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On Consigning Manuscripts to Floppy Discs and Archives to Oblivion 汉译

  谈谈用软盘存储手稿和档案随之被湮没一事


手稿,那些作为一个作家创作过程的重要纪录,已濒临灭绝。随着文字处理程序的出现,其成本价格的相对偏低,及其简单易用性越来越突出,那些缺乏创造性,还没有作品出版的未来作家(当然也包括那些位居畅销书榜首的“有名”作家)已纷纷仰靠王安、IBM和苹果等名牌电脑,装上诸如“文字之星”、“文字助手”或“苹果”之类的写作程序,忙于在电脑上写作、编辑和修改他们的创作成果。结果如何?一张软盘而已!
手稿消失,我们该为之深感遗憾。任何一个人,学生或学者,怎么可能从一张软盘了解整个创作过程?这张摇摆不定的软盘能揭示美从其自身的失望中诞生(如威廉•布特勒•叶芝所说)的漫长过程吗?能让人看得出作家在深更半夜中熬出的惺忪睡眼和智慧吗?手稿记录着这些创作过程的极度痛苦,而且往往带有汗水滴下的痕迹,咖啡泼落的污点或香烟烧焦的斑痕。手稿能告诉我们一个作家的心灵历程,我们能从中知道作家在痛苦的创作过程中的种种感受。伊娜•圣万圣•米莱或许在夜里将蜡烛两头燃,在那可爱的烛光下作绵绵遐想,可她的原始手稿却成了身后几代人的财宝。
叶芝那些纪念他对莫•冈娜的徒劳爱情的精彩抒情诗,假如是在文字处理程序上创作的,就不堪设想!任何一张软盘都不可能向读者展示他那深切的痛苦。近一个世纪过去了,他那些收藏在都柏林国家图书馆的手稿仍然闪烁着他当年激情的火花。这些手稿告诉那些忧郁的青年男女诗人,消退的泪痕已属过去,但诗中抒发的种种情感、期盼、失望、爱恋与失落实在是永恒的。设想一下雷•布雷德伯里在一台王安电脑上创作他的《451华氏度》。当他的各种手稿消失在电脑存储器里时,他会觉得自己的书像被烧毁一样而深感痛惜,这种比喻是何等的贴切和具有讽刺意味。
在位于富勒顿的加州州立大学特藏图书馆里,写作专业的学生还有幸能查看类似的手稿。无论是初学者还是专业人士,都能详细了解到《消防队员》是如何从一篇简短故事发展成一部未经出版的中篇小说《火啊,燃烧!》,然后又如何扩充成另一部更长的亦未经出版的小说《炉膛和火蜥蜴》。这部书的终稿(因为是作者亲自用打字机打出来的,所以偶尔出现一些打印错误)也能查看得到。在这些稿纸上,我们可以看到布雷德伯里那挥洒自如的亲手笔,时而用一个形象的动词替换一个苍白无力的,时而调换一两个句子的位置,时而加强或删除某个形容词,时而又换上一个更好的名词。这个手稿充分体现了艺术家的工作过程。无论电脑软盘的数量有多少,我们都无法从中看出那种写作的发展过程或对终稿的润色。
况且,把许多手稿收集起来,可以集成一个挡案。所有的备忘录、日记、议事录、便条、第一、二、三次校对稿,对我们来说都是重要的档案。一个城市的档案往往是一些陈旧发霉的东西,如一些书写潦草的摘录片断,一些很有意义的关于边界划分的涂涂画画,或那些有关结婚、离婚、事迹、出生和死亡等无休无止的手写纪录。我们整个国家的各类档案可是一笔无价的遗产。国家档案馆塞满了各种皱巴巴的纸页,为那些喜欢探幽显微的历史学家保存了极好的材料。
通过手稿,我们得知托马斯•杰斐逊在起草《独立宣言》时是如何思考的。通过本杰明•富兰克林写给耶鲁大学校长的一封著名信函,我们了解了他对宗教的真实态度。那些创立了我国宪法的伟人们的日记、论文、信札和规劝意见,厚达数卷,我们都有机会一一拜读过。假如他们都用一张时兴的软盘来做这一切,我们还能知道那么多吗?不可想象。
与此类似,那些从针式打印机里吐出来的名人书信还能像他们亲笔写的原稿一样迷人吗?里根于1965年以一名普通公民的身份寄出去一封从内容到信封地址都是他亲笔写的信,信封上还有一枚盖销了的五分钱邮票,其情感召唤作用是那些在白宫地下室用机器签名,大批量输出的名人书信所能比的吗?而且,还会有同样的价值吗?几乎不可能。
詹姆斯•乔伊斯曾经写道,艺术家的错误是发现天才的大门。不幸的是,如果那些撕破的、笔剐伤的、裁剪过的、粘贴过的、发黄的、重写的或重打的手稿,统统被一张张清洁精致、毫无瑕疵毫无错误的软盘替代了,那种发现天才的错误我们将永远无法了解。而那种所谓的错误是图书馆乐于收藏、学生们乐于学习、拍卖行家欲以重金出售、获得者视为珍宝的错误。文字处理软件却要彻底将它们消灭。我们的损失将无法估计。
手稿,是我们留给后代的遗产,我们不能仅以发明了便利的文字处理系统为由而剥夺将来几代人了解我们现在的思想与情感的权利。写作是一件艰苦的劳动,不仅需要眼光,还需要修改。能让那些写作新手和未来研究历史的人知道这一切的唯有那些经过耐心修改的手稿,而不是软盘。——因此,手稿应该做在纸上,而不是靠荧屏的电子显示。

Willis E. McNelly




Manuscripts, those vital records of an author’s creative process, are an endangered species. The advent of word processors, and their relatively low cost together with increasing simplicity, means that even impoverished, unpublished, would-be writers (as well as the Names who top the best-seller list) have turned to their Wangs, IBMs and Apples, inserted Wordstar, Scriptsit or Apple writer programs and busily began writing, editing and revising their creative efforts. The result? A floppy disc!
We should deplore the disappearance of manuscripts. How can anyone, students or scholar, learn anything about the creative process from a floppy disc? Can this wobbly plastic reveal the hours, the endless hours, where beauty was born out of its own despair (as William Butler Yeats puts it) and blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil? Manuscripts are these records of creative agony, often sweat-stained, coffee-splattered or cigarette-charred. Manuscripts tell us what went on in a writer’s soul, how he or she felt during the agony of creation. Edna St. Vicent Millay may have burned the candle at both ends and wondered at its lovely light, but her first drafts are treasures for future generations.
Imagine if Yeats had written those magnificent lyrics celebrating his futile love for Maud Gonne on a word processor! No floppy disc can possibly reveal the depth of his sorrow. Almost a century later his manuscripts in the National Library in Dublin still glow with the power of his passion. They tell young, wan poets of either sex that that faded tear stains are not new, that their feelings, hopes, despairs, loves and losses are actually eternal. Suppose Ray Bradbury had written “Fahrenheit 451” on a Wang. How appropriate, even ironic, it might have been had his various drafts gone the way of the burning books that he deplores and disappeared into a memory bank.
Fortunately, any student of writing can inspect those same drafts in the Special Collections Library of California State University, Fullerton. Novices and professionals alike can examine how a brief story, “The Fireman,” grew into an unpublished novelette, “Fire Burn, Fire Burn!” and then developed into another longer version, the “The Hearth and the Salamander,” also unpublished. The final copy (complete with an occasional typo, since it was typed by the author himself) is available for inspection. On these pages Bradbury’s own bold handwriting has substituted a vivid verb for a flabby one, switched a sentence or two around, sharpened or sometimes eliminated an adjective, substituted a better noun. The manuscript provides a perfect example of the artist at work. We would never see that kind of development or final polishing on any number of floppy discs.
Moreover, put a lot of manuscripts together and you have an archive. Memoranda, diaries, journals, jottings, first, second and third drafts—these archives are important to all of us. The archives of a city are often musty collection of scribbled scraps of paper, meaningful doodles about boundary lines or endless handwritten records of marriages, divorces, deeds, births and deaths. Our country’s archives of all kinds are a priceless heritage. The National Archives is jammed with ragged papers, preserved for the scrutiny of historians.
Manuscripts tell us how Thomas Jefferson’s mind worked as he drafted the Declaration of Independence. A famous letter to the president of Yale informs us of Benjamin Franklin’s true feelings about religion. We’ve learned volumes from the diaries, papers, letters and exhortations of those who put our Constitution together. Would we know as much if they had done it all on a new floppy disc? Unthinkable!
Similarly, would letters from famous men and women spewed out on a dot-matrix printer have the same fascination as an original holograph? Would a machine-signed, mass-produced letter generated in some White House basement have the same emotional impact—or the same value, for that matter—as a envelope and canceled 5-cent handwritten letter mailed by Citizen Ronald Reagan in 1965, complete with hand-addressed stamp? Hardly.
James Joyce once wrote that the errors of an artist are the portals of discovery. Unfortunately, we’ll never know of those errors if clean, neat, immaculate but errorless floppy discs replace tattered, pen-scratched, scissored, taped, yellowed, rewritten, retyped manuscripts. Libraries preserve them, students learn from them, auctioneers cry them at fabulous prices, owners cherish them. And word processors totally eliminate them. Our loss would be incalculable.
Manuscripts are our gift to our heritage, and we have no right to deprive future generations of learning how we think and feel, simply because we find word processing more convenient. Patiently corrected manuscripts, not floppy discs, can tell any novice writer or future historian that writing is hard work, that it takes vision and revision alike—and that it should be done on paper, not with electrons on a screen.


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