Saturday, March 7, 2009
朱自清 《背影》 英语翻译
The View of my Father’s Back
It has been over two years since I last saw my father. It is the view of
his back that is most unforgettable to me.
That winter was a double tragedy for us as grandmother passed away and father was dismissed from his position. I left Beijing for Xuzhou to meet up with
father to go back home for the funeral. In Xuzhou, when I saw father, and total mess of disorderly placed items in his yard, memories of grandma came flooding back, and my tears poured down out of control.
Father said, “ Things which happen cannot be changed. Don’t be so sad. There is always a way out.”
Back home, by pawning and selling possessions, father paid off the debts and borrowed more money for the funeral. Those were gloomy days for the family, partly because of the funeral, and partly because father was now unemployed.
After the funeral, father headed for Nanjing to seek work and I for Beijing to finish school. Therefore, we traveled together for a while.
In Nanjing, a friend showed me around for a day; and the next morning, I
was supposed to ferry to Pukou and take the train north that afternoon to Beijing. Father was busy and had decided not to see me off. Instead he asked a waiter who was an acquaintance, to accompany me. He repeatedly instructed the waiter on how to take care of me. Nevertheless, he still felt unsure, worrying that the waiter was not reliable, and reconsidered what to do for a while. Actually, I was already 20 years old then and had been traveling to and from Beijing several times on my own already. There was nothing really to worry about. He thought for a while, and finally decided to see me off himself. I tried several times to persuade him not to, but he only said: “It’s fine. I don’t trust him with you.”
We crossed the river and entered the station; where I bought the ticket while he took care of the baggage. As there were so many pieces of luggage, we had to give some tips to the porter in order to enter. Father busied himself bargaining with the porters. Back then, I was quite the smart aleck, thinking he wasn’t a good negotiater, and had to restrain myself from butting in. Eventually, he finished the bargaining and took me onto the train. He picked a seat by the door, and I spread on the seat the expensive fur lined coat that he had made especially for me. He urged me to take care of myself and not to get cold at night. Then he asked the attendants to take care of me. I laughed at his silliness in my heart because those people cared only for money; and it was useless to ask a favor from them. Besides am I not old enough to take care of myself? Ai, in retrospect, I was really a smart aleck back then!
I said: “Father, you can go.” He took a look out of the window, and said:
“Let me buy some tangerines for you. You stay here. Don’t move.” I saw that beyond the railings on the other side of the platform, there were a couple of vendors waiting for customers. To get to the other side, however, one must jump down and climb up to get to that side of the railway. Father was rather fat and it was no small feat for him to get there. I wanted to go, but he wouldn’t allow me. so I had no choice but to let him go. I saw him with a black cap on his head, in a black jacket and a dark blue turquoise cotton padded robe, stumble to the railway and slowly make his way down, which wasn’t too difficult. But after he crossed the railway and tried to climb up onto the platform on the other side, it was not easy. His hands clung to the top, legs contracted up, his overweight body tilted to the left, as he painstakingly pulled himself up. Looking at his back, my tears flowed. I rushed to wipe away the tears, afraid of being seen by him, or by any others.
When I looked out again, he was already on his way back, carrying the tangerines. At the railway, he placed the tangerines gently on the ground, slowly climbed down, then picked them up and moved on. When he got back, I rushed to help him. As he and I got back onto the train, he placed all the tangerines on my fur coat, patted the dirt off his jacket, and looked very satisfied. After a moment, he said to me: ”I am leaving now. Remember to write to me! ” I watched him get off the train. After a few steps, he turned back and saw me, saying “Go back. Your things are unattended..” I waited until he disappeared into the bustling crowd, and went back in and sat down.
My tears came again.
In recent years, father and I led separate lives due to our need to travel separate ways to make a living. The family financial situation deteriorated day by day. When father was young, he left his home to make his living. He had many admirable accomplishments by his own efforts. Who would have guessed that he would turn out a failure in his old age. It is no surprise that as he looks back on his life, he feels sad and disappointed that life has not been kind to him. Due to these circumstances, his feeling made him very temperamental and he vented his anger over even trivialities at home. He also treated me differently. But after 2 years of separation, he forgot all my failings that angered him and showed more interest in me and my son. After I settled in the north, he wrote a letter to me stating that: “I am okay but my shoulder hurts very badly; the pain causes me difficulties in using chopsticks or even lifting my writing brush. I think the end of my life is not too distant.”
As I read this, thru my glistening eyes, I again see my father’s heavy back in that dark blue turquoise robe. Ai, I wonder when I shall see him again.