安德烈·莫洛亚《致青年》 -经典文学英译-中英双语赏析

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A WORD TO YOUTH

By Andre Maurois

A WORD TO YOUTH, by Andre Maurois, in The Atlantic Monthly magazine, Vol. CLII, No. 4, pp. 397, 398, October, 1933.

Andre Maurois (1885-1967), French author, whose fame rests on Ariel, a life of Shelley, the English poet.

A questionnaire is, generally speaking either a nuisance or a bore. But once in a while one comes along that inspires thinking. At such times the interrogated blesses his examiner. This is what I felt one morning recently when I was asked to answer the following:

  1. What is the most valuable lesson life has taught you?
  2. To a young person in whom you were interested, what advice would you give which would help him to keep his balance in the most difficult experiences of his life?

There we have two beautiful problems. Let us give them a little thought.

I

Adolescence is the most difficult period of life, because then every defeat seems final. Let the youth live but a little longer and he will learn life’s first, most valuable lesson—that nothing is final.

“Things adjust themselves, more or less badly,” Disraeli used to say dolefully. Not a very consoling thought, put that way. For it is quite as true that things turn out well. More often still, many actions have no results—they come to naught. A few weeks slip into a few months; and of a situation that seemed at the time to have no possible solution nothing remains but a faint memory, a confused picture, a regret.

The man or woman who has lived through the experience of an unendurable present transformed into a blurred past has more power to face affliction. “A wretched power,” the romantic youth will say, “a power made up of indifference and skepticism. Rather than that, gave me my weakness and my suffering.”

The youth is mistaken. Men and women who have reached maturity have not become indifferent. If even in love they know the passion is fleeting, that very thought makes the experience acute, more ardent. “Nothing is sadder than a second love,” Goethe said. “But a third comes and soothes the other two.”

I speak here not only of personal problems and private sorrows. In political life it is especially true that long-faced prophets of misfortune unsettle inexperienced young men. Now here again a longer life teaches that events straighten themselves out by time and circumstance. And a wise old Italian diplomat used to say to the young men who surrounded him. “Don’t ever say, ‘This is very serious.’ For sixty years I have been hearing that things are very serious.”

As a matter of fact, how can a human situation possibly be otherwise than serious? It is very serious to be a man, to live, to carry on. And yet it is also true that, as the Italian minister suggested, life is very simple, very beautiful; and that it has been going on now for some millions of years.

“The hollow optimism of words,” some will think. In present sorrow the mere abstract idea of future relief is comfortless. But life itself shows us the way to more active solace. We learn that we can cut loose from its most painful moments. Flee the place of grief and the ache will heal. Twenty miles . . . the thought of not seeing for some time those who have wounded us . . . and little by little unhappy memories fade. Better still, even without stirring from the spot, escape from torment is possible by the enjoyment of reading, of music, and of some form of creation. The function of Art in life is to substitute for futile and painful concentration upon oneself the serene and selfless contemplation of Beauty.

Life’s second lesson—at least for me—is that few people are wholly evil. In his first years of contact with strangers, the youth who has known only the mild life of the family circle is frightened by the cruelty, selfishness, jealousy, which he thinks he meets at every turn. His pessimism is not entirely unfounded: humanity can be appallingly base. But as we come to know people better we find that they are capable of kindliness, of enduring tenderness, of great heroism. Then we begin to realize that what is really fear of life is shielding itself behind the armor of crime. What seems revenge is really suffering. And, most frequent of all, ignorance is judging and acting blindly. The English writer, Charles Lamb, said one day, “I hate that man.” “But you don’t know him,” a listener objected. “Of course I don’t,” said Lamb. “Do you think I could possibly hate a man I know?”

“What is the most valuable lesson life has taught me?” A passionate belief in human nature, in spite of her crimes, in spite of her madness. For that madness is a result: it is not a cause.

II

We must come to the second question, “What advice would you give to a young friend which would help him to keep his balance in the most difficult experiences of his life?”

That’s a question for a book, not for an essay. I think I should begin by insisting on the necessity for discipline. It is not well for a man or a woman to be ceaselessly seeking the whys and wherefores of everything. That a life may be happy, it must be based on fixed principles. I would almost say that it is of little importance what those principles are so long as they are solid, steady; and that we accept them without compromise. I am not speaking here of doctrinal creeds.“That,” says the poet Byron, “is an affair between a man and his Maker.” I am speaking of actions self-imposed, of building upon a solid base, of living by strict discipline. The discipline of a religious life, the discipline of work, of every kind of sport—these are all sane and wholesome, provided they are whole-heartedly believed in.

Another condition making for mental and moral balance seems to me to be unity in the plan, continuity in the pattern. A young person is tempted by every possibility, and the possibilities are infinite. Limiting himself to a choice irks him. He wants to have every kind of friend; to take every possible journey; to embrace all learning; to embark upon every kind of career; to experience every kind of love. But one of life’s conditions is that he must limit himself; he has to choose. Then, and only then, can he live deeply and steadily.

These, I think, would be my answers—if I were to answer.

Notes

questionnaire, a set of questions submitted to a number of persons, as in making investigations.

bore, that which is tiresome, tedious, tiring, fatiguing, annoying.

the interrogated, the person who is being questioned.

his examiner, the person who is asking questions.

his balance, his sanity, steadiness, composure, equilibrium.

adolescence, the period of growing up, between childhood and manhood (14 to 25) or womanhood (12 to 21); youth.

every defeat seems final. Whenever youth meets with difficulties in his attempt to carry out a project, whenever he is frustrated in anything, he assumes that the defeat is final, that nothing else can be done in that matter, that it is of no use to attempt anything further.

Disraeli, Benjamin (1804-1881), Jewish author and statesman, twice British prime minister.

naught, nothing.

a blurred past, a picture of the past which is indistinct and confused.

affliction, pain; suffering; grief; trouble.

indifference, absence of attention or interest.

skepticism, not inclined to accept currency or authority as proving the truth of opinions.

fleeting, passing rapidly.

Goethe, German author (1749-1832).

long-faced prophets, pessimistic people foretelling or predicating bad of the future.

optimism, inclination to take bright views.

solace, comfort in distress or disappointment.

creation, act of producing; act of bringing into existence.

futile, useless; frivolous.

pessimism, the opposite of optimism; inclination to take gloomy views.

appallingly base, morally extremely low; despicable; mean.

enduring tenderness, tenderness which endures, which is lasting.

heroism, qualities characteristic of a hero or heroine, as courage or bravery.

shielding, hiding; protecting; screening.

armor of crime. Crime is the armor or protective covering which hides or screens a fear of life.

discipline, training of the kind that produces self-control, orderliness, obedience, and capacity for coöperation.

the whys and wherefores, the explanation; the reasons for.

That a life may be happy, in order that a life may be happy.

without compromise, without agreement attained by mutual concession; without having to yield up any part of our original principles.

doctrinal creeds, formulas of faith or opinions on certain dogmas or teachings.

Byron, George Gordon (1788-1824), English poet.

continuity in the pattern, uninterrupted connection or succession in design or plan.

irks, annoys; bores; troubles; wearies.

Questions

  1. What two questions set the author thinking?
  2. What three lessons does he suggest in answer to the first?
  3. What two pieces of advice does he give in answer to the second?

参考译文

【作品简介】

《致青年》,作者安德烈·莫洛亚,载于1933年10月出版的《大西洋月刊》杂志,第152卷,第4期,397—398页。

【作者简介】

安德烈·莫洛亚(1885—1967),法国作家,以其为英国诗人雪莱所作的传记《爱俪尔》而著称。

致青年

通常来说,问卷调查要么惹人厌烦,要么乏味无聊。不过,偶尔会有一两份问卷发人深省。这种情况下,被提问者会感激调查者。几天前的一个早晨,当有人请我回答下面这两个问题时,我就很感激调查者:

1.你人生中最宝贵的教训是什么?

2.如果请你给一位年轻朋友一点建议,来帮助他平稳度过生命中最艰难的时期,你会给他什么建议?

这两个问题问得好,让我们来想一想。

青少年时期是一个人生命中最艰难的一段时期,因为在这个时期,每次失败都像是终结。如果这个青年长大一些,他将学到的人生最宝贵的第一个教训——任何失败都不是终结。

“事情会多多少少向坏的方面发展。”迪斯雷利曾悲哀地说。这么表述的话,这个想法确实不令人宽慰。虽然事情也确实可能往好的方面发展,但更多时候,很多努力都白费了,毫无结果。这种糟糕的情况会延续几周到几个月,当时似乎没有任何解决办法,到后来只留下淡淡的回忆、混乱的画面和深深的惋惜。

如果有人曾经历过难以承受的挫折或痛苦,而后这些经历变成了模糊的过去,那么这个人将更有力量面对痛苦。“那是不幸带来的力量,”浪漫的青年会说,“一种由冷漠和怀疑构成的力量。我不要这种力量,让我软弱和痛苦吧。”

这个年轻人错了。那些成熟的男女并没有变得冷漠。即使在恋爱中,他们也知道激情转瞬即逝;这种认识使得他们对爱情的感受更敏锐,更强烈。“第二次爱情最悲伤,”歌德曾说,“但第三次爱情来临时,会抚慰并弥补前两次爱情的遗憾。”

我在这里谈的不仅仅是个人问题和个人忧伤。在政治生活中,也是如此。那些拉长着脸的先知,预言各种不幸的发生,扰乱了那些没有生活经验的年轻人的心。同样,如果再年长几岁,生活会教导我们,很多事情随着时间推移和环境变化,自己会理顺自己。一位睿智的意大利老外交官过去常对他身边的年轻人说:“永远不要说‘这很严重’。六十年来,我一直听见人们说事情非常严重。”

事实上,人生在世,有哪件事情不严重呢?做人、活着、坚持,都很严重。尽管如此,正如那位意大利外交官所说,生活也非常简单,非常美丽。这也是不容置疑的,因为生命已经延续了上百万年了。

“空洞的乐观主义论调。”有人会说。在当前的悲愁中,“将来就好了”的想法并不能带给我们多少安慰。但生活本身教给我们用更积极的方法治疗伤痛。我们学会了怎么摆脱最痛苦的时刻。离开伤心地,痛苦就可以得到医治。逃到二十英里以外……想有一段时间不用看到那些伤害我们的人……一点一点地,那些痛苦的记忆就慢慢消退了。更好的一点是,即使不离开伤心地,我们也可以通过阅读、听音乐,以及某种形式的创造性活动,摆脱痛苦的折磨。艺术在生活中的作用,就是让我们不再专注于自身——这既痛苦又毫无意义,而是让我们在对美的沉思中进入宁静和忘我的状态。

生活给我的第二个教训是,极少有人是完全邪恶的。年轻人只知道平和的家庭生活,所以在他们最初接触陌生人的几年里,对碰到的残忍、自私、嫉妒等负面现象感到恐惧害怕,他们觉得到处都是这样的人。年轻人的悲观也不是完全没有理由:人性的确可以低劣到惊人的程度。但是,随着我们对他人的了解增多,我们会发现,他们也能表现出友善、持久的温柔,甚至是英勇。这时,我们开始意识到,生活中真正可怕的,是把犯罪当成保护自己的盔甲。所谓的报仇其实是真正的遭罪。而且,盲目地判断和行动意味着无知。英国作家查尔斯·兰姆曾说:“我恨那个人。”“但你根本不认识他。”一个听众反驳道。“我当然不认识他,”兰姆回答,“你认为我可能恨一个我认识的人吗?”

“生活教给我的最宝贵的教训是什么?”是对人性的坚定信念。尽管人会犯罪,人会疯狂,但我依然对人性充满信心。因为疯狂是果,不是因。

现在,让我们来回答第二个问题:“如果请你给一位年轻朋友一些建议,来帮助他平稳度过生命中最艰难的时期,你会给他什么建议?”

这个问题需要一本书才能回答,一篇文章回答不了。但如果要我勉为其难地回答的话,首先我要强调约束自己的重要性。一个人无休止地探求每件事的前因后果并不好。要生活得幸福,就必须建立在严格的原则之上。我甚至要说,是什么原则并不重要,重要的是,这些原则是可靠的、稳定不变的;而且我们不能打折扣。我在这里说的并不是宗教信条。诗人拜伦说:“教义是一个人和他的创造者之间的事。”我说的是那些自愿的行为,必须建立在稳固的基础之上,依照严格的原则生活。宗教生活的原则、工作的原则、每一种活动的原则——这些都一样有益,只要你全心全意信奉这些原则。

达到心理平衡和道德完善的另一个条件,在我看来,是计划的一致性和延续性。年轻人会受到各种机会的诱惑,而机会是无限的。限制一个年轻人的选择会激怒他。他想拥有各种朋友,踏上每一次可能的旅行,拥抱所有的学问,尝试每一种事业,经历各种爱情。但生活的一个条件是,人必须限制自己;他必须做出选择。那时,而且只有那时,他才能够深入生活,稳步向前。

我想,这些就是我对这两个问题的回答——如果要我回答的话。

 

(余苏凌 译)

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