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作家 三毛  他们在旅行,却享受不到旅行的那份惬意;他们在观察,却常常对自己观察的东西一无所知。他们在全身心地投入,为的是探寻一个地方的精髓;他们孜孜不倦、历尽艰辛,为的是揭示比小说还离奇的世间真相。他们所从事的是一份既充满困惑也充满惊喜的职业……

  The young woman by the window turns to the man in the middle and smiles. He smoothes her hair and tells her she is going to love his city. Not even off the ground, and they have already created a private lair1) in the coach.
  The man in the aisle seat immediately experiences feelings of exclusion, envy, and inadequacy. Travel, most people believe, is best when shared—an attitude that makes the solitary traveler one of life’s losers.
  Just in time, the man reminds himself that he is not a loser. He is a travel writer. He will not be engaged in the superficial pursuits of tourists but in the difficult task of trying to make sense of an alien culture.
  But why didn’t he bring his wife, or a friend? Some writers don’t want their assignment looking like a lark2). Those who embellish3) their accounts understandably prefer not to have witnesses. Also, going with a like-minded companion makes you susceptible to4) feelings of cultural superiority. But the real reason to travel alone is to be free from distractions, to be uninterruptedly absorbed in the place.
  After the landing, the lovebirds and all the other passengers disappear in a rush to restart their lives, and the strangeness of the travel writer’s surroundings distracts him from the fact that he doesn’t have one.

  What Am I Doing Here? 我在这里做什么?
  If all writers are by nature outsiders—standing on the periphery5), taking in the action—the travel writer is an outsider times two. He repeatedly ignores the oldest saw6) of the trade: Write what you know. He is an observer who frequently doesn’t know what he’s observing.
  Also, non-stop observation is not enough for the travel writer. After a few days a feeling of futility, not to mention loneliness, sets in. Business travelers have their meetings, aid workers their clinics, tourists their museums. Travel writers have no itineraries7) or obligations, and we have no leads, since frequently we don’t know what our story is. In the absence of a special event, or a specific assignment, we have to find our story, and often it is whatever happens to us.
  So we wander, mosey8), poke around. A lot of travel writing is creative hanging out.We’re hoping for an incident or a character or even a calamity9) that can become our subject. The worst trips, it is famously said, make the best stories, a philosophy that fuels the trend in adventure travel. Risk—its heated build-up and colorful consequences—is an irresistible subject. The problem with much of the writing that results is that it’s heavy on personal rather than worldly insight, portraying not the place but the author’s mettle10).
  Unlike the adventurers, who have a quest, the rest of us struggle with definition. We are not tourists, though we share their transport, their hotels, their intoxication11) with the new. Shunning the tour groups, we traipse12) through neighborhoods and sit in bars and inadvertently13) make ourselves even more out of place. We are engaged in work that looks a lot like play—even to us. But it lacks play’s essential carefree quality. A story has to result. And it weighs on14) us, this knowledge, along with the idea of our impertinent existence.

Bruce Chatwin  But we press on15), watching people with purpose go through their day, remembering friends back home who said they’ve always dreamed of visiting the place where we now schlep16). And without any prompting, we think of Bruce Chatwin17)—not his 1977 masterpiece, In Patagonia, but his posthumous18) collection, What Am I Doing Here.

  How Do I Discover Essence? 怎样探寻精髓?  
     Today, however, we wonder not just what we’re doing here but how we can ever discover its essence. How can we possibly describe all these faces, all these doorways and shop windows? The scale of every place overwhelms: hundreds of streets we can never walk down, thousands of people—many of them, surely, perfect embodiments of their city’s spirit—we will never meet. A dozen just passed, lost forever. Who, after all, are we to pronounce on this place?
  Miraculously, these doubts vanish when observation gives way to participation.
  My first trip “on assignment” was to Spain and Portugal. For two weeks I walked the streets—Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Lisbon—ate in the restaurants, took in19) the sights. I was always alone and painfully aware that something was missing. Desperate in Coimbra, I went to the university English department and accosted20) the first person I saw. This turned out to be Bibi, a woman teaching Dutch. She told me about her friend in Lisbon, a poet named Casimiro whom I should call when I returned there.
  Casimiro invited me to dinner, after which we went to a bar for fado music21). On my solitary strolls I had passed numerous restaurants advertising “folklorique evenings”; this wasn’t one of them. It was a smoky dive, full of what looked like stevedores22) sitting at long tables before a gaunt23) guitarist perched on a stool. Occasionally a lone brute would stand up and belt out24) a song of outstanding melancholy. Casimiro translated. “It smells of Lisbon,” he said after one almost upbeat number. “It smells of flowers and the sea.”
  That night I learned how to travel as a travel writer: You approximate, as best you can, in the short time allotted you, the life of a local.
  And this is achieved through personal encounters. It is something the adventure writers often miss. Everyone can climb Kilimanjaro, or at least attempt to. They will all, for sure, have their own individual responses to the experience, but they all go up the same mountain. Whereas the person you meet in your travels is yours alone.
  Even when I’m in search of a story, many of my trips are uneventful. But it does sometimes happen that I find good people, learn new things, participate in the life of a place. And there are times—like unexpected gifts—when the people become friends, the information becomes insight, the participation becomes engagement; I develop an emotional attachment to the place. And then I think: It’s not the worst trips that make the best stories—it’s the best trips.

  Why Am I Writing This? 我为什么写游记?
  Row 37, seats J, K, and L. The teen slumped against the window is snoring loudly, and the man in the middle weighs 300 pounds. Nevertheless, the woman in the aisle seat leans back and smiles. She is a travel writer, and for the first time in a long while she has nothing to do. The place she obsessed about for months has disappeared beneath the clouds. All the anxiety she felt on the flight over is now replaced by exhausted elation25). She luxuriates26) in the lull27) between legwork28) and composition.
  The feeling of contentment doesn’t last long. At her computer the old doubt returns, though this time it’s not stirred by the confusion of the new. The chaos of travel has given way to the order of home. She is, as one never is on the road, in control. Her late-night stumble into29) a slum is rendered calmly, with carefully weighed words.
  Yet even when those words are flowing, uncertainty creeps in. “What am I doing here?” becomes, in its domestic form, “Why am I writing this?”
  It sometimes seems that as more people go out into the world, there is less interest in reading about the world. How else to explain the decline of the travel book in the age of globalization? For some time now, the travel writer has been viewed as a kind of subspecies. Few modern travel books have been heralded as literature. Magazines and newspaper sections devoted to travel are mostly unreadable.
  And yet, good travel writing continues to be written and published. The best writers in this field bring to it an indefatigable30) curiosity, a fierce intelligence that enables them to interpret, and a generous heart that allows them to connect. Without resorting to invention, they make ample use of their imaginations. They do what many of their compatriots31) find impossible.
  The travel book itself has a similar grab bag32) quality. It incorporates the characters and plot line of a novel, the descriptive power of poetry, the substance of a history lesson, the discursiveness33) of an essay, and the—often inadvertent—self-revelation of a memoir. It revels in34) the particular while occasionally illuminating the universal. It colors and shapes and fills in gaps. Because it results from displacement, it is frequently funny. It humanizes the alien. More often than not it celebrates the unsung. It uncovers truths that are stranger than fiction. It gives eyewitness proof of life’s infinite possibilities.
  This is why you write it.
  1. lair [leE] n. 窝
  2. lark [lB:k] n. 嬉戏,玩乐
  3. embellish [Im5belIF]
   vt. 修饰,添加细节于
  4. susceptible to:易受……影响的
  5. periphery [pE5rIfErI] n. 边缘地带,边界
  6. saw [sR:] n. 谚语,格言
  7. itinerary [ai5tInErErI] n. 旅程,路线
  8. mosey [5mEuzI] vi. 漫步,匆匆离去
  9. calamity [kE5lAmItI] n. 灾难,不幸事件
  10. mettle [5metl] n. 精神,勇气,决心
  11. intoxication [In7tCksI5keIFEn] n. 陶醉
  12. traipse [treIps] vi.漫步,拖曳
  13. inadvertently [7InEd5vE:tEntlI] adv. 不注意地
  14. weigh on:重压,压垮,成为负担
  15. press on:奋进,(不顾困难地)继续进行
  16. schlep [Flep] vi. 缓慢费力地行进
  17. Bruce Chatwin:布鲁斯·查特文(1940~1989),英国小说家、游记作家,曾任职于《周日时报》(The Sunday Times),代表作有《巴塔哥尼亚高原上》(In Patagonia)、《歌之版图》(The Songlines)等。
  18. posthumous [5pRstjumEs] adj. 作者死后出版的
  19. take in:详细地看,注视
  20. accost [E5kRst] vt. 搭话
  21. fado music:法多音乐,一种悲伤的葡萄牙民歌,多为思乡曲。
  22. stevedore [5sti:vEdC:] n. 搬运工
  23. gaunt [^C:nt] adj. 憔悴的
  24. belt out:拉开嗓门唱
  25. elation [I5leIFEn] n. 得意洋洋,兴高采烈
  26. luxuriate [lQ^5zjuErIeIt] vi. 沉溺
  27. lull [lQl] n. 间歇,间隔
  28. legwork [5le^wE:k] n. 外出搜集情况的工作(如新闻采访,案件调查等)
  29. stumble into:失足,误入
  30. indefatigable [7IndI5fAtI^Ebl] adj. 不懈怠的,不知疲倦的
  31. compatriot [kEm5pAtrIEt] n. 同胞,同事
  32. grab bag:摸彩袋,混杂,大杂烩
  33. discursiveness [dIs5kE:sIvnIs] n. 散漫,漫无边际
  34. revel in:陶醉,喜好