In living memory 新活印記

Softcover: UK: In living memory 新活印記

As the good times roll in Hugo Hamilton’s tale of life in a prosperous Ireland, the past is brushed under the carpet


Sunday, Apr 18, 2010, Page 14


Hugo Hamilton grew up in a Dublin household where the English language was forbidden, and he has delighted in its illicit and innocent pleasures ever since. In his memoir A Speckled People he wrote about speaking German to his mother and Irish to his nationalist father, while, beyond their front door, children played, mothers shopped, and rock bands sang in the former oppressors’ tongue.

雨果漢密爾頓生長在都柏林,被禁止說英語的家庭中茁壯,自時他也很享受這非法和無邪的樂趣迄今。在他的回憶錄:點斑類人 中寫道: 他對著母親說德語,對他具民族主義的父親說愛爾蘭語的同時,在他們的大門之外,孩子們照常著嬉戲,母親們閒逛購物,搖滾樂隊嘶吼著昔日壓迫者的調曲。

His most recent protagonist, Vid Cosic is a young Serb from Belgrade who has come to work on the building sites of the Irish boom. He falls in, by way of the easy kind of accident that Dublin affords, with a lawyer, Kevin Concannon, and they become friends. Their relationship is drunken and aimless, but it is also bound by a high-minded, almost severe brand of male loyalty. “A friend is someone who would put his hand in the fire for you,” says Concannon, who, we suspect, is better at dramatizing friendship than living it. Vid knows he is not the first person to find the Irish both urgent and irresponsible in these matters; in the way they confuse strangers with their great openness and their lack of follow through. Perhaps, he says, it is because of centuries of emigration, which made all connections temporary and turned every friend a man had into “a trapdoor opening up underneath his feet.”

他最近著作中的主角,維得喬西奇,是一個已搭上愛爾蘭繁榮熱潮在建築工地上班,來自貝爾格萊德的年輕塞爾維亞人。他墬入一場都柏林特有常見的暴動,而與律師凱文康坎農相遇 進而成為朋友。他們的關係是醉酒和漫無目的,但也肯定是一個高尚,幾近重度的男性忠誠品味。康坎農說:朋友會為你赴湯蹈火、在所不辭,然我們懷疑,是使友誼更具戲劇性而非實際。維得知道他不是第一個發現愛爾蘭人在這些事件當中陷入緊迫與不負責任,在進程中他們對外地人持有的坦率與缺乏跟進感到疑惑。也許,他說,是因為世紀的移民潮,這使得所有連繫頓成暫時性,促使每個朋友轉變成所謂的男人並已開放隱禁

Vid is slow to form opinions. An opinion is a form of ownership, and as a stranger, both in the country and in the language, he owns very little. He can read only the surface. Intentions, his own included, are not clear. Meanwhile, the past and the sins of the past refuse either to connect with the present or to go away.


After a violent incident that binds Vid and Kevin together for the course of the novel, they park on the quays looking out over the port of Dublin. “We waited for the future to come, wondering if he was going to drive over the edge. We might as well have gone underwater as it was, driving along the floor of the sea.” The world beneath the water haunts the book. A woman tells of how she reached down to pick up a starfish in the same waters, only to find “it was not a starfish she was holding at all, but the hand of a young man.” Vid becomes interested in and then obsessed by one of Kevin’s relatives, Maire Concannon, whose drowned body, shamefully pregnant, washed up on Inis Mor many years before.


Vid sees many islands, not just the Aran Islands in the west — the most iconic Irish landscape of them all — but also Dalkey Island in the east, and Dursey Island in the south, which is joined to the mainland by cable car. This is used to transport sheep as well as people, and in it Vid is overpowered “by the smell of sheep shit and sheep fear and possibly my own fear included.” He imagines the “door opening and the sheep falling down into the sea, one by one,” but that does not happen and he continues his journey across the landscape, from beauty to beauty, without knowing what it means.

維得遊訪許多島嶼,不僅只愛爾蘭最經典的景觀 – – 位於西邊的阿蘭群島 – – 也到達爾基島的東部,並從陸地藉由搭乘纜車到位於南部的德西島。這從前用來運輸羊群而及人群的工具,維得在裡面覺得無法忍受羊屎的氣味,羊群的恐懼 也可能參雜著我自己的恐懼。  他飛馳的想像  門正開著,而羊一隻接著一隻掉落入海。但這並沒發生,他繼續遍及美景的旅程,一個接著一個,而不去探究意味什麼。

He travels west to investigate the death of Maire, a story that Kevin and his family are not interested in. The past is something all the characters try to put behind them. When their milder methods of forgetting — boredom, denial, snobbery — are not enough, they turn to more radical means, to anger, sex and drugs. “Junkies are the real exiles now,” Vid says. Sex with his girlfriend “seems to prohibit all memory,” making him “truly blank.” Above all, the characters take refuge in drink. If this is an account of boom-time Ireland, a country where friendship is an ambush and no one in a supermarket ever says hello, the most telling moments happen during the furious late-night chaos that we, as a society, call “fun.”

他在西行途中,調查梅爾死因,一個凱文和他的家庭不感興趣的故事。過去是所有成員皆想置之腦後的。他們用著無聊,否認,勢利的態度,溫和的方法去遺忘不夠時,他們轉向憤怒,性慾和毒品等更激進的手段。維得說;癮販現在是真正的流亡者了。與他女友的愛豔似乎被禁止的回憶,正使他墬入空茫。甚尤 他們借酒澆愁。如果這是愛爾蘭的繁盛時期,一個友誼被遣埋的國家,沒有人在超市打招呼,最明顯的時刻發生在狂夜怒吼的混亂,而我們的社會,稱之為樂趣

Hand in the Fire might be read as a conventional character-driven novel with a strong story. It could also be seen as a social novel, the first in the Irish tradition that is written from an eastern European point of view. But sentence by sentence, it is also a refusal to fall through the open trapdoor. Hamilton loves the spaces between things: his characters live, not just between cultures or between languages, but between the past and the future; they stay suspended between innocence and guilt, between knowledge and the lack of it.


Language attaches itself to the world as though for the first time. The world itself is seen “in translation,” and each thing he writes is playful and clear. It is as though his characters have shrugged off an extra skin — their cultural hides — and this makes them tender and new. A natural modernist, Hamilton is a great international writer who just happens to be Irish. His is the voice of the migrant, the mongrel, of the person who is neither one thing nor the other, of the stranger and the traveler in us all.


彷彿是第一次言語把自己依附給世界。世界本身被視為,每件他寫的事情是嬉趣,清確的。好似他的角色擺脫了外衣 文化桎梏使得它們溫徇清新。漢密爾頓恰是一個愛爾蘭籍的 自然現代主義的偉大國際作家。他為我們這些諸如移民者,龍蛇混雜類等,陌生人和旅行者代言。 (校閱中)




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