夏天去巴黎,时光沙沙响

夏天去巴黎 时光沙沙响 1

夏天去巴黎时计划着去看著名的莎士比亚书店,可是却忘记了地址。但是离开巴黎的前一天,却无意中就像坐了时间机器一样,一眨眼时竟在它的门前了。仿佛是命运的引领。

Lindi和我租了单车在巴黎七月的热风里游荡,沿着塞纳河走。盛夏的巴黎午后,日光充裕,蓝天丽日。我们将单车踩的飞快,不知不觉就又到了巴黎圣母院。圣母院在河的对岸,而隔着河的我们的身后,则是传说中的莎士比亚书店

1919年,一位热爱文学的美国女人Sylvia Beach在巴黎的左岸的Rue de l’Odéon  12号开了一家英文书店,兼做图书馆以及文人聚会、朗读作品的沙龙。不想却立时吸引了许多当时以及后世的伟大作家。

莎士比亚书店成为当时左岸不可或缺的精神地标,既是由于Beach自身的文学品位,更是因为它与那个时代的法兰西有着同样的先锋精神。在詹姆士· 乔伊斯的作品在他的家乡爱尔兰被禁时,Beach出版了他的《尤利西斯》。在D.H.劳伦斯的《查泰莱夫人的情人》在英国和美国不见天日时,却在莎士比亚书店可以随意借阅。 “失落的一代”的著名作家海明威、 艾兹拉·庞德,、 F.·斯科特·菲兹杰拉德,、葛楚·史坦都曾是书店的常客,而海明威亦多次在他对巴黎充满深情的回忆录《流动的盛宴》中多次提及当时书店里的情景。

1941年的冬天,Beach因为拒绝将乔伊斯的Finnegans Wake借给某德国军官,书店被勒令关门。十年后,另一个美国人乔治·惠特曼(George Whitman)在波西米亚风格的左岸的另一个地址:Rue de la Bucherie 37号开出了一家新的英文书店,取名Le Mistral,以此来纪念自己的第一任法国女友。乔治不但袭承了Beach当初书店的风格,邀请新一代的作家来书店举办沙龙和朗诵会,而且从Le Mistral开张的第一天起,就开始为流落巴黎的年轻作家、诗人和艺术家提供免费的住所。乔治大大方方的将穷艺术家们接进书店住宿,而作为交换条件,他们只需要每天为书店工作两个小时。据说乔治对他们的要求只是把他们自己的被子叠好,以及每天阅读一本书。当美国文学迎来了”垮掉的一代”,乔治的书店也成为凯鲁亚克,金斯堡那一代作家们在巴黎的文化基地。Sylvia Beach在1962年逝世前,将莎士比亚书店的名字转让给了乔治。于是Le Mistral 在1964年改名,成为如今与圣母院隔河相对的Shakespeare and Company。 

夏天去巴黎 时光沙沙响 2

乔治也有著传奇的身世:由美国马萨朱塞移民到巴黎,一天读一本书,一生守着这一片书店。他的年纪已不可考,据说是生於1913年。他一生风流,阅人无数,但是到老年才得一女。1981年生下一个女儿,取名Sylvia.。而这个Sylvia也是现在的莎士比亚书店的女掌柜。

店堂是黄绿相间的鲜明颜色,莎士比亚的画像在门口高高挂着。新书在一楼,旧书在二楼,满满的沿着墙壁排到天花板上。门口的庭院里在木头柜子里摆了二手书。Lindi淘到小说版的《蜘蛛女之吻》(Kiss of the Spider Woman),说:”电影很好看,歌舞剧也排的好,我想你应该会喜欢这个故事。”

新书在一楼一进门就繁花似的开满在眼前,是英文语言里最新出版和畅销的书:Bill Bryson的A Short History of Nearly Everything, Jamie Oliver教煮菜的书, Jung Chang的Mao,还有新出版的Paris, Biography of A City。室内的一切都是木头构造,柜台在一大排新书的后面。女掌柜Sylvia并不在,只是一个年轻的爱尔兰男人在柜台后坐着,跟客人大声的聊天。

慢慢沿窄小的楼梯上二楼,四处都是书架,空气中散发旧书特有的味道。周遭安静得每挪动一次脚就听见木头地板吱吱作响的声音。走廊的尽头是一个大开着窗户的房间,窗户外面是巴黎典型的小阳台。明亮的光线从巴黎午后的天光里照进来,房间的天花板上是老旧的金黄色吊灯。

从这里看,巴黎仿佛在一百年的时间里都未曾有过改变,仿佛可以看到葛楚·史坦靠在小阳台的雕花栏杆上抽烟。时间静静的,走得很慢。房间的木头长椅上,倚靠着一个女人,小腿伸将出来,只看到她穿着凉鞋的脚。然后又听见一个男子说话的声音。我轻声的走动,生怕惊扰到他们的午休。另一个房间里是一张小的单人床,铺在书架与书架之间的角落。也许多年前流落到巴黎的海明威曾经在这床上睡过。如今,睡的又是谁呢?

夏天去巴黎 时光沙沙响 3

书店外得庭院,有人在树下得长凳上坐着休息,许多是拿着相机的美国游客。一个年轻男生拿着瓶子在接从小喷泉里流出来的水。金发,很瘦,穿着天蓝色T恤和黑色的长裙子,黑色帆布鞋。书店旁边的木头长凳上坐了一个很老的男人,长长的白发掉的没有多少了。我在猜他是不是乔治时,便被他喂喂的叫住了。

“你从哪里来?”他哑哑的说。

“上海。”

“上海好。我小时候就住在上海,很久以前了……现在全世界都在看中国呢。”

“你又从哪里来呢?”我问他。

“美国。但是大半辈子都住在巴黎。太老了,我就要死了。没有钱回去美国,在这里等着死。要死的,每个人都是要死的,就是中国人也是要死的。你说是不是?是不是吗?”

我不知道应该怎样回答他,只是说,”你是这书店的主人吗?”

“我吗?哈哈,不是。我只是个快要死的人。”

他一说完,楼上的窗户就吱的一声打开了,真正的乔治从窗户里探出头来,对他的年轻伙计说,”茶准备好了。”

他的出场显得很戏剧。他非常的老,白色的长发稀落着,没有穿上衣,露出年老的起了皱纹得皮肤。那个年轻的爱尔兰伙计开始吆呼在院子里的客人,他说,”书店的主人想要请你们上去喝茶,不知道你们要不要来喝杯下午茶?”他很活泼的一一邀请客人,可是就是没有走到我们面前来。我们都很想被这个有名的乔治邀请去喝茶,但是又不能不请自来,觉得有些尴尬。这个时候那个一直在长凳上看书的微胖中年男人问我,”你们要不要也上去喝茶?乔治每个星期天下午都会请他的顾客上去喝茶。去吧去吧。”

我们于是跟着其他人一起上楼。乔治的公寓是从书店旁边的门进去,老式的巴黎公寓,每一层的楼梯间都带着窗户,从窗户望出去,可以望见塞纳河。乔治的公寓,就像是书店的一个房间,依旧满满的都是书,散发出腐烂的味道。小客厅旧旧的很乱,堆满了书和成打的旧报纸。厚重的暗红色地毯上是一张大圆桌子。窗户打开着,我们围着桌子坐下,可是乔治还是没有出现。

一个年轻的美国男孩开始招待我们喝茶。他充满了青春得气息和文学的气质,问他从哪里来,他说费城,来巴黎过他的夏天,在乔治的书店里住了一个星期了。这时一个女孩端了英国人的红茶和曲奇饼干出来。她穿着充满夏天气息的蓝色印花裙子,给我们每一个人倒茶,又转身去做更多的茶。女孩从以色列一路坐火车来到巴黎,也住在乔治的书店里,读书、写作、给乔治做茶。

这时乔治颤颤的从里面的房间走出来,仍光着上身,身上的皮肤像柔软的皮草一样垂挂下来,白的头发垂在了脸上。他像一个幽魂一样飘荡,轻声说,客人可以进去参观他的”博物馆”,并且希望大家在巴黎的日子过得开心。说完就又荡回他的厨房去了。费城来的男孩带着三三两两的人进去里面参观。厕所和浴室在一个小角落里,湿湿的样子。厨房里也满满的都是书,柜子上挂了旧时名人的画像。小桌上面粉、水果、鸡蛋壳、胡乱的堆了一气。乔治定是见惯了场面的人,仿佛没有人在一样,只是顾自在垂着头煮自己的茶和做色拉。有人问他问题,他就慢慢的一句一句回答。他的睡房里面也都是书;床很高,三面都是书,被子胡乱的叠在一起。Lindi说,”真像是住在一个垃圾堆里。”

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从乔治三楼的窗户望出去,可以看到塞纳河和那一个很老的巴黎。我问起借宿书店如何使用洗手间和浴室,费城来的男孩说书店并没有可以给寄宿者使用的洗手间,“但是巴黎有好几百间公共厕所跟浴室,我们每天去那里洗澡,而且这些都是免费的。”

客厅的人仍在聊天。中年美国男人是来巴黎探望正在巴黎的艺术学校念交换生的女儿的。他喋喋的说自己跟乔治多年前就相交,曾开车带着乔治从巴黎到伦敦买书,满是炫耀的意思。这个时候楼下柜台的爱尔兰男人上来,说自己要出门了,他高声的吆喝着,说有一个热辣的约会在等着他。

Lindi问乔治他有那么多的书,但是有读完全部的书吗?乔治说,没有。但是他每天会读完一本书,读多少是多少。这个时候我在想,为什么有的人可以像这样生活呢?

Shakespeare and co 2

乔伊斯有一本书叫做 A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man,而有人也曾经做了一个关于莎士比亚书店的记录片,名字叫做A Bookstore As An Old Man

离开的时候我又去把那本《蜘蛛女之吻》从门口的木头柜子里捡了出来,花2.5欧元买下。柜台的人在内页给盖了一个书店的章,莎士比亚的头像底下写着Shakespeare and Company。

我们把单车推出来时,那个费城来的男生也戴上他的太阳眼镜,骑上了他的单车出门。”要出去跑点腿,”他说。这个场景,就像一部关于巴黎的电影,男孩在巴黎的蓝天丽日下穿行,白的衬衫被风吹起,心里怀着一个文学的梦想。

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Memories of One’s Own

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By Xing Zhao

When many people describe Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale as science fiction, I read it with my eyes wet, as an emotional journey. Indeed, it is a science fictional story set in a democratic a United States of America-turned theocratic state after nuclear, biological and chemical pollution render a large portion of the population sterile, and a terrorist attack abolishes the US constitution. Thus an imaginary state the Republic of Gilead is formed under the rule of a military dictatorship. It’s a state run by a government which degrades women’s status down to merely a means of reproduction under the name of God and the Bible. Comprising a few social critiques, including religious movements, feminism, the backlash against feminism, and terrorism, the novel presents a dystopian vision of life in a country under a totalitarian regime.

Offred, the protagonist narrates the story of her life being a handmaid who along with other women, exists in a void-like world with no trus t, love, or escape. She tells her story in fragments, with many flashbacks through which the readers slowly envision her life before and after she became Offred.  The story is quietly told in a subtle atmosphere and it exists only because you are listening.

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In a world without freedom, Offred has a lot of free time. “Time as white sound”; “the long parentheses of nothing.” She travels through time in her memories to her rebellious lesbian friend Moira, her peculiar feminist mother, her lost daughter, and more often her husband Luke. In Atwood’s poetic descriptions, these passages of memories with Luke are lovingly tender but also heartbreaking to read. “I have them, these attacks of the past, like faintness, a wave sweeping over my head. Sometimes it can hardly be borne…it’s the lack of love we die from. There’s nobody here I can love, all the people I love are dead or elsewhere.” 

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As the story moves forward, the Commander starts to summon Offred to his office at nights. There is a possibility of an affair between them. However, she does not like him and he only wants to play Scrabble with her. She still takes in what he has to give to the emptiness of her life: moisturizer, a women’s magazine, a cheap lipstick, a costume-like dress with feathers, and a night out in the underground brothel.

Love happens in the very last part of the book, or it almost does. In order to have a baby, the Commander’s wife Serena Joy arranges Offred to meet Nick, the chauffeur. In Nick’s single room above the garage, sex isn’t a ritual anymore. Desire and love sparkle in Atwood’s again poetic but also fast-paced descriptions. “Love, it’s been so long, I’m alive in my skin, again, arms around him, falling and water softly everywhere, never-ending. I knew it might only be once.” She herself isn’t sure how it happens either, “the way love feels is always only approximate”.

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She then takes risks and goes back to him again and again. In the glow of the searchlight filtered through the white curtains she memorizes him, to save him up so she can live on the image. “The lines of his body, the texture of his flesh… I ought to have done that with Luke, paid more attention, to the details, the moles and scars, the singular crease; I didn’t and he’s fading. Day by day, night by night, he recedes, and I become more faithless.” She knows each time with him might be the last, and if more, that is a surprise, extra, a gift. Love is a spark, lost in the dark. Her momentary happiness bears as much hopelessness as love.

However, when the story is at its climax, it also abruptly ends. Offred is taken away by the authorities that are led to her room by Nick. He tells her to go with them and says “It’s alright.” So she sets off into “the darkness within; or else the light.” Her memories end here with an ambiguous ending of not knowing whether she escapes or dies, whether Nick has betrayed her or saved her.

In this beautifully written book, it looks like nothing much happens within pages of the poetic style of writing, but at the same time a lot happens intensely like waves one after another. Atwood imaginatively creates a dystopian society, but more importantly she weaves together one’s memories of the past and the feelings of love. Love and desire are sensually described with metaphors such as flowers and water, but moreover, are heartfully perceived. She tells the story with great compassion. It is not only a story that gives you the chill to consider about society, but also a story that brings out your own memories till you’re in tears.

This story originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Zing

Santorini: the Lost Heart

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When I peeked through the glass window of the blue-framed door that morning, a man was doing his morning exercise. He was a man in his early thirties, dark hair, small and slim. He wore spectacles and a brown T-shirt from the Japanese film Battle Royale. He was surrounded by shelves of books. “I was wondering what time you open?” I asked.

This was a small English language bookshop in the town of Oia, on the volcanic island of Santorini, of Greece. In a town without house numbers, Atlantis Books was located in the basement of one of the numerous whitewashed Mediterranean cave houses. A few years ago, Craig, Oliver and Chris settled a debt, found books, shipped them and came to Santorini. Together with some others, they collected driftwood from the beach, and built a bookshop with beds. From then on, Atlantis became a second Shakespeare and Co: a home to travellers, writers and their beloved books.

“Do you have a place to stay tonight then?” Luke spoke with a north London accent. I said, “Not really.” With his invitation, I was given a bed among the bookshelves, in the back room of the bookshop. After spending years in Paris, Luke was living and travelling between Italy and Greece. As a thirtysomething man with no money, Luke knew every single book in the shop and he was writing a novel.

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When I came back from a swim in the cove, I met John, the poet. John was a good- looking young Welshman with an Oxford accent and a nervous look. He stuttered a wee bit when he spoke. He had been staying in the bookshop for a couple of weeks before moving to Berlin to write full-time. When Natalie came up to the terrace, John and I were sweeping off the remnants from a recent storm. Natalie was in her mid- twenties, tanned and spoke with a California accent. With half of her face covered under her novelty sunglasses, she stood, chatting with us while we were working. She had been on the island for a year and half. She fell in love with the place and decided not to leave, thus, she became an illegal resident after her tourist visa had expired. She worked as a waitress during the summer, and for the rest of the year, she just lived her life.

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So it is, I began my island life in a bookshop. In the mornings, I’d get up at 10 am, make myself some breakfast and coffee; watched the shop while having breakfast. I’d hear curious tourists walking down the stairs with comments like “look, here is a bookshop!” Often they were Americans, sometimes British or Europeans. I’d talk to them, or help them find books. When it was quiet, I listened to Jazz and read Greek Mythology. I’d have my lunch in the glorious Mediterranean sun on the terrace, which overlooked the dark blue Aegean. My afternoons were often spent on the beach with a book, and a Magnum ice cream on the way home. Before the dusk, I’d go to where the tourists gathered to see the one most dramatic sunsets in the world. In the dusk, the Greek girl from the shop next door would call “Luke, Luke”, telling us to turn on the lamp outside the bookshop; and you start to smell the sweet fragrance of the honeysuckle flowers. In the evenings, I’d cook a dinner for whoever was there. More tea and poetry reading would follow after dinner, and some of the night time was spent smoking cigarettes and drinking wine under the stars.

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One of my nights in Santorini was making Greek meatballs in Natalie’s cave house at 3 am. We drank lots of wine, smoked lots of cigarettes, and patted street dogs who came in for a shelter. I asked Natalie whether she regretted her decision, that she would never be able to leave this country. She was leaning on the half-opened wooden door and having a fag. Her face looked tired after a long-day’s work, but her smile was all soft and sweet, “No. I think I’ve found my happiness. This is what I want in life.”

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Santorini is a wonderland in the summer, but when winter comes, it’d become a deserted island with only whiteness but little sign of people. It’d become a lonely place with street dogs and cats. However, winter for Natalie was for fishing with a local fisherman. On this island, live many other people who know or do not know what they want in life. Nevertheless, for people who love all beautiful things in life, Santorini has its own pace, nice and slow.

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When I left Natalie’s flat, the dawn was already breaking. I walked on the edges of the volcanic town, and the ocean was just waking up in the early summer twilight. Quietly I opened the bookshop door. Luke was soundly asleep. Raki, the street dog who came to the shop all the time, quietly followed me in, jumped into one of the beds and went to sleep.

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Santorini guide