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Home>Articles>Interview
English

文学拉近民心距离

中英对照版 2017年第6期 2018-05-02

对话嘉宾

阿来

中国当代著名作家、茅盾文学奖获得者

阿克曼:听说您去过很多孔子学院讲座,有什么感受?

阿来:首先是对孔子学院有了一个全新的认识。在我印象里,孔子学院很多是建在大学里,大学是一个教育层次很高的机构,而孔子学院主要是教授汉语,如果在国内最多是初中程度,以前觉得把孔子学院建在大学里有落差。所以刚接到孔子学院邀请的时候还很犹豫,不知道会面对什么样的听众,如果说听众就是初学汉语的学生,那谈文学、谈文化可能是一个非常困难的事情。但这其实是我对孔子学院这些年的发展了解不够,实际情况不是这样的,第一天的演讲,曾经的驻华大使来了,很多跟我年纪差不多非常有影响力的当地作家都来了,我才知道交流层次是很高的。

另外,办得成功的孔院,外方确实表现出了充分的热情,我去的一所孔子学院的外方院长怀孕了,身体不方便还要陪去几百公里以外的分校再作一次讲座。

阿来在智利圣托马斯大学孔子学院举办讲座

阿克曼:尽管现在政府做了很多努力推广中国当代文学,但是我觉得中国文学在国际上还没有达到它应有的位置,您觉得问题在哪?

阿来:如果说翻译就是走出去的话,其实很早我们就在做这个工作。我们这一批像莫言、刘震云、余华等同时代的作家,在国家开始有意识地组织文学走出去之前就有很多作品在国外出版了。我自己的第一本书《尘埃落定》在美国出版的时候是90年代。当时曾经闹个笑话,有人突然给我寄了一张支票,让我去银行取出版的钱,我大概看了一下是一万五美金,到了银行一数是15万美金。这是我第一次拿到那么多钱,对于当时的中国人来说是一笔巨款。这也说明一本书能不能让外国接受是一个自然而然的事情,主要看人家有没有认识到它的价值。其实我们的全球化开始得很晚,现在说"走出去",我觉得不是我要走向世界,而是世界已经扑面而来,我们只是应对了这样的局面。

现在说走出去可能会对我们写作的人造成一种不好的影响,觉得是为了把书卖到外国去,要去揣摩别人想要什么,结果脱离了中国人自己的审美和经验,最后变成一个不中不西的作品。比较成功的走出去作品,还是坚持中国现实的作品。当然这也是跟全球不断交流的过程,早年美洲的一些作家比如聂鲁达、惠特曼对我帮助非常大,他们既开放又坚持自身文化立场的观念一直影响着我。不光是我,今天很多中国作家都应该有这样一种精神,这就是文化自信的表现。

阿克曼:文学走出去,一直都面临两大问题,一是翻译,二是文化差异,您怎么看?

阿来:文学就是从语言层面理解人,"人"的背后才是文化,如果"走出去"的文学交流能多从这个角度出发,就能找到更多共同点。

影响出版的因素很多,翻译是技术性方面的问题,现在好翻译确实非常少。翻译家们更希望能够自发选择书籍,只有觉得这个书值得翻译才会欣然接受。文化"走出去"代表国家形象,但是我相信它绝不可能整体发生,一定是一个一个项目走出去的。

另一个影响"走出去"的因素是出版社。衡量一个出版社好坏的重要标志是它的市场影响力。当我们授权一个国外出版社出版著作,一般会选择第一个表达了出版愿望的出版社,很多时候并不了解它们的真实情况。因此,我建议做一些针对"走出去"国家出版社情况的研究工作,更深层的了解它们的实际经营发展状况,这比给我几万块钱的资助更有帮助。

阿克曼:我们推荐中国当代作家的书给国外出版社的时候,对方经常会因为觉得陌生而拒绝,您怎么看待文化差异的问题?

阿来:在全球化背景下,出版社更关注商业利益,选择什么样的书出版要考虑商业风险;另一方面,今天的欧美文化从形式到内容都成为世界主流。当人们感受到自身文化的优越时,一般会拒绝其他文化经验,所以如今普通的西方观众对外界的好奇心没有过去强烈了。现在的欧美已经不是大航海时代,也不是殖民时代的欧美了。虽然殖民并不好,但那个时代的人们至少对外界有强烈的好奇,那个时代的法国文学、英国文学充满冒险精神。

中国文化从新文化运动到今天一路走来,害怕熟悉的东西,喜欢新鲜的世界,更渴望从外国文学艺术中获取经验。一个成长中的文化一定是对外部世界,对陌生化的经验充满好奇和渴望。有个故事说中国在没有加入《世界版权公约》之前,就已经翻译了很多外国文学作品,当时马尔克斯来中国发现满大街都是《百年孤独》,觉得没有授权怎么能出版,一气之下决定一生都不给中国人授权。

阿克曼:很多中国作家到国外讲座,常常发现大部分观众是中国人您有什么好的想法来扩大国外读者的兴趣?

阿来:这次我去智利天主教大学孔子学院讲座的效果就非常好。第一次见面我选择少讲自己,多讲对方,从我对对方国家某个作家和作品的理解谈起。我说我今天来到聂鲁达以前书写过的大陆很激动,因为年轻时非常喜欢聂鲁达。今天亲眼看到了书中描绘的那些海、那些树、那些遗址、那些人……诗中的场景一一呈现在我面前。对方也觉得这样的讲座方式很容易接受,所以第二天我又去当地另一个大学讲座的消息很快就传开了--当我表达了对这个文化的尊敬、理解就求得大家的互相理解。

第二是要善于和当地机构合作。既然要"走出去",总是要影响中华文化以外的人。国内机构往往对外国情况不熟悉,无法有效组织当地民众。文学传播的情况也一样,想要吸引国外读者兴趣,一定要和当地有影响力的机构合作,才会事半功倍。

阿克曼:一个出版社的朋友曾跟我说如果中国能出一个马尔克斯,有一本《百年孤独》,我打赌中国作家走出去,一点问题都没有。

阿来:我非常赞同这句话。人们想起很多作家的名字,包括苏东坡、李白、杜甫,首先想到的就是好作家、好诗人。从某种程度上说,没有哪个国家作家的问题,只有好作家和不好作家的问题,所以首先要努力多出好作品,让中国好作家成为一个群体,就像没有人会否认唐代文学一样,因为有那么多好诗人。

Literature Makes Us Feel Closer

Chinese-English No.6 2017 2018-05-02

Speakers

A Lai  Famous Chinese writer, Winner of the 5th Maodun Literary Prize

Michael Kahn-Ackermann: I hear that you have been to a lot of Confucius Institutes and delivered lectures. Would you please tell about your feelings about your experiences there?

A Lai: First of all, I have got a new understanding of Confucius Institutes. My impression is that many of them are on university campuses. While the university is a higher education institution, the Confucius Institute is mainly to teach Chinese language of the level of junior high school in China. I thought there must be a gap in terms of the level of teaching. Therefore, when I was invited to give lectures at a Confucius Institute, I indeed hesitated, wondering what kind of audience I would face. If they were beginners of Chinese, it might be rather difficult to talk about literature and culture. But that was not the case. It turned out that my understanding of the development of Confucius Institutes over these years was far from enough. Present at my lecture on the first day were the former ambassador to China and many influential local writers of my age. It was until then that I realized the communication at a Confucius Institute is actually of very high level.

Another feeling is that in those successful Confucius Institutes, the foreign partners show great enthusiasm. For example, once when I visited a Confucius Institute, the director, who was pregnant, insisted on accompanying me to a branch campus several hundred kilometers away for another lecture.

Michael Kahn-Ackermann: Now the government has made a lot of efforts to introduce contemporary Chinese literature, but I dont think Chinese literature has reached its deserved position in the international community. What do you think the problem lies in?

A Lai: If translation is equal to going-out, we in fact started it very long ago. Some writers of my generation such as Mo Yan, Liu Zhenyun, and Yu Hua had a lot of their works published abroad before China began to consciously promote the going-out of literature. My first book Chenai Luoding (The Dust Settles/Red Poppies) was published in the United States in the 1990s. There was an interesting story about the book. I suddenly received a check and was asked to go to the bank to cash it, and I was told it was the publishing payment. At a quick glance, I found it was fifteen thousand US dollars. When I was in the bank, it turned out that it was actually one hundred and fifty thousand US dollars. That was the first time I got so much money. For a Chinese at that time, it was a fortune. This story shows that the acceptance of a book by the foreign readers happens naturally. It mainly depends on whether they have realized its value. In fact, globalization began rather late in China. When we are now advocating going out, it is not that we want to step into the outside world, but that the world is coming to us. We just have to deal with the situation.

The idea of going out may have a bad effect on us writers. In order to sell books abroad, one has to figure out what others want, which may result in a deviation from the aesthetic appreciation and experience of Chinese people. Finally the works become neither Chinese nor Western. Those works which are successful in going out are still based on the reality of China. Of course, this is also a process of constant communication with the outside world. Some of the early American writers such as Neruda and Whitman have had a great influence on me. They were open but at the same time they adhered to their own cultural positions. Today Chinese writers including me should have such a spirit, and this is the showcase of cultural self-confidence.

Michael Kahn-Ackermann: The going-out of literature has always been faced with two major problems: translation, and cultural differences. What do you think?

A Lai:Literature is a means adopted to understand people from the language. Culture is only behind people. If literary exchanges can be viewed more from this perspective, there should be more common ground.

There are many factors that influence publishing, and translation is a technical problem. At present, there are indeed few good translators. They prefer to choose books by themselves and only work on those they believe worth translating. The going out of the culture represents the image of a country, and I believe it will never happen as a whole but on a project-by-project basis.

Another factor that affects going out is the publisher. An important indicator of the quality of a publisher is its market influence. However, when we authorize a foreign publisher to publish a book, we usually choose the one that first expresses the desire even though we know little about it. Therefore, I suggest that we do some research on the publishing houses of the countries we mean to publish in and further understand their actual operation and development. This will be more helpful than a fund of tens of thousands of yuan.

Michael Kahn-Ackermann: When we recommend books by contemporary Chinese writers to foreign publishers, they often reject them because of unfamiliarity. What do you think of the problem of cultural differences?

A Lai:In the context of globalization, publishers are more concerned about their commercial interests. They have to consider business risks as what kind of books to publish. On the other hand, today European and American culture has become the mainstream of the world in both form and content. When people feel the superiority of their own culture, they tend to refuse other cultural experience. This explains why nowadays the curiosity of Western readers about the others is not as strong as before. Europe and the United States are not any more in the great navigation era nor in the colonial era. Although colonization is not good, people at that time at least had a strong curiosity about the outside world. French and British literature of that era is full of adventurous spirit.

From the new cultural movement all the way to the present, the Chinese have been fearing the familiar, but liking the new and longing for experience from foreign literature and art. A growing culture must be the one that people are full of curiosity about and desire for the outside world and unfamiliar experience. It is said that before China joined the Universal Copyright Convention, a lot of foreign literary works had been translated into Chinese. When Márquez came to China and found his One Hundred Years of Solitude, though unauthorized, were sold everywhere, he was so astonished and angry that he decided not to authorize the Chinese to publish his works in his lifetime.

Michael Kahn-Ackermann: When giving lectures abroad, many Chinese writers find that most of the audience are Chinese. Do you have any good ideas of how to arouse the interest of foreign readers?

A Lai:The lectures I gave at the Confucius Institute at Catholic University of Chile this time have received very good effect. In the first lecture, I chose to talk more about the audience instead of myself. I started with my understanding of a particular writer of their country and his works. I said that I was very excited to come to the place Neruda had written about as I liked Neruda very much when I was young. I was able to see with my own eyes the sea, the trees, the relics, and the people... All the scenes depicted in his poems were presented one by one in front of me. They found such lectures very easy to accept, so the news that I would give a lecture in another university soon spread. When I expressed my respect for and my understanding of their culture, we harvested mutual understanding.

Another thing is that we should be good at working with local institutions. By saying going out, we inevitably influence people outside the Chinese culture. Domestic institutions are often unfamiliar with the situations in foreign countries and can not effectively organize local people. Therefore, in order to attract foreign readers interest in Chinese literature, we must cooperate with influential local institutions and thus achieve the goal of doing more with less.

Michael Kahn-Ackermann: A friend from a publishing house once said to me that if China had Márquez with One Hundred Years of Solitude, there would have been no problem for the going-out of Chinese literature.

A Lai:I totally agree with it. When one thinks of some famous names, such as Su Dongpo, Li Bai, and Du Fu, the first thing that comes into his mind is that they were good writers or poets. To some extent, it is not an issue of which country they were from but an issue of whether they were good or bad writers. So first and foremost, we have to produce good works and make good Chinese writers a group. No one will deny the literature of the Tang Dynasty because there were so many good poets.

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