陽光下的聲音
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August 3, 2010
「金山」序試譯之三
向日葵 在 YLib Blog 發表於 20:42:28

 

「金山」序試譯之三,張翎著,原作於二零一零年出版

Gold Mountain Blues, written by Ling Zhang, original work published in 2007.

 

 

In the process of collecting data for research, I found a photograph of those Chinese arriving at Canada. The background of this photograph was the pier of the City of Victoria, with the time being approximately the end of the 19th century. I have many photographs similar to this one, which display neither exact dates nor names of the photographers, except for some vague explanations in writing added by people at later times. However, this particular photograph suddenly grabbed my attention, for I noticed that among all those arriving passengers who looked absolutely exhausted, there was a young man wearing a pair of glasses. This pair of glasses was the fuse that immediately set off my imagination, which exploded loud and wide with numerous brilliant sparkles. Defa Fong, the main character of my novel who had been nurturing in my mind for so many years, now modified his attributes right at the moment of being born. Apart from those premeditated characteristics such as endurance, honesty, loyalty and righteousness, I decided to peel off his ignorance and to instead grant him knowledge -- or I should say, to grant him an aspiration for knowledge. When a man who was away from his homeland in a tumultuous era surveyed his home and host countries with eyes that had been opened by knowledge, he would have seen such a scene of devastation.

I thought that once I had done my research, the process of writing would be as smooth as floating clouds and running water -- just like how I used to write my novels. However, again I fell into the trap that was set by myself. Although I had fully taken into consideration and prepared myself for the difficulties in recreating the true history, I was not aware of how had it would be to recreate the details. I had always thought that good details do not necessarily lead to good fiction, but good fiction can never survive without good details. I could not persuade myself into getting alone with using any detail without a concrete foundation or one that had not been thoroughly checked and confirmed.

There were numerous details in the writing of these 400,000 words, and each of them had been like a hurdle under the footsteps of a great athlete, which was both exciting and daunting. I needed to know when electricity was widely used in North America; I needed to understand the background of all-male and all-female casts in the history of Cantonese Opera; I needed to become aware of the time when soap arrived at the households of ordinary people in Guangdong; I needed to know when the gramophone was invented, as well as the name of the earliest company that recorded vinyls; I needed to understand what a camera looked like in the 1910s and how many photographs it was able to take; I needed to know what kinds of guns were used in the Diaolou in Guangdong at the beginning of the 20th century and how many bullets could they run in one go; etc, etc. Such an amazing amount of details had made my writing full of slips and falls. Often, for a description that lasted two or three lines, I would have to spend several nights researching on the Internet, in the books and through the telephone. The exhausted me began to curse at myself, wondering why I would want to step into such a deep and lousy pool of mud. The way to change my mood was to take a hot bath or watch a dreadful but relaxing Hollywood film. Then I would sit back in front of my computer and slowly starved one after another fleshy night into thin sticks.

It was mid-December 2008, only one week to Christmas, when I finally completed the last word of Gold Mountain Blues. I did an enormous stretch, like a cat, but in my mind there was no excitement like I used to feel at the completion of a novel. That was an extremely cold Saturday afternoon. Fat snowflakes stuck out their icy tongues and left numerous marks with multiple spikes on my windows. As the Christmas music on the streets sanded smooth the razor-sharp edges of the cold wind, an unprecedented peace arrived at my heart, like ocean waves: those lonely souls eternally sleeping at the foot of the Rocky Mountains had now completed a journey to their homeland, riding on the winds derived from my pen -- even though this had happened one whole century later.

May these souls rest in peace.

In recent years, repatriation has become a trendy term belonging beyond the scientific, technological and commercial circles. Several of my literary friends overseas have now decided to reside permanently in China. Whenever I hear about their achievements in the Chinese literary arena, like clouds and winds rising from the horizon, I complain why I have chosen to stay in this distant and snowy foreign land and missed all the hustles and bustles on the other side of the ocean. Then, on that day when I rested the manuscript of Gold Mountain Blues on my desk, I suddenly became aware that perhaps God has another purpose to fulfil by placing me in this land that is so quiet that it is almost alone. He provides me with an appropriate distance when I look back at the history and my homeland. This distance gives me a new position and perspective, which enables me to discover some of the things of which I was never aware. This has enriched my life. Such distance makes me lose a lot of things, but I have also gained some.

I would like to borrow a corner of this book to say thank-you to Dr David Chuenyan Lai, professor of geography at the University of Victoria and receiver of a Queen’s Jubilee medal, whose substantial research on Chinatown and the history of Chinese in Canada greatly enhanced my writing of Gold Mountain Blues. I am also grateful for Dr Chung-yiu Kwan, whose childhood stories in villages of Kaiping profoundly captured me over the everlasting warmth of many wonderful cups of tea. Those stories offered immense joy to my curious nature -- I hope I did not bore him with my endless questions. Professor Xueqing Xu of York University and Dr Helen Xiaoyan Wu both provided me with plenty of help throughout my writing, so that I could comfortably use the resources in the libraries of these two renowned universities to construct a research framework for the history of Chinese labourers. Professor Lieyao Wang, dean of Jinan University’s College of Liberal Arts, and his lovely research students accompanied me to Kaiping twice and made every aspect of life convenient for this traveller. My literary friend, Shaojun, once escorted and looked after me during my field trip, like a true gentleman. Professor Guoxiong Zhang and Professor Jinhua Tan of Wuyi University’s Culture and Overseas Chinese Research Institute took time to show me around the Wuyi Overseas Chinese Museum in Guangdong Province’s Jiangmen City -- the museum’s collections made me realise, again, that history lives in the overlapping and interlacing memories of many people. My old friend Mrs Yan Zhang and her renowned Global Chinese Press newspaper, as well as a group of friends from the Canadian Chinese Writer’s Association, provided plenty of help to my investigation in Vancouver and Victoria. Professor Henry Yu of the University of British Columbia both enlightened and inspired me with his research on the fusion of Native American Indian and Chinese cultures. Mr Zhaoyan Zeng and Mrs Jinghua Huang, whom I deeply respect, carefully proofread the first draft manuscript of this novel. The ancestors of Mrs Huiqin Liu, leader of Vancouver’s literary arena, were once Chinese labourers working in Canada. Her recollection of various family stories enriched certain details of this book. Many other friends, whose names I cannot list one by one here, generously provided photographs and relevant information of the Diaolou.

Most importantly, I am deeply grateful for my family, who kindly offered their spiritual support and precious time throughout my writing of Gold Mountain Blues. Without them, it would have been hard for me to complete by myself those dark, long tunnels that seemed to have no end.

 


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