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更新时间:2013/12/28 12:37:22 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

In Myanmar, Retracing George Orwell’s Steps

In Myanmar, a long-isolated nation now opening up to the world after decades of brutal military rule, one still finds romantic echoes of the former British colony that inspired the young author to pen his first novel, ‘Burmese Days.’

缅甸,一个长期与世隔绝的国度,经过数十年的残酷军事统治之后,而今向外界开放。在这里,人们仍然可以见到往日英国殖民统治的浪漫痕迹,正是它们启迪年轻的乔治·奥威尔(George Orwell)写下了他的第一本小说——《缅甸岁月》(Burmese Days)。

Wandering around Yangon, the former capital city of Myanmar, always makes me think of George Orwell. Yangon’s old British buildings have the look of Gothic ruins gone astray in a tropical forest that cannot accommodate their scale. They rise up under a monsoon moon, massive and darkened and ill placed — the High Court a Queen Anne-style brick castle with a gloomy clock tower, like a London railway station reproduced here by some demented committee. Seen after midnight, they recall the state prisons and labyrinths of “1984,” a novel that, like many of the works by a onetime Burma resident then known as Eric Blair, was once nominally banned here. Times, though, have changed: at the first Irrawaddy Literary Festival earlier this year, copies of Orwell books were handed out to participants, and the organizers of Britain’s Orwell Prize came to the country to celebrate their man’s Burmese past. Blair would have been amused.

漫步在缅甸昔日的国都仰光,我时不时地想起乔治·奥威尔。仰光古老的英伦建筑在热带丛林的背景中透出哥特式废墟的韵味,而这样的森林背景又配不上它的规模。这些房屋矗立在季风的月亮之下,宏伟,幽暗,却又突兀,与环境并不协调。高等法院是一座安妮女王风格的砖石城堡,有一座阴郁的钟楼,就像某个犯傻的委员会决定在这里为伦敦火车站建造一个副本。这座建筑在午夜时分的模样会让人想起奥威尔小说《1984》中描述的国家监狱和迷宫。当时,奥威尔是一名普通的缅甸居民,以埃里克·布莱尔(Eric Blair)的名字行走于世。《1984》,他众多作品中的一部,曾在这里遭到了封杀。然而时代不同了:在年初的第一届伊洛瓦底文学节上,奥威尔的著作分发给了与会者;英国奥威尔奖(Orwell Prize)的主办方也来到这个国家,庆祝奥威尔的缅甸岁月。这一幕,恐怕会让埃里克·布莱尔失声而笑。

It is strange to think of a young and unknown Orwell, who was born in India to a father who worked as an overseer of the colonial opium business, perhaps pacing around the ghostly Sule Pagoda 90 years ago and taking in this same view that I often enjoy when walking around the Maha Bandula park late at night. Back then, I suppose, on empty Sule Pagoda Road next to the park, gangs of boys did not play soccer under streetlamps, their naked backs glistening with sweat. The streets were probably swept free of garbage, and the dogs that swarm through them today would have been taken care of in brutal fashion. It was a different city, a famously wilder, greener place.


During a monsoon week, I lay in the Strand Hotel in proper British style, reading Orwell again, with a plan to find traces of his Burma in the cities of Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay — areas that are swiftly being renovated by the state to make Myanmar, long closed to the outside world, a mainstream tourist attraction.


The Strand, right on the river, is still a gateway to Yangon’s British past, with its high tea of mout lin mayar (rice-flour cakes) and dumplings stuffed with jaggery, its army of butlers and its high and noble bar. I read “Burmese Days” with my 3 p.m. Earl Grey and scones, followed by a scented cheroot cigar — rain pounding the windows — and was surprised to find that it is the rare Orwell work in which a landscape is as powerfully depicted as the characters.


Published in 1934, “Burmese Days” was Orwell’s first book, and although it reveals the insidious effect that his stint as a policeman in various small Burmese towns had had upon him (most famously recorded in his essay “Shooting an Elephant“), it also demonstrates his sensitivity to an underlying way of life — the rhythms of the Irrawaddy, the culture’s supernatural undercurrents, the grace and secrecy and stoicism of a “native” population that had no voice. It also contains surely the best description of a traditional slapstick zat pwe dance performance ever committed to paper, down to the young dancer moving the two halves of her derrière to a complex rhythm.

《缅甸岁月》出版于1934年,是奥威尔的第一本书。作者当时在缅甸多个小镇当过警察,这本书揭示了这份职业对他产生的潜在而深刻的影响,《猎象记》(Shooting an Elephant)一文尤为典型。他对此地生活的底色——伊洛瓦底江的涛声,缅甸文化的超自然暗流,以及优雅、隐秘、清心寡欲、没有自己声音的缅甸人具有敏锐的感觉。当然,这本书也描摹了缅甸的传统舞蹈——闹剧般的纳普威表演:年轻的舞蹈演员伴随复杂的节奏,扭动两片屁股。

The hero of “Burmese Days,” the young John Flory, has many traits in common with the quiet, withdrawn 20-something bookworm Eric Blair. Both protagonist and author had to co-exist with an array of exasperated and maddening colonial types. Of course, Flory, after being rejected by a shallow English socialite, ends up killing himself with a pistol, while Blair enjoyed a happier future, returning to England to become George Orwell. But the two share a host of irritations, rages and sadnesses, and I suspect a dark love of the Burmese forests. (There is a wonderful scene, in fact, during the first monsoon rains, in which Flory wanders naked into the forest and lets the downpour heal his heat rashes.)

《缅甸岁月》的主人公——青年约翰·弗洛里(John Flory)几乎是作者的写照。当时埃里克·布莱尔二十出头,也是个沉静内敛的书呆子。主人公和作者都无可奈何,必须与殖民地一些令人恼火抓狂的事物共存。当然,弗洛里对某个肤浅的英国女子表白遭拒后饮弹自杀,而布莱尔的未来生活则比他愉快得多,他回到了英格兰,成为作家乔治·奥威尔。但两个人都郁结着一腔愤怒与悲凉,我想那是对缅甸森林的黑暗之爱(事实上,在季风季节的第一场雨,这里风景绝佳,弗洛里脱光了走进密林,任由夏天的暴雨倾盆而下,治疗满身的痱子)。

“Your whole life is a life of lies,” the narrator rebukes himself. “Year after year you sit in Kipling-haunted little Clubs, whisky to right of you, Pink’un to left of you, listening and eagerly agreeing while Colonel Bodger develops his theory that these bloody Nationalists should be boiled in oil.”


What was the real extent of Burma’s spell over Orwell’s mind? It was explored in depth by Emma Larkin in her book “Finding George Orwell in Burma,” in which she makes a sinisterly compelling argument. Orwell’s great trilogy of novels (“Burmese Days,” “Animal Farm” and “1984″), she contends, presciently track the development of Burma — a colonial society transformed, through independence and the socialist military coup in 1962, into a version of “Animal Farm,” and then “1984.” Fortunately, the evolution continues with recent reforms and the 2010 release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the famous dissident and now opposition leader.

缅甸的魔咒究竟对奥威尔的思想产生了什么作用?作家埃玛·拉金(Emma Larkin)在她的著作《在缅甸寻找乔治奥威尔》(Finding George Orwell in Burma)中进行了深刻的探索,极为引人入胜。她认为,奥威尔伟大的小说三部曲[《缅甸岁月》《动物庄园》(Animal Farm)《1984》]预言了缅甸的发展轨迹,最初是殖民地,后来经过独立运动与1962年的社会主义军事政变,变成了“动物庄园”,然后就是“1984”。幸运的是,历史仍在演进之中,缅甸近年来进行了一系列改革,2010年,长期遭受软禁的著名异见人士、现在的反对党领袖昂山素季终于获释。

Orwell was posted to the Irrawaddy Delta in 1924 and spent his days doing crime-scene forensics and surveillance work, a job that gave him an invaluable insight into how police states work. But the monotonous, disorienting plains may also have shaped him in darker ways. Burma was one of the most violent parts of the British Raj. Dacoits, or armed gangs, roamed its waterways, visiting terror on the populace.


As I wandered every night through the heart of Burma’s old colonial city — known in Orwell’s day as Rangoon — down the length of Merchant Road and the wide avenues dripping with interwoven trees, I sensed how that long-dead society with its secret police and its neurotic surveillance bureaucracy had given rise directly both to the authoritarian government of today and Orwell’s masterpiece of yesterday.


But the verdant capital, to which officials like Orwell longed to return after lengthy stints in the jungle, remains alluring. “Oh, the joy of those Rangoon trips!” as Flory puts it in “Burmese Days.” “The rush to Smart and Mookerdum’s bookshop for the new novels out from England, the dinner at Anderson’s with beefsteaks and butter that had travelled eight thousand miles on ice, the glorious drinking-bout!”


I couldn’t find Anderson’s and its beefsteaks — it has long disappeared, or perhaps it has been renamed. Still, the British buildings remain, with their curious resemblance to the fictional London slums described in the opening pages of “1984,” “sordid colonies of wooden dwellings like chicken houses” — except that they are also monumental, lovely and haunted. Often painted aquamarine and dark liver-red, garnished with creeping moss and ferns, and adorned with dripping laundry, they are the ruins of an older city that is still alive — accidentally beautiful things preserved by failure.


Around the corner from the Strand, I often passed a pale gray columned classical European building, flying a state flag out front and bearing the Orwellian label Bureau of Special Investigations. A man was asleep on the porch, his head resting on a tray of cauliflowers.


One night, I made a time-consuming trek to find a Muslim shrine I had always wanted to visit, the tomb of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, which today lies on a deserted back street not far from the Shwedagon Pagoda. Zafar was exiled by the British to Rangoon in 1858 after the failed Sepoy Rebellion and died there four years later. The shrine that now houses his remains is spare and unvisited, and a lone guardian comes to the locked metal gates to admit the curious. Standing there in pouring rain, at the edge of an unlit alley, I wondered at the way my own people had busily gone about terminating dynasties — and histories — that might threaten their own new order. The guardian showed me around, and then we stood under the pasty portrait of Zafar himself pinned to the outside wall. “First visitor this month,” he said sadly, but with an ineffable defiance.

一天晚上,我花了很长时间,步行去探访我一直想去的一座穆斯林圣地,印度莫卧儿帝国最后一个皇帝巴哈杜尔·沙·扎法(Bahadur Shah Zafar)的陵墓。它坐落在一条废弃的路上,距离仰光大金寺不远。印度民族起义失败之后,1858年,扎法被英国政府流放到仰光,4年之后在这里死去。这座陵墓装着他的遗骨,而今惨淡荒凉,无人来访,一个孤独的门卫来到上锁的门前,为我这好奇的游客打开大门。我站在大雨中,在没有街灯的小巷尽头,想象英国人曾经怎样南征北战,忙着一个个消灭可能危及新秩序的王朝和历史。门卫带我游览了皇陵之后,站在门外墙上模糊的扎法画像下。“你是这个月来访的第一个游客。”他声调悲凉,却又透着一种说不出的藐视。

How quickly memory is effaced. The work of empire, indeed, is the work of memory effacement. On another night I went to have dinner at the home of a 90-year-old British Army veteran named Tancy McDonald. A retired minister of the Anglican church who was married to a Burmese woman for many years, he lives in a neighborhood near the airport called Insein, quiet as a rural hamlet in the jungle, and over tea and jaggery he remembered with perfect clarity the society Orwell had described in his book — the world of the “pukka sahib,” or the aloof, impeccably gentlemanly British administrator. Like Orwell’s mother, Tancy’s British father owned a rubber plantation in the south, and it’s possible they knew each other.

回忆消失得多么迅疾啊。这些昔日帝国的杰作,都在记忆中渐渐淡去。还有一个晚上,我来到一位九十岁的英军老兵家里吃晚饭。他叫檀西·麦当劳(Tancy McDonald),曾经是一座圣公会教堂的牧师,而今已经退休。数十年前,他娶了一位缅甸女子为妻,如今家住机场附近一个名叫永盛的街区。他家安静得像森林中的休闲别墅。在清茶与棕糖的淡香中,檀西回忆起奥威尔书中描述的绝对纯洁的君子国,那个清高无瑕、彬彬有礼的英国官员的世界。像奥威尔的母亲一样,檀西的英国父亲在南方也有一座橡胶园,有可能他们还曾经相识。

“The Burmese always had to call every British person ‘Sir,’ ” he recalled. “It was appalling. But then again, I also remember Rangoon as a beautiful place — a population of 400,000, clean, orderly. You can’t imagine how nice it was. The mistake we made after the war was to get rid of the British administration. It was a disaster. India and Malaysia didn’t make that mistake.”


“How about the changing of the country’s name?”


“Actually, I prefer Myanmar to Burma. It’s more authentic.”


“But it’s a variation of the same word,” I objected. “Both are valid.”


There was a canny smile in return.


Tancy remembered the war. The British were virtually unarmed, and the Japanese entered Rangoon easily. Separated from his artillery unit, Tancy simply walked to India with three friends, where he joined a new unit. He was happy to fight for the British.


He asked me if I’d be taking the “road to Mandalay,” so named, of course, after Kipling’s rousing poem.


“It’s a bit of cliché,” I said.


On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!


Kipling is a tough and formidable poet, but like Orwell, I cannot stand his failed attempt to render working-class soldier patois. In fact, Orwell both loathed and admired Kipling, the “good bad poet,” as he called him. And yet, the intense vibration that the very word “Mandalay” sets up in the English-speaking mind is a remarkable thing. Didn’t Frank Sinatra do a version of Kipling’s ditty?

吉卜林是一个顽强而可畏的诗人。但像奥威尔一样,我无法容忍他徒劳地试图粉饰工人阶级士兵巡逻队。事实上,奥威尔对吉卜林的感情是既厌恶又仰慕的,他称呼吉卜林为“优秀的烂诗人”。然而,在吉卜林这个讲英文的人看来,曼德勒一词在心底奠定的是一种热烈的节奏。歌手法兰克·辛纳屈(Frank Sinatra)不也曾演绎过吉卜林的作品吗?

“Maybe it’s all a cliché, as you say,” Tancy replied. “But Mandalay is still Mandalay. At least they didn’t change the name. It’s filled with businessmen now — you might find it somewhat unromantic.”


In Kipling’s and indeed Orwell’s time, one traveled from Rangoon to Mandalay by paddle steamer on the Irrawaddy, a journey of several days. Via the new recently completed express road, it takes about nine hours. On the way, one can stop to visit the nation’s new capital city of Nay Pyi Taw, which was created out of nothing beginning in 2004 to replace Yangon.


The Indian journalist Siddharth Varadarajan noted on a visit to Myanmar’s capital that it is “the ultimate insurance against regime change, a masterpiece of urban planning designed to defeat any putative ‘colour revolution’ — not by tanks or water cannons, but by geography and cartography.” The whole thing is lit up at night like a wedding with no guests. It’s a utopia with no guiding principle, and a capital city with no diplomats, since they refuse to leave the comforts and karaoke clubs of Yangon. And yet it is filled with imperial longings and references. The name means “Abode of Kings”: an attempt, then, to start yet another new history.

印度记者西哈斯·瓦拉德拉简(Siddharth Varadarajan)曾经去缅甸首都旅行,说内比都是“防止政权更替的终极保障,城市规划的杰作,专为打败一切假想中的‘颜色革命’而设计,而且,靠的不是坦克或高压水枪,而是地理与制图”。整座城池在夜晚灯火通明,就像一场没有来宾的婚礼。这是一座没有方针的乌托邦,整座都城里都没有外交官,因为他们拒绝离开仰光,不愿放弃那里的安逸空气与卡拉OK俱乐部。这里充满了帝国的憧憬和痕迹。内比都的意思是“众王之屋”,它渴望开始一段全新的历史。

Before continuing on to Mandalay, I headed east to Bagan, where I stayed a couple of nights at a new resort called the Aureum Palace, which has been opened inside the archaeological zone, among more than 2,000 temples ranging from the 11th to the 13th centuries. There can be no more astute positioning of a contemporary resort, something the Chinese honeymooners in the temple-view pool surely appreciated.


Restored as a “Burmese Angkor Wat,” Bagan is an inevitable stop on the tourist circuit. Where Nay Pyi Taw is a postmodern utopia, Bagan is a modern vision of an ancient one. Its thousands of pagodas spread across a parklike plain have been restored in strange and inauthentic ways, a gaudy mix of the 12th century and the 21st. It’s beautiful, moving and only half convincing.


“Then where does the past exist . . . ?” Winston’s interrogator, O’Brien, inquired in “1984,” still a good question.


The most interesting of the great Bagan pagodas is the forbiddingly massive Dhammayangyi, built by King Narathu around 1170 to atone for the sin of murdering both his brother and his father, Alaungsithu. Its interior is windowless and gloomy, the inner sanctuary walled off for centuries as if its contents had been a state secret that even succeeding generations would not be allowed to see. According to popular legend, the evil king demanded that the stones be mortared together so finely that a blade could not pass between them, decreeing that any workman who failed to do so would be relieved of his arm immediately. As I wandered around the half-lit galleries admiring the frescoes of elephants, a young girl in yellow thanaka face paint approached, holding a cellophaned book for sale to tourists: “Burmese Days.” She led me to the slotted stones where the arm severing is thought to have happened and made me place one of my arms in the groove. It fit perfectly. She then said that Narathu was assassinated “by Indians,” making a chopping motion on her own tiny arm.


“How do you know?” I asked.


“Whisper, whisper.”


“Is it true?”


“Buy Orwell, one dolla.”


I drove to Mandalay on the road that winds alongside the Irrawaddy. It’s a long, lulling drive through lowland paddies and bamboo thatch villages. In the distance, I could make out the great brooding river flashing between low hills and scattered gold pagodas, where flocks of goats wandered with boys in bamboo cloche hats.


The outskirts of Mandalay came upon me gradually, strangely anachronistic: chimneys of little factories puffing black smoke, like the piecemeal industrial landscapes of the 19th century; wide waterways of hyacinth and sugar palms, still more gold pagodas, white-horned cows everywhere, men hacking at logs, and horses tethered under kapoks.


“Mandalay is rather a disagreeable town — ” complained the narrator of “Burmese Days,” “it is dusty and intolerably hot, and it is said to have five main products all beginning with P, namely, pagodas, pariahs, pigs, priests and prostitutes.”

“曼德勒不是个讨人喜欢的小镇。”《缅甸岁月》的作者抱怨道,“尘灰漫天,酷热难耐,据说这里的特产是五个P,即佛塔、贱民、猪、牧师和妓女(pagodas, pariahs, pigs, priests and prostitutes)。”

The pagodas are still here, if the other four “products” are less in evidence (though the latter might be more familiar to the aforementioned businessmen). Mandalay is one of the few places in Myanmar where a foreigner can ride a motorbike, and on mine I went through the town’s chaotic temple neighborhoods, past the teak U Bein bridge at dusk, where the monks sit along the lakefront on weathered terraces. I visited the jetty at the end of a long, tree-shaded road, where the boat leaves for Inwa, the old ruined capital that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1839.


From my hotel, the Sedona, at the edge of the vast moat that surrounds the Mandalay Palace, I could walk the mile to the East Gate — the only one that foreigners are allowed to use. Above this gate hangs a shrill sign courtesy of the army, which is called the Tatmadaw in Burmese: TATMADAW AND THE PEOPLE, COOPERATE AND CRUSH ALL THOSE HARMING THE UNION. Ironic to think that Orwell did his police training less than a mile away.


The Palace itself possesses something of the moated grandeur of the Forbidden City in Beijing, with its teak-roofed towers rising above the gates. It is mostly a military base now, off-limits to visitors, but that was the case under the British as well. The wooden palace, where Burma’s last two kings, Mindon and his son Thibaw, ruled in the quarter century before the arrival of the British, is a modern reconstruction of the 1859 original, which was burned down during World War II.


To walk the now bare-bones rooms of the “Famed Royal Emerald Palace” during the rains, when they are empty, is haunting indeed, what with their dark red wooden columns and their life-size models of the two kings and their consorts sitting on replica thrones. One sees Thibaw’s dainty royal bed surrounded by four glass-encrusted columns, and vitrines full of imperial regalia, including the ruby-covered royal sandals. A whole arcane, intricate world of ritual reduced to a single glass case of dusty relics.


Where does the past live, then, as Winston was asked? Nearby, in the Kuthodaw Pagoda, is the so-called world’s largest book, its inscribed stone tablets housed in 729 whitewashed stupas arranged in lines, each tablet bearing a page of the Buddhist canon. Walking through the star-flower trees between the stupas, among families enjoying open-air picnics, one is bound to think yet again of Orwell, who would have known this place well.


The British maintained a garrison here until 1890, and they are thought to have stripped all the gold lettering from the texts (as well as stealing 6,000 bronze bells). But a physical stone book of such size is far less easy to ban than mere paperback copies of “1984,” or for that matter the paper books that had disappeared from Orwell’s imaginary future. The tablets might have been either an inspiration or a warning to the young police officer who wandered here almost a century ago, or perhaps they left no impression on him at all. In the end Burma was utterly alien to Orwell. He described the place, sometimes lovingly, but ultimately its warmth and beauty eluded him. Perhaps he could not see his way past the colonial machinery in which he was implicated. Out of its oppressive heat, cruelty and beauty, however, he made not one great novel but three.