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张培基英译中国现代散文选--7 中年人的寂寞

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中年人的寂寞
夏丐尊

我已是一个中年的人。一到中年,就有许多不愉快的现象,眼睛昏花了,记忆力减退了,头发开始秃脱(1)而且变白了,意兴,体力,什么都不如年青的时候,常不禁会感觉到难以名言的(2)寂寞的情味。尤其觉得难堪的是知友的逐渐减少(3)和疏远,缺乏交际上的温暖的慰藉。

不消说,相识的人数是随了年龄增加的,一个人年龄越大,走过的地方当过的职务越多,相识的人理该越增加了。可是相识的人并不就是朋友。我们和许多人相识,或是因了事务关系,或是因了偶然的机缘(4)——如在别人请客的时候同席吃过饭之类。见面时点头或握手,有事时走访或通信,口头上彼此也“朋友”,笔头上有时或称“仁兄”,诸如此类,其实只是一种社交上的客套,和“顿首”“百拜”同是仪式的虚伪(5)。这种交际可以说是社交,和真正的友谊相差似乎很远。

真正的朋友,恐怕要算“总角之交”或“竹马之交”了(6)。在小学和中学的时代容易结成真实的友谊,那时彼此尚不感到生活的压迫,入世未深,打算计较的念头也少,朋友的结成全由于志趣相近或性情适合,差不多可以说是“无所为”的(7),性质比较纯粹。二十岁以后结成的友谊,大概已不免搀有各种各样的颜色分子在内;至于三十岁四十岁以后的朋友中间,颜色分子愈多,友谊的真实成分也就不免因而愈少了。这并不一定是“人心不古”(8),实可以说是人生的悲剧。人到了成年以后,彼此都有生活的重担须负,入世既深,顾忌的方面也自然加多起来,在交际上不许你不计较,不许你不打算,结果彼此都“勾心斗角”(9),像七巧板似地只选定了某一方面和对方接合(10)。这样的接合当然是很不坚固的,尤其是现代这样什么都到了尖锐化的时代。 在我自己的交游中,最值得系念的老是一此少年时代以来的朋友。这些朋友本来数目就不多,有些住在远地,连相会的机会也不可多得。他们有的年龄大过了我,有的小我几岁,都是中年以上的人了,平日各人所走的方向不同。思想趣味境遇也都不免互异,大家晤谈起来,也常会遇到说不出的隔膜的情形。如大家话旧,旧事是彼此共喻的,而且大半都是少年时代的事,“旧游如梦”,把梦也似的过去的少年时代重提,因谈话的进行,同时会联想起许多当时的事情,许多当时的人的面影,这时好象自己仍回归到少年时代去了(11)。我常在这种时候感到一种快乐,同时也感到一种伤感,那情形好比老妇人突然在抽屉里或箱子里发见了她盛年时的影片。

逢到和旧友谈话,就不知不觉地把话题转到旧事上去,这是我的习惯。我在这上面无意识地会感到一种温暖地慰藉。可是这些旧友一年比一年减少了,本来只是屈指可数的几个,少去一个是无法弥补的。我每当听到一个旧友死去的消息,总要惆怅多时。

学校教育给我们的好处不但只是灌输知识,最大的好处恐怕还在给与我们求友的机会上。这好处我到了离学校以后才知道,这几年来更确切地体会到,深悔当时毫不自觉,马马虎虎地过去了。近来每日早晚在路上见到两两三三的携了手或挽了肩膀走着的青年学生,我总艳羡他们有朋友之乐,暗暗地要在心中替他们祝福。


Mid-life Loneliness
Xia Mianzun

I am already a middle-aged man. At middle age, I feel sad to find my eyesight and memory failing, my hair thinning and graying, and myself no longer mentally and physically as fit as when I was young. I often suffer from a nameless loneliness. The most intolerable of all is the lack of friendly warmth and comfort due to the gradual passing away and estrangement of more and more old pals.


Needless to say, the number of acquaintances increases with one’s age. The older one gets, the more widely traveled one is and the more work experience one has, the more acquaintances one is supposed to have. But not all acquaintances are friends. We come to know many people either in the way of business or by mere chance –say, having been at the same table at a dinner party. We may be on nodding or hand-shaking terms, call each other “friend”, sometimes write to each other with the salutation of “Dear So-and-So”, etc., etc. All these are, in fact, nothing but civilities of social life, as hypocritical as the polite formula dunshou (kowtow) or baibai (a hundred greetings) used after the signature in old-fashioned Chinese letter-writing. We may call them social intercourse, but they seem to have very little in common with genuine friendship.


Real friendship between two persons originates perhaps from the time of life when they were children playing innocently together. Real friendship is easily formed in primary or middle school days when, being socially inexperienced and free from the burden of life, you give little thought to personal gains or losses, and make friends entirely as a result of similar tastes and interests or congenial disposition. It is sort of “friendship for friendship’s sake” and is relatively pure in nature. Friendship among people in their 20's, however, is more or less coloured by personal motives. And friendship among those aged over 30 becomes correspondingly still less pure as it gets even more coloured. Though this is not necessarily due to "degeneration of public morality", I do have good reasons to call it the tragedy of life. People at middle age, with the heavy burden of life and much experience in the ways of the world, have more scruples about this and that, and can not choose but become more calculating in social dealings till they start scheming against each other. They always keep a wary eye, as it were, on each other in their association.Such association is of course fragile, especially in this modern age of prevailing sharp conflicts. Of all my friends, those I have known since child-hood are most worthy of remembrance. They are few in number. Some of them live far away and we seldom have an opportunity to see each other. Some of them are older than I am, and some a few years younger. But all of us are in late mid-life. Since we have each followed a different course in life, our ways of thinking, interests and circumstances are bound to differ, and often we lack mutual understanding somehow or other in our conversation. Nevertheless, when we talk over old times, we will always agree on things in the past--mostly about things in our childhood days. While we retell the dream-like childhood days in the course of our conversation, numerous scenes and persons of bygone days will unfold again before our eyes, and we will feel like reliving the old days. Often at this moment, I'll feel at once happy and sad--like an old lady suddenly fishing out from her drawer or chest a photo of her taken in the bloom of her youth.


When chatting away with my old friends, I am in the habit of unwittingly channeling the topic of conversation toward things of former days. From that I unknowingly derive some sort of warm solace. But old friends are dwindling away year by year. They are originally few in number, so the disappearance of any of them is an irreparable loss to me. The news of any old pal's death will invariably make me sad in my heart for a long, long time.


The imparting of knowledge is not the sole advantage of school education. Its greatest advantage is perhaps the opportunity it affords us for making friends. It was not until I had already left school that I began to realize this advantage. And in recent years I have come to understand it even more deeply. I much regret having carelessly frittered away my school days without making many friends. Recently, every morning or evening, whenever I see school kids with satchels walking in twos and threes, hand in hand or shoulder to shoulder, I always envy them for enjoying happy friendship, and inwardly offer them my best wishes.

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2011-10-17 07:35 编辑:Day_Day_Up1990
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