作品涵盖多个文学范畴,包括短文、随笔小品、诗、文学评论、翻译文学。
  27. Arthur Miller:阿瑟·米勒(1915~2005),美国杰出的剧作家,他的作品针砭时弊、直言不讳,他被誉为20世纪良心的代表。
  28. Toni Morrison:托尼·莫里森(1931~),美国黑人女作家,主要成就在于长篇小说方面。1993年获得诺贝尔文学奖。
  29. journeyman [5dVE:nImEn] n. 学徒期满的职工,熟练工人
  30. ragtag [5rA^tA^] n. 贱民,下等人,乌合之众
  31. Ambassador at Large:无任所大使,代表国家的高级外交官,没有固定驻所。
  32. status quo:现状
  33. supplication [7sQplI5keIFEn] n. 恳求,祈愿,哀求
  34. lift at:用力提起,用力举
  35. colossal [kE5lCsEl] adj. 巨大的,庞大的
  36. humbug [5hQmbQ^] n. 欺骗