搬旧文:Rite of Passage

发现自己博客上没有贴。把发在豆瓣上的评论贴过来。(竟然已经是十年前读的这本书了。。06年在科幻世界上读的,08年终于读了完整版。)

我很喜欢这本书。这个故事从一个很少见的角度触动了我。

Rite of Passage的故事从12岁的Mia身边具体的小事说起,说到小小的她的烦恼和快乐,说到她对未来和未知的恐惧。故事的设定是地球消亡之后的人类,部分在它星球上殖民,部分生活在飞船上。飞船人很有理由认为自己比星球人高明:他们保存了地球文明,他们还懂得技术、科学和数学,但是他们的星球人同胞却因为忙于生计已经退化得很蛮荒了。地球的毁灭主要原因是自由生育造成人口过度膨胀,而飞船的空间更加狭小,飞船的政策是严格控制生育,控制着他们的三万人人口不增加。而每个满14周岁的孩子,都会被投放到一个蛮荒的星球上,要靠自己的能力生存一个月,如果能回来,他们就是飞船上的成年公民了,这,也就是非常戏剧化的“成年仪式”。我们的主人公Mia对殖民星球怀着很深的偏见和恐惧。其实她对任何陌生事物都很恐惧,她害怕搬家,害怕离开父亲。于是故事首先围绕着搬家的Mia展开,她渐渐学会摆脱对他人的反感,学会不过于依赖自己已有的资源。

在准备“生存考验”的过程中,Mia身边发生了很多事。我们看到Mia的出发点经常是很偏颇,但是她具有天生的好强精神和自然的同情心,这使她一步一步走向了她自认为正确的方向,而这些方向,经常和她自己原先的相反。

而 “生存考验”期间,一切都和她在飞船上的非常不一样。我们仍然是从Mia的角度看到那些事情的,但是我们能看到,其中很多是超过一个十四岁孩子的理解范围的。Mia还是依赖她的好强精神,度过了可能是飞船史上最残酷的生存考验。这时候,她原本狭隘的小小心灵,终于能包容星球人了。她逐渐一步一步地筑立了自己的思想,自己的世界观。她的心灵一步一步地扩大,一步一步地宽容,但是她一直是一个敏感得有点尖刻的人。最后她不得不开始反对她作为飞船委员会主席的父亲的政治主张。对于这样一个人物的这样一段心路,我真是感到深深的共鸣啊!

这本书的语气非常平实,但很吸引人。整个叙事和讨论的部分穿插非常自然。读来有一种想一直不断地、永远地读下去的感觉,一方面非常想读下面的情节,一方面又非常不希望它结束。

我第一次读这个故事是在2006年的科幻世界译文版上。后来看到很多人评论说这篇小说故事很不完整。(比如开头说了“我现在的丈夫”后面没有明确提到就是Jimmy Dentremont。)我当时天真地以为这样的不完整就是作者的选择,我很满足这个故事被截掉的版本。后来,我在网上看了英文的评论,发现的确提到了我看的版本上完全没有的情节……最后我还是决定买了一本原版来看。

看了完整版之后,我不得不惊呼——虽然情节上,载于科幻世界的版本只剪掉了20%(被剪后看起来还是很连贯),但是由于最关键的最后一部分被剪,整个思想就剪去了70%。整个故事是这样一个特征:越往后面,随着第一人称Mia思想的开阔和成熟,故事的思想和视野也就更broad。看完后最让我惦记的,也是最后一部分尾声。

在作者Alexei Panshin的网站上,他发表了他写这部小说的前后。他年轻时是Robert A. Heinlein的粉丝,他曾经给Heinlein有过一些书信来往。直到有一天他照常第一时间冲去读了海因莱因的某部新作(的广告貌似),他开始怀疑起来。他怀疑的问题是:爱国的热情是否能成为对他国使用那个核武器的正当理由。他把这个问题写信去问海因莱因,这回,海因莱因的夫人代为回信,说大牛在写新书没时间和你通信。Panshin的这种对海因莱因的极度崇拜到不得不反对的态度,和 Mia对飞船的对星球政策的转变是很相似的(而最后的这个转变,才是书中最重要的,从某种意义上来说,前面对小问题的转变都是为此做铺垫的啊!这就是为何我认为原著的思想被削减了70%的原因)。Pashin的这种不断检查既有原则的态度,实在是太深得我心了。

我看到有评论说,该书的政治观过于简单。目前我觉得,有了那些转变,它一点也不简单。多少人抱着固有思想永远不会想到去怀疑它们。这本书获得1968年星云奖的时候,作者 Alexei Panshin只有28岁,我觉得这还是个年轻的年龄,因此我不知过个几十年我再来看,会不会也觉得小说中的观点过于简单。我不知道我以后会怎样改变,但是我知道我会一直改变。

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下面是之前发在Goodreads上的评论

I read Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage again. For some reason, this story is very close to my heart. It’s a story of a young girl, Mia, living in a floating spaceship, facing the Trial of her society. This Trial is the mark of adulthood in their community of thirty thousand, their ‘Rite of Passage’.

The story began with Mia’s little joys and frustrations. And behind that, she had her fears and prejudices. I always love ‘coming of age’ stories. Usually I just enjoy reading about the growing potential of a young man. But as the story goes on, Rite of Passage becomes much broader than an ordinary coming of age story. I mean broader in the intellectual sense rather than things like epic action with is usually expected of sci-fi stories.

Mia’s growth is a course of continuing discarding her own previous convictions and embracing new. At first She had plenty of reasons to dispise other kids. She gradually came to having peace with this sort of unpleasantness. Likewise, she and other Ship people had plenty of reasons to dispise Planet people. But obviously people as a group comes to a change much slower than an individual does. As an individual, Mia came to her own conclusion of how to deal with planet people. I read with enormous joy about how she became more and more open-minded. All that was required is that she had a vigorous spirit and was naturally compassionate.

I have to say that this change of previous beliefs and gradually opening up the mind is the center of growing up, at least that’s how I have felt. I can’t think of any other fiction that deals with this theme so well. Appearing in sci-fi form gives the story a sense of neutrality, not siding up with anything now in this world. That’s one of the advantages sci-fi as a form can provide, which writers should utilize more.

I even love one of the minor implications of the story. It is implied that living self-content like those in the Ship do, without feeling attatched to their primitive Planet people, the society seems to be going nowhere. Creative activities such as writing a novel, or creating art ceases to happen.

The author Alexei Panshin has put his ‘making of’ this novel on his website Abyss of Wonder. It largely concerns with how he was fancinated by sci-fi because of Robert Heinlein’s early work. And later Panshin had serious problems with them. Panshin says in ‘Robert Heinlein and Rite of Passagethat as a child he read Heinlein and was led to the question, ‘can it be that the present human culture is still in its adolescence phase? do the grown-ups still need to grow up?’. Later he found the answer to those questions is yes as he encountered the problems with Heinlein’s work.

The problems Panshin met was that though the West has plenty of reasons to dispise and feel threatened by the Communists, do they have the right o distroy them by atomic bombs? It’s very like Ship and Planet relationship in Rite of Passage. And in RoP, Panshin made his points more eloquently than I can put here in a review.

Maturity consists of the ability to sort out portions of truth from accepted lies and self-deceptions that you are grown up with. If you never made the effort, whatever you are, you are not mature.

Farewell to Yesterday’s Tomorrow

Alexei Panshin,好歹是得过星云奖的作者,但不太出名。他作品似乎不多,除了Rite of Passage之外,只有少数几本的fiction。他的另外一些比较出名的书是科幻作品的评论。当年Rite of Passage击中了我的某根心弦,所以这个作者的书我肯定要追看一些的。没怎么做研究就选择了这本Farewell to Yesterday’s Tomorrow,主要是被这个诗意的标题吸引。

这本书是Panshin的一些短篇的集合。我没太研究这些故事的写作时间,但感觉它们是一些还不够成熟的点子。读前半本书的时候,我觉得主题是成长。成长是他的作品的一个重要主题。“如果你从来没有怀疑过既有的标准,那你就没有成长过。”慢慢地,最后一篇读完后我觉得作者在说的是一种政治观点。我依稀明白罗素说的“政治欲望是每个人的一种基本欲望”的意思了。即使是如此reluctant要把观点加给别人的人,也可以有政治欲望。

虽然这些故事多少给人一种不太成熟的感觉,作者没把它们当作自己的重头戏来写,但是整本书给我感觉很有诗意,很美。我印象中最美的是When the Vertical World Becomes Horizontal里:

“Who?” he asked. “Who?”
“You,” they said. “You.”

我一点也不懂诗,但是我觉得这很可能就是诗的节奏。

这一篇是我最喜欢的一篇。我喜欢它这种“新的纪元就要开始了”的感觉。我还喜欢它的略带荒诞的感觉。什么是vertical world?什么是变为horizontal?没有说明,无需说明。

How Can We Sink When We Can Fly这一篇,非常的奇怪。开头的人物似乎是写实的,有作者自己,和他妻子Cory。发生的事情我也没看懂。最后作者构思出了一个故事,故事里是神的世界,一个小神成长中,要去挑战传说中最难做神的时代:1970年代。

书中一开始有几篇是星球vs飞船文明的设定,和Rite of Passage一样。RoP中,作者有暗示飞船文明没有发展方向。我一直认为RoP中一定程度上飞船代表美国,星球代表落后国家。所以我没想到作者的星球vs飞船的设定其实非常是pro星球的。书中的两篇,和RoP的视角截然不同。

书的最后一篇是Farewell to Yesterday’s Tomorrow,其实是一篇小随笔。作者谙熟科幻小说,而且是对着时代政治来看小说的。科幻小说的历史研究起来一定很有趣。我读最后一篇的时候,暗自觉得作者对未来的观点乐观得太天真。结果读完后,看到作者补了一篇说,他也觉得自己当年的乐观现在看来很窘。

Panshin还是击中了我的心弦——他的乐观、对成长的理解、对政治的理想,都击中我。为了能看明白他的科幻评论,我要去多读科幻:)

下面让我以最后一篇结尾的摘抄来结束吧:

Perhaps the greatest puzzle is the degree to which politics-as-usual has lagged behind imagination and the appearance of new realities.

In the conflict between imagination and politics, it is imagination that leads the way and politics that eventually – if only with the greatest reluctance – follows.

Farewell, yesterday’s tomorrow. The sooner you’re gone, the better. Welcome, new ways of living and becoming fully human. You can’t come too soon.