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2018年09月06日 225 互联网

英文好文章开头如何写?

尽管对平易开头的喜爱不过是一种偏好、一种秉性,却能对不自量力的开头起到有效的制止作用。当然了,一些著名的开场白被写成了气势恢宏的命题(“幸福的家庭都是相似的……”),或者高屋建瓴的总括(“这是最美好的时代……”)。

Beginnings of Good Prose

By Tracy Kidder & Richard Todd

∷黄红宇 译注



如何第一时间走进读者,一键启动他们头脑里理性启迪和感性愉悦的开关,对于全体作家和日常生活中的写作者而言,既是难题,也是诱惑。山穷水尽之际,不妨暂时从自我怀疑和胶着中走出来,在普利策奖获奖作家Tracy Kidder和《大西洋月刊》资深编辑Richard Todd的引领下,看看《白鲸记》、《冷血》、《向加泰罗尼亚致敬》、《说吧,记忆》是怎么开头的,听听《风格要素》给出了什么写作建议。在伟大的英语作家笔下,我们经常感受到一种从容和宁静的气质,一种平实明晰之美。赫尔曼·梅尔维尔,杜鲁门·卡波蒂,乔治·奥威尔,弗拉基米尔·纳博科夫,E. B. 怀特……这些风格大师的行文,在平易朴素的语言外表下,蕴含丰富的暗示性和情感召唤力,闪耀着洁净而生动的内在光辉。记住:好文章未必都有华美的“凤头”,朴实的开头同样可以让读者产生共鸣。


英文好文章开头如何写?


To write is to talk to strangers. You want them to trust you. You might well begin by trusting them—by imagining for the reader an intelligence at least equal to the intelligence you imagine for yourself. No doubt you know some things that the reader does not know (why else presume to write?), but it helps to grant that the reader has knowledge unavailable to you.1 This isn’t generosity; it is realism. Good writing creates a dialogue between writer and reader, with the imagined reader at moments questioning, criticizing, and sometimes, you hope, assenting2. What you “know” isn’t something you can pull from a shelf and deliver. What you know in prose is often what you discover in the course of writing it, as in the best of conversations with a friend—as if you and the reader do the discovering together.

 

写作就是和陌生人交谈。你希望他们信任你。你最好一开始就信任他们,一开始就设想读者的聪明才智绝不逊色于你本人的聪明才智。当然了,你知道一些读者不知道的事儿(要不然何必擅自写作?),可是假定读者也拥有你所不知道的知识却很有帮助。这种态度不是抬举对方,而是现实主义。好文章在作家和读者之间创造了一种对话,假想的读者不时质疑你、批评你,有时也赞成你——你希望如此。你的“知识”并不是你可以从某个书架上抽出来,然后传达给读者的什么东西。你散文中表现出来的知识,经常是你在写作过程中的发现,正如和朋友的谈话进入佳境——就好像你和读者共同做出了这个发现。

 

Writers are told that they must “grab” or “hook” or “capture” the reader. But think about these metaphors. Their theme is violence and compulsion3. They suggest the relationship you might want to have with a criminal, not a reader. Montaigne4 writes: “I do not want a man to use his strength to get my attention.”

 

家被告知:他们必须“抓取”、“钩住”或者“捕获”读者。可是想想这些比喻吧。它们的主题无不是暴力和强制。它们所暗示的,是你可能想和罪犯而不是读者所保持的关系。蒙田写道:“我不想让别人用强势引起我的注意。”

1. presume: 冒昧,擅自(行事);grant: 承认。

2. assent: 同意,赞成。

3. compulsion: 强迫。

4. Michel de Montaigne : 蒙田(1533—1592),法国文艺复兴后期思想家、作家,以《随笔录》(Essais)三卷名垂后世。


Beginnings are an exercise in limits. You can’t make the reader love you in the first sentence or paragraph, but you can lose the reader right away. You don’t expect the doctor to cure you at once, but the doctor can surely alienate you at once, with brusqueness or bravado or indifference or confusion.5 There is a lot to be said for the quiet beginning.

 

开头是极限的练习。你不可能让读者读了第一句或者第一段就对你一见倾心,但是你可以一下子就失去读者。你不期望医生能立马治好你的病,可是如果医生粗鲁无礼、虚张声势、漠不关心或者不知所云,却肯定会马上让你感到疏远。关于平淡的开头,有好多可说的。

 

The most memorable first line in American literature is “Call me Ishmael.”6 Three words, four beats. The sentence is so well known that sometimes, cited out of context, it is understood as a magisterial command, a booming voice from the pulpit.7 It is more properly heard as an invitation8, almost casual, and, given the complexity that follows, it is marvelously simple. If you try it aloud, you will probably find yourself saying it rather softly, conversationally.

 

美国文学里最令人难以忘怀的一句开场白,是“叫我以实玛利”。三个单词,四个节拍。这个句子如此著名,以至于人们有时候会脱离语境加以引用,把它理解为一种威严的命令,一种发自布道坛的洪亮声音。倾听这种声音,把它理解为一种几乎是漫不经心的吸引更为恰当。尽管在文坛激起复杂的反响,这句话却可谓惊人地简单。如果试着高声朗诵,那么你很可能会发现自己相当柔和地、犹如谈话似地把它说出来。

5. alienate:(感情或思想上)使疏远;brusqueness: 粗鲁无礼;bravado:虚张声势,故作勇敢。

6. Ishmael: 以实玛利,美国作家赫尔曼·梅尔维尔(Herman Melville, 1819—1891)的长篇小说代表作《白鲸记》(Moby-Dick, 1851)的叙事者和主人公,来源于《圣经·创世记》人物。

7. magisterial: (行为或作品)权威的,有威严的;booming:(声音)洪亮的;pulpit:(教堂中的)讲坛,布道坛。

8. invitation: 吸引,诱惑。


英文好文章开头如何写?


Many memorable essays, memoirs, and narratives reach dramatic heights from such calm beginnings. In Cold Blood is remembered for its transfixing and frightening account of two murderers and their victims,9 and it might have started in any number of dramatic ways. In fact, it starts with a measured10 descriptive passage:

 

许多令人难忘的随笔、回忆录和叙事文就是从这样平静的开头出发,达到戏剧性高潮。《冷血》最为人所铭记的,是对两名杀人犯及其受害者的令人目瞪口呆、毛骨悚然的记述。这本书本来可以用无数种戏剧性的方式开头。事实上,它的开头却是一段节奏舒缓的白描:

 

The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.” Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West.

 

赫尔孔村坐落在西堪萨斯州海拔很高的小麦平原上,一个人迹稀少的地区,其他堪萨斯人会用“在那遥远的地方”来指称。这片乡野位于科罗拉多边境往东差不多七十英里,天空蔚蓝得刺目,空气清澈如荒漠,弥漫这一带的气氛与其说是中西部,不如说是更像拓荒时期的西部边疆。

 

Although a bias toward the quiet beginning is only a bias, a predisposition, it can serve as a useful check on overreaching.11 Some famous beginnings, of course, have been written as grand propositions (“All happy families are alike...”) or sweeping overviews (“It was the best of times ...”).12These rhetorical gestures display confidence in the extreme, and more than a century of readers have followed in thrall.13 Expansiveness is not denied to anyone, but it is always prudent to remember that one is not Tolstoy or Dickens and to remember that modesty can resonate, too.14 Call me Ishmael.

 

尽管对平易开头的喜爱不过是一种偏好、一种秉性,却能对不自量力的开头起到有效的制止作用。当然了,一些著名的开场白被写成了气势恢宏的命题(“幸福的家庭都是相似的……”),或者高屋建瓴的总括(“这是最美好的时代……”)。这些张扬的行文姿态展示出极致的自信,一个多世纪以来,读者为之倾倒不已。你想高谈阔论谁也阻止不了,可是记住你既不是托尔斯泰也不是狄更斯,记住朴实的开头也可以让读者产生共鸣,总归是谨慎之举。叫我以实玛利。

9. In Cold Blood: 《冷血》,美国作家杜鲁门·卡波蒂(Truman Capote,1924—1984)的代表作,1966年出版,被誉为“真实罪行”类非虚构文学的里程碑;transfix: 使惊呆,使动弹不得。

10. measured: 缓慢而有节奏的。

11. bias: 偏好,偏爱;predisposition: 倾向,秉性;overreach: 不自量力,因目标过高而失败。

12. proposition: 命题,观点;sweeping: 一概而论的;overview: 概观,总的看法。这两段引文,前者出自俄国文豪列夫·托尔斯泰(Leo Tolstoy, 1828—1910)长篇小说代表作《安娜·卡列尼娜》(Anna Karenina, 1877)的开场白:“幸福的家庭都是相似的,不幸的家庭各有各的不幸”,后者出自英国小说巨匠查尔斯·狄更斯(Charles Dickens, 1812—1870)长篇小说代表作《双城记》(A Tale of Two Cities,1859)的开场白:“这是最美好的时代,这是最糟糕的时代……”。

13. rhetorical: 文风华丽的,夸张的;in thrall:受奴役,被迷住。

14. expansiveness: 膨胀性;prudent: 审慎的;resonate: 有特殊意义,引起共鸣。




阅读完整文章,请关注《英语学习》2018年第8期~



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