邓惜华《妹妹的出生》 -经典英译-中英双语赏析

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BIRTH OF A SISTER

By Tan Shih-hua

BIRTH OF A SISTER, from A Chinese Testament, purporting to be the autobiography of Tan Shih-hua, as told to Sergiei Mikhailovich Tretiakov, New York, Simon and Shuster, 1934, Chapter XI.

Tan Shih-hua (Teng Hsi-hua) was a student under Sergiei Tretiakov, a teacher of the Russian language in Peiping and known also for his Roar China, a dramatic episode in nine scenes.

My uncle’s school moved to another temple—a little larger than the old one, but further away from our house. To prevent me from getting too tired, walking to and from the school, he took me to live with him, and sent me home every Saturday. He adopted the European method of holidays. In his school, just as in the public schools, we had one day a week for rest. In private schools the pupils had to sit over their books from one Chinese holiday to another, and holidays in China are as rare as springs in a desert.

One week day I was called out from the class. Our maid was waiting for me. I gathered that something must be wrong with my mother. We had a maid in the house only on days when mother was unable to work. I walked home in a great hurry. On the way the maid told me news which I had not expected at all.

“Your mother has borne you a sister.”

I was glad; I had always been so lonely at home.

The maid turned me over to my grandmother. Craftily and solemnly the old woman led me into mother’s room. My mother was lying silent on her bed. She was pale and thin. Her arms were stretched out on the cover. A funny little bit of a bed stood next to hers. Something wrapped in white and made entirely of little balls and wrinkles was in it.

“A little girl,” said my grandmother.

I wanted to touch my little sister, but my grandmother would not let me. Having failed in this, I decided to go immediately to a store and get her some sweets. My grandmother sat down on my mother’s bed and released her high, thin laughter. She would stop, look at me, then laugh again. I paid dearly for those sweets. My grandmother loved to tease me.

I said to her, “It is nice to have a girl.”

“No, it is very bad,” she said. “Here in Szechwan, we have to give a dowry with the bride. It is just an expense. It would be different if we were living in Kiangsu—there people pay the bride’s family.”

I did not agree with my grandmother. But she did not care. She was laughing again, probably remembering those sweets.

Careful not to spill it, the maid brought my mother a bowl of boiled chicken. Every woman in China gets boiled chicken for a few days after her labor. Chicken is good. I looked longingly at the bowl. Mother put me next to her on the bed, and we ate the chicken together.

Taking away the empty bowl, my grandmother looked at me, and said seriously and in a businesslike manner, “Really, Shih-hua, it would not be bad if your mother bore you a sister or a brother every year; then you would eat chicken quite often.”

A month later, our house was buzzing with relatives. Such a lot of them. My mother was walking about, sweet and affable, but still white and thin, although she had not worked all that month. She entered the sitting room with my little sister in her arms, and all the relatives, one after another, came up to her and touched the little big-eyed girl, whose small stomach was covered with a red flannel apron—a protection against the cold. The relatives argued about whose nose the little girl was going to have, whose eyes, whose mouth. They wished her good fortune.

“May she grow up to be as intelligent as her mother.”

“May she become a good hostess.”

“May she be the most beautiful bride in Hsien-Shih.”

“She will be a famous authoress.”

This last wish was expressed by my elder uncle. I knew it because, being himself fond of writing, he always said the same thing to every new-born baby.

The inspection was over, the little girl was wrapped up again and carried away. The relatives presented my mother with gifts. There were eggs in woven baskets, cackling hens, bags of sugar, selected rice—beautiful rice, which one would like to string on a thread and wear for a necklace, so beautiful it was—and sweets. . . .

My grandmother glanced from the bag of sweets to me, and began laughing again.

The procession of relatives moved to the dining room. At the table, the return gifts from our family were distributed, each relative receiving two red eggs. I was sad; we did not have enough money, so I could not stick a gilt-paper hieroglyphic meaning “luck” on the eggs.

A year later, on my sister’s birthday the same relatives again crowded into our house. A red tablecloth was put on a table in the sitting room, and all sorts of objects were spread out: a needle and thread, a saucepan, a teapot, a paint-brush, an inkpot, a knife, a book of verses, a book of stories, a flexible fencing-foil, a piece of printed silk.

Then the little girl, who, in her embarrassment, was trying to stick her foot into her mouth, was brought to the table, to see what object she would pick up first. If she takes a brush, she will be an authoress; if she grabs at a saucepan, she will be a housewife; if she touches silk, she will be a well-dressed woman; if she picks up a foil, she will make herself famous as a heroine or a chieftain.

I don’t know what object my little sister chose. Judging by the fact that she is now in Peking University, and shows a great deal of interest in literature, she must have chosen a brush or a book. However, she was a niece of two teachers. So many books and so much stationery were piled up that day on the red cloth that the insignificant needle and thread had no chance of getting into the hands of little Shih-kuen.

In those days, she was the important person in the house. But I did not mind. I was grown up. I was six years older than she.

Notes

European method of holidays, having one day of rest a week.

public schools, in our country, the schools established by the city, provincial, or national government where every qualified person can get a free education; the opposites of private school which are maintained by private individuals or bodies for the education of private students.

springs or places where water wells up from the earth are rare (hard to find), because so few, in a desert.

one week day, any day in the week but not Sunday.

cover, the quilt or bed-cover.

Why little balls and wrinkles?

some sweets, some sweet candy for the new-born baby to eat. Of course we know that babies of that age do not eat candy, but how was the little brother to know that? It was cruel of the grandmother to laugh at the young lad. Still, we must excuse her for she was only an ignorant old woman.

paid dearly, suffered much teasing; was often teased because of his mention of going to the store to get the baby some candy.

On what occasion did the grandmother tease him, a little later in the story?

dowry, the money, goods, or estate which a woman brings with her to her husband in marriage; dot.

labor, childbirth; the giving birth to children, because of the pains that attend childbirth.

longingly, with eager desire.

Why businessslike manner?

buzzing, noisy because there were so many of them around.

What is this occasion mentioned here, that happens a month later, after the birth of the child?

affable, gracious; courteous; sociable.

Hsien-Shih, their home village in Szechwan.

cackling, making sharp broken noises.

gilt-paper, paper golden-yellow colored.

hieroglyphic, word; pictorial symbol or emblematic figure.

flexible fencing-foil, soft sword used for fencing or sword-exercising.

embarrassment, not knowing what to do.

stationery,writing paper. Stationery is not stationary, which means “standing still.”

Shih-kuen, the name of the sister.

Questions

  1. Notice the customs mentioned in connection with the birth of the sister, the celebration a month later, and the sister’s birthday a year later.
  2. How much older than his sister was the writer?
  3. In what ways does the essay reveal the age of the brother?

参考译文

【作品简介】

《妹妹的出生》选自《一个中国人的遗嘱》一书,据说该书是邓惜华向谢尔盖·米哈伊洛维奇·特列季亚科夫口述的自传,由约西蒙与舒斯特出版公司1934年出版。本文选自该书第十一章。

【作者简介】

邓惜华是北平俄语教师谢尔盖·特列季亚科夫的学生。谢尔盖因其九幕剧《咆哮吧!中国》而著名。

妹妹的出生

叔叔的学校搬到了另一座庙——比以前那座稍微大一点,不过离我家更远了。叔叔怕我往返学校太累,就让我跟他住在一起,每个星期六才能回家。叔叔学校采用的是欧洲节假日制度,和公立学校一样,每周休息一天。而在私立学校,学生除中国节假日外只能潜心读书,但中国的节假日又少得仿佛沙漠里的甘泉。

有一天,我被叫出了课堂,是家里的女佣在等我。我想,一定是母亲生病了,因为只有在母亲没法做家务的时候家里才会雇女佣,于是急忙往家赶。路上,女佣跟我说的消息完全出乎我的意料。

“你妈给你生了个妹妹。”

真高兴,因为我在家里一直很孤单。

女佣把我带到奶奶面前,只见奶奶表情严肃,她很快把我带进了母亲的房间。母亲静静地躺在床上,脸色苍白,身体瘦弱,胳膊放在被子外面。一张小床紧挨着奶奶和母亲,小床看起来很好玩,里面有个东西用白布包着,圆鼓鼓的,皱巴巴的。

“是个女孩儿。”奶奶说道。

我想摸一摸小妹妹,但奶奶坚决不让。既然不能摸,我决定马上去商店给她买几块糖果。奶奶在妈妈的床沿上坐了下来,大声地笑了,那笑声又尖又细。一会儿她停下,看看我,接着又笑起来。要知道,我为这些糖果花了很多钱,奶奶总爱拿这件事打趣。

我对奶奶说:“有个女孩儿真好。”

“不,太不好了。”奶奶回答,“要知道,在咱们四川,需要给新娘准备嫁妆,所以生女孩只会赔钱。如果住在江苏就不一样了——那里的人会给新娘家很多钱的。”

我并不同意奶奶的看法,不过她并不在意,又笑了起来,可能又想起了那些糖果。

女佣为母亲端来一碗鸡汤,小心翼翼地,生怕洒出来。在中国,每个女人在生完孩子的头几天都会喝鸡汤的。鸡汤味道鲜美,我眼巴巴地盯着那个碗,母亲便让我挨着她坐在床上跟她一起喝。

奶奶拿走空碗的时候看着我,严肃而认真地说道:“说的也是,惜华,如果你妈每年都给你生个妹妹或弟弟的话,那也不错,这样你就能经常吃鸡肉了。”

妹妹满月的时候,我家因为亲戚们的到来而变得热闹起来。我家亲戚可真多,母亲到处打着招呼,对每一个人都那么亲切友善,不过依然显得苍白瘦弱,尽管她那个月一点活儿也没干。然后,母亲抱着我的小妹妹走进客厅,亲戚一个接一个地来到她身边,摸摸那个大眼睛的小女孩。妹妹小小的肚子上盖着红色的法兰绒肚兜,以防着凉。亲戚们议论着妹妹的鼻子、眼睛和嘴巴像谁,并送上了美好的祝福。

“长大后一定像妈妈一样聪明。”

“一定成为好当家。”

“一定成为本县市最美的新娘。”

“一定会成为有名的作家。”

最后一个祝福来自我的大伯。我知道,这是因为他自己喜欢写东西,他对每个新出生的婴儿都会这么说。

每个人都看过妹妹以后,她又被包起来抱走了。亲戚们把礼物送给母亲,有装在编织篮中的鸡蛋、咯咯叫的母鸡、几袋糖、精挑细选的大米——好漂亮的大米啊,让人想用线穿起来当项链戴,真的很漂亮——还有很多糖果……

奶奶的目光从那袋糖果转向我,又笑了起来。

亲戚们涌进餐厅。餐桌旁,每个亲戚都得到了我们家的回礼:两个红鸡蛋。我很难过,因为家里并不富裕,我不能在鸡蛋上粘上一张带有表示“幸运”字样的金纸。

一年后,我妹妹生日那天,同一批亲戚再次来到我家。客厅的桌子铺上了红布,上面摆着各种物件:针线、炖锅、茶壶、画笔、墨水瓶、刀子、诗集、故事书、柔软的钝剑、印花绸。

小妹妹正努力把自己的脚塞进嘴里,就被抱到了桌子边,看看她首先选什么物件。如果拿起毛笔,就会成为作家;如果抓住炖锅,就为家庭主妇;如果摸到绸子,就会不愁穿戴;如果拿剑,就会成为著名的英雄或首领。

我不知道小妹妹选的是什么。鉴于她目前在北京大学就读,并对文学表现出浓厚兴趣,我猜她当时选的一定是毛笔或书之类的。不过,要知道她有两个当老师的叔叔。那天,红布上堆了那么多书和文具,不起眼的针线根本没机会跑到我的妹妹小惜娟手上。

那些天,惜娟是家里的重要人物。不过我并不介意,毕竟我长大了,比她大六岁。

 

(彭萍 译)

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