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  外语解密学习法 逆读法(Reverse Reading Method)   解读法(Decode-Reading Method)训练范文 ——                 

解密目标语言:德语                                解密辅助语言:英语
              Language to be decoded:  German             Auxiliary Language :  English  

  
         
   解密文本:
《挨饿表演师》(又译《饥饿艺术家》)  [奥] 卡夫卡 原著          
 
 Ein Hungerkünstler
 von  Franz Kafka

 

          A Hunger Artist      
                                                                         by  Franz Kafka     
                                                                

           德汉对照(German & Chinese)                             德英对照(German & English)                           英汉对照(English & Chinese)


  


    In the last decades interest in hunger artists has declined considerably. Whereas in earlier days there was good money to be earned putting on major productions of this sort under one’s own management, nowadays that is totally impossible. Those were different times. Back then the hunger artist captured the attention of the entire city. From day to day while the fasting lasted, participation increased. Everyone wanted to see the hunger artist at least daily. During the final days there were people with subscription tickets who sat all day in front of the small barred cage. And there were even viewing hours at night, their impact heightened by torchlight. On fine days the cage was dragged out into the open air, and then the hunger artist was put on display particularly for the children. While for grown-ups the hunger artist was often merely a joke, something they participated in because it was fashionable, the children looked on amazed, their mouths open, holding each other’s hands for safety, as he sat there on scattered straw—spurning a chair—in a black tights, looking pale, with his ribs sticking out prominently, sometimes nodding politely, answering questions with a forced smile, even sticking his arm out through the bars to let people feel how emaciated he was, but then completely sinking back into himself, so that he paid no attention to anything, not even to what was so important to him, the striking of the clock, which was the single furnishing in the cage, merely looking out in front of him with his eyes almost shut and now and then sipping from a tiny glass of water to moisten his lips.

Apart from the changing groups of spectators there were also constant observers chosen by the public—strangely enough they were usually butchers—who, always three at a time, were given the task of observing the hunger artist day and night, so that he didn’t get something to eat in some secret manner. It was, however, merely a formality, introduced to reassure the masses, for those who understood knew well enough that during the period of fasting the hunger artist would never, under any circumstances, have eaten the slightest thing, not even if compelled by force. The honour of his art forbade it. Naturally, none of the watchers understood that. Sometimes there were nightly groups of watchers who carried out their vigil very laxly, deliberately sitting together in a distant corner and putting all their attention into playing cards there, clearly intending to allow the hunger artist a small refreshment, which, according to their way of thinking, he could get from some secret supplies. Nothing was more excruciating to the hunger artist than such watchers. They depressed him. They made his fasting terribly difficult.

Sometimes he overcame his weakness and sang during the time they were observing, for as long as he could keep it up, to show people how unjust their suspicions about him were. But that was little help. For then they just wondered among themselves about his skill at being able to eat even while singing. He much preferred the observers who sat down right against the bars and, not satisfied with the dim backlighting of the room, illuminated him with electric flashlights. The glaring light didn’t bother him in the slightest. Generally he couldn’t sleep at all, and he could always doze under any lighting and at any hour, even in an overcrowded, noisy auditorium. With such observers, he was very happily prepared to spend the entire night without sleeping. He was very pleased to joke with them, to recount stories from his nomadic life and then, in turn, to listen their stories—doing everything just to keep them awake, so that he could keep showing them once again that he had nothing to eat in his cage and that he was fasting as none of them could.

He was happiest, however, when morning came and a lavish breakfast was brought for them at his own expense, on which they hurled themselves with the appetite of healthy men after a hard night’s work without sleep. True, there were still people who wanted to see in this breakfast an unfair means of influencing the observers, but that was going too far, and if they were asked whether they wanted to undertake the observers’ night shift for its own sake, without the breakfast, they excused themselves. But nonetheless they stood by their suspicions.

However, it was, in general, part of fasting that these doubts were inextricably associated with it. For, in fact, no one was in a position to spend time watching the hunger artist every day and night, so no one could know, on the basis of his own observation, whether this was a case of truly uninterrupted, flawless fasting. The hunger artist himself was the only one who could know that and, at the same time, the only spectator capable of being completely satisfied with his own fasting. But the reason he was never satisfied was something different. Perhaps it was not fasting at all which made him so very emaciated that many people, to their own regret, had to stay away from his performance, because they couldn’t bear to look at him. For he was also so skeletal out of dissatisfaction with himself, because he alone knew something that even initiates didn’t know—how easy it was to fast. It was the easiest thing in the world. About this he did not remain silent, but people did not believe him. At best they thought he was being modest. Most of them, however, believed he was a publicity seeker or a total swindler, for whom, at all events, fasting was easy, because he understood how to make it easy, and then had the nerve to half admit it. He had to accept all that. Over the years he had become accustomed to it.

But this dissatisfaction kept gnawing at his insides all the time and never yet—and this one had to say to his credit—had he left the cage of his own free will after any period of fasting.

The impresario had set the maximum length of time for the fast at forty days—he would never allow the fasting go on beyond that point, not even in the cosmopolitan cities. And, in fact, he had a good reason. Experience had shown that for about forty days one could increasingly whip up a city’s interest by gradually increasing advertising, but that then the people turned away—one could demonstrate a significant decline in popularity. In this respect, there were, of course, small differences among different towns and among different countries, but as a rule it was true that forty days was the maximum length of time.

So then on the fortieth day the door of the cage—which was covered with flowers—was opened, an enthusiastic audience filled the amphitheatre, a military band played, two doctors entered the cage, in order to take the necessary measurements of the hunger artist, the results were announced to the auditorium through a megaphone, and finally two young ladies arrived, happy about the fact that they were the ones who had just been selected by lot, seeking to lead the hunger artist down a couple of steps out of the cage, where on a small table a carefully chosen hospital meal was laid out. And at this moment the hunger artist always fought back. Of course, he still freely laid his bony arms in the helpful outstretched hands of the ladies bending over him, but he did not want to stand up. Why stop right now after forty days? He could have kept going for even longer, for an unlimited length of time. Why stop right now, when he was in his best form, indeed, not yet even in his best fasting form? Why did people want to rob him of the fame of fasting longer, not just so that he could become the greatest hunger artist of all time, which he probably was already, but also so that he could surpass himself in some unimaginable way, for he felt there were no limits to his capacity for fasting. Why did this crowd, which pretended to admire him so much, have so little patience with him? If he kept going and kept fasting longer, why would they not tolerate it? Then, too, he was tired and felt good sitting in the straw. Now he was supposed to stand up straight and tall and go to eat, something which, when he just imagined it, made him feel nauseous right away. With great difficulty he repressed mentioning this only out of consideration for the women. And he looked up into the eyes of these women, apparently so friendly but in reality so cruel, and shook his excessively heavy head on his feeble neck.

But then happened what always happened.

The impresario came and in silence—the music made talking impossible—raised his arms over the hunger artist, as if inviting heaven to look upon its work here on the straw, this unfortunate martyr, something the hunger artist certainly was, only in a completely different sense, then grabbed the hunger artist around his thin waist, in the process wanting with his exaggerated caution to make people believe that here he had to deal with something fragile, and handed him over—not without secretly shaking him a little, so that the hunger artist’s legs and upper body swung back and forth uncontrollably—to the women, who had in the meantime turned as pale as death. At this point, the hunger artist endured everything. His head lay on his chest—it was as if it had inexplicably rolled around and just stopped there—his body was arched back, his legs, in an impulse of self-preservation, pressed themselves together at the knees, but scraped the ground, as if they were not really on the floor but were looking for the real ground, and the entire weight of his body, admittedly very small, lay against one of the women, who appealed for help with flustered breath, for she had not imagined her post of honour would be like this, and then stretched her neck as far as possible, to keep her face from the least contact with the hunger artist, but then, when she couldn’t manage this and her more fortunate companion didn’t come to her assistance but trembled and remained content to hold in front of her the hunger artist’s hand, that small bundle of knuckles, she broke into tears, to the delighted laughter of the auditorium, and had to be relieved by an attendant who had been standing ready for some time. Then came the meal. The impresario put a little food into mouth of the hunger artist, now half unconscious, as if fainting, and kept up a cheerful patter designed to divert attention away from the hunger artist’s condition. Then a toast was proposed to the public, which was supposedly whispered to the impresario by the hunger artist, the orchestra confirmed everything with a great fanfare, people dispersed, and no one had the right to be dissatisfied with the event, no one except the hunger artist—he was always the only one.

He lived this way, taking small regular breaks, for many years, apparently in the spotlight, honoured by the world, but for all that his mood was usually gloomy, and it kept growing gloomier all the time, because no one understood how to take him seriously. But how was he to find consolation? What was there left for him to wish for? And if a good-natured man who felt sorry for him ever wanted to explain to him that his sadness probably came from his fasting, then it could happen that the hunger artist responded with an outburst of rage and began to shake the bars like an animal, frightening everyone. But the impresario had a way of punishing moments like this, something he was happy to use. He would make an apology for the hunger artist to the assembled public, conceding that the irritability had been provoked only by his fasting, something quite intelligible to well-fed people and capable of excusing the behaviour of the hunger artist without further explanation.

From there he would move on to speak about the equally hard to understand claim of the hunger artist that he could go on fasting for much longer than he was doing. He would praise the lofty striving, the good will, and the great self-denial no doubt contained in this claim, but then would try to contradict it simply by producing photographs, which were also on sale, for in the pictures one could see the hunger artist on the fortieth day of his fast, in bed, almost dead from exhaustion. Although the hunger artist was very familiar with this perversion of the truth, it always strained his nerves again and was too much for him. What was a result of the premature ending of the fast people were now proposing as its cause! It was impossible to fight against this lack of understanding, against this world of misunderstanding. In good faith he always listened eagerly to the impresario at the bars of his cage, but each time, once the photographs came out, he would let go of the bars and, with a sigh, sink back into the straw, and a reassured public could come up again and view him.

When those who had witnessed such scenes thought back on them a few years later, often they were unable to understand themselves. For in the meantime that change mentioned above had set it. It happened almost immediately. There may have been more profound reasons for it, but who bothered to discover what they were? At any rate, one day the pampered hunger artist saw himself abandoned by the crowd of pleasure seekers, who preferred to stream to other attractions. The impresario chased around half of Europe one more time with him, to see whether he could still re-discover the old interest here and there. It was all futile. It was as if a secret agreement against the fasting performances had developed everywhere. Naturally, it couldn’t really have happened all at once, and people later remembered some things which in the days of intoxicating success they hadn’t paid sufficient attention to, some inadequately suppressed indications, but now it was too late to do anything to counter them. Of course, it was certain that the popularity of fasting would return once more someday, but for those now alive that was no consolation. What was the hunger artist to do now? A man whom thousands of people had cheered on could not display himself in show booths at small fun fairs. The hunger artist was not only too old to take up a different profession, but was fanatically devoted to fasting more than anything else. So he said farewell to the impresario, an incomparable companion on his life’s road, and let himself be hired by a large circus. In order to spare his own feelings, he didn’t even look at the terms of his contract at all.

A large circus with its huge number of men, animals, and gimmicks, which are constantly being let go and replenished, can use anyone at any time, even a hunger artist, provided, of course, his demands are modest.

Moreover, in this particular case it was not only the hunger artist himself who was engaged, but also his old and famous name. In fact, given the characteristic nature of his art, which was not diminished by his advancing age, one could never claim that a worn out artist, who no longer stood at the pinnacle of his ability, wanted to escape to a quiet position in the circus. On the contrary, the hunger artist declared that he could fast just as well as in earlier times—something that was entirely credible. Indeed, he even affirmed that if people would let him do what he wanted—and he was promised this without further ado—he would really now legitimately amaze the world for the first time, an assertion which, however, given the mood of the time, which the hunger artist in his enthusiasm easily overlooked, only brought smiles from the experts.

However, basically the hunger artist had not forgotten his sense of the way things really were, and he took it as self-evident that people would not set him and his cage up as the star attraction somewhere in the middle of the arena, but would move him outside in some other readily accessible spot near the animal stalls. Huge brightly painted signs surrounded the cage and announced what there was to look at there. During the intervals in the main performance, when the general public pushed out towards the menagerie in order to see the animals, they could hardly avoid moving past the hunger artist and stopping there a moment. They would perhaps have remained with him longer, if those pushing up behind them in the narrow passage way, who did not understand this pause on the way to the animal stalls they wanted to see, had not made a longer peaceful observation impossible. This was also the reason why the hunger artist began to tremble at these visiting hours, which he naturally used to long for as the main purpose of his life. In the early days he could hardly wait for the pauses in the performances. He had looked forward with delight to the crowd pouring around him, until he became convinced only too quickly—and even the most stubborn, almost deliberate self-deception could not hold out against the experience—that, judging by their intentions, most of these people were, again and again without exception, only visiting the menagerie. And this view from a distance still remained his most beautiful moment. For when they had come right up to him, he immediately got an earful from the shouting of the two steadily increasing groups, the ones who wanted to take their time looking at the hunger artist, not with any understanding but on a whim or from mere defiance—for him these ones were soon the more painful—and a second group of people whose only demand was to go straight to the animal stalls.

Once the large crowds had passed, the late comers would arrive, and although there was nothing preventing these people any more from sticking around for as long as they wanted, they rushed past with long strides, almost without a sideways glance, to get to the animals in time.

And it was an all-too-rare stroke of luck when the father of a family came by with his children, pointed his finger at the hunger artist, gave a detailed explanation about what was going on here, and talked of earlier years, when he had been present at similar but incomparably more magnificent performances, and then the children, because they had been inadequately prepared at school and in life, always stood around still uncomprehendingly. What was fasting to them? But nonetheless the brightness of the look in their searching eyes revealed something of new and more gracious times coming. Perhaps, the hunger artist said to himself sometimes, everything would be a little better if his location were not quite so near the animal stalls. That way it would be easy for people to make their choice, to say nothing of the fact that he was very upset and constantly depressed by the stink from the stalls, the animals’ commotion at night, the pieces of raw meat dragged past him for the carnivorous beasts, and the roars at feeding time. But he did not dare to approach the administration about it. In any case, he had the animals to thank for the crowds of visitors among whom, here and there, there could be one destined for him. And who knew where they would hide him if he wished to remind them of his existence and, along with that, of the fact that, strictly speaking, he was only an obstacle on the way to the menagerie.

A small obstacle, at any rate, a constantly diminishing obstacle. People got used to the strange notion that in these times they would want to pay attention to a hunger artist, and with this habitual awareness the judgment on him was pronounced. He might fast as well as he could—and he did—but nothing could save him any more. People went straight past him. Try to explain the art of fasting to anyone! If someone doesn’t feel it, then he cannot be made to understand it. The beautiful signs became dirty and illegible. People tore them down, and no one thought of replacing them. The small table with the number of days the fasting had lasted, which early on had been carefully renewed every day, remained unchanged for a long time, for after the first weeks the staff grew tired of even this small task. And so the hunger artist kept fasting on and on, as he once had dreamed about in earlier times, and he had no difficulty succeeding in achieving what he had predicted back then, but no one was counting the days—no one, not even the hunger artist himself, knew how great his achievement was by this point, and his heart grew heavy. And when once in a while a person strolling past stood there making fun of the old number and talking of a swindle, that was in a sense the stupidest lie which indifference and innate maliciousness could invent, for the hunger artist was not being deceptive—he was working honestly—but the world was cheating him of his reward.

Many days went by once more, and this, too, came to an end.

Finally the cage caught the attention of a supervisor, and he asked the attendant why they had left this perfectly useful cage standing here unused with rotting straw inside. Nobody knew, until one man, with the help of the table with the number on it, remembered the hunger artist. They pushed the straw around with a pole and found the hunger artist in there. “Are you still fasting?” the supervisor asked. “When are you finally going to stop?” “Forgive me everything,” whispered the hunger artist. Only the supervisor, who was pressing his ear up against the cage, understood him. “Certainly,” said the supervisor, tapping his forehead with his finger in order to indicate to the spectators the state the hunger artist was in, “we forgive you.” “I always wanted you to admire my fasting,” said the hunger artist. “But we do admire it,” said the supervisor obligingly. “But you shouldn’t admire it,” said the hunger artist. “Well then, we don’t admire it,” said the supervisor, “but why shouldn’t we admire it?” “Because I had to fast. I can’t do anything else,” said the hunger artist. “Just look at you,” said the supervisor, “why can’t you do anything else?” “Because,” said the hunger artist, lifting his head a little and, with his lips pursed as if for a kiss, speaking right into the supervisor’s ear so that he wouldn’t miss anything, “because I couldn’t find a food which I enjoyed. If had found that, believe me, I would not have made a spectacle of myself and would have eaten to my heart’s content, like you and everyone else.” Those were his last words, but in his failing eyes there was the firm, if no longer proud, conviction that he was continuing to fast.

“All right, tidy this up now,” said the supervisor. And they buried the hunger artist along with the straw. But in his cage they put a young panther. Even for a person with the dullest mind it was clearly refreshing to see this wild animal throwing itself around in this cage, which had been dreary for such a long time. It lacked nothing. Without thinking about it for any length of time, the guards brought the animal food. It enjoyed the taste and never seemed to miss its freedom. This noble body, equipped with everything necessary, almost to the point of bursting, also appeared to carry freedom around with it. That seem to be located somewhere or other in its teeth, and its joy in living came with such strong passion from its throat that it was not easy for spectators to keep watching. But they controlled themselves, kept pressing around the cage, and had no desire to move on.

 


     饥饿表演近几十年来明显地被冷落了。早些时候,大家饶有兴致地自发举办这类大型表演,收入也还不错。可是今天,这些都已毫无可能。那时的情形同现在相比确实大相径庭。当时,全城的人都在为饥饿表演忙忙碌碌,观众与日俱增,人人都渴望每天至少观看一次饥饿艺术家的表演。临近表演后期,不少人买了长期票,天天坐在小铁笼子跟前,就是晚上,观众也络绎不绝。为了看得不失效果,人们举着火把。天气晴朗的时候,大家就把笼子挪到露天,这样做是为了孩子,他们对饥饿艺术家有着特殊的兴趣。大人们看主要是图个消遣、赶赶时髦,可孩子们却截然不同,他们看到这位身穿黑色紧身服、脸色苍白、瘦骨嶙峋的饥饿艺术家时神情紧张,目瞪口呆,为了壮胆,他们互相把手拉得紧紧的。饥饿艺术家甚至连椅子都不屑一顾,只是一屁股坐在乱铺在笼子里的干草上。他时而有礼貌地向大家点头打个招呼,时而用力微笑着回答大家的问题。他还时不时把胳膊伸出栅栏,让人摸摸瞧瞧,以感觉到他是多么干瘦。随后又深深陷入沉思,任何人对他都变得不复存在,连笼子里那对他至关重要的钟表(笼子里唯一的东西)发出的响声也充耳不闻,只是那双几乎闭着的眼睛愣神地看着前方,偶尔呷一口小玻璃杯里的水润一润嘴唇。
  除了熙熙攘攘、川流不息的观众外,还有被大伙推举出来的固定的监督人员守在那儿。奇怪的是,这些看守一般都是屠夫,他们总是三人一班,日夜盯着饥饿艺术家,防止他用什么秘密手段偷吃东西。其实,这不过是安慰大伙的一种形式而已,因为行家都晓得,饥饿艺术家在饥饿表演期间是绝对不吃东西的,即使有人强迫他吃,他也会无动于衷。他的艺术的荣誉不允许他这么做。当然,不是每个看守都能理解这一点。有些值夜班的看守就很马虎,他们坐在远离饥饿艺术家的某个角落里埋头玩牌,故意给他一个进食的机会,他们总认为,饥饿艺术家绝对有妙招搞点存货填填肚子。碰到这样的看守,饥饿艺术家真是苦不堪言,这帮人使他情绪低落,给他的饥饿表演带来很多困难。有时,他不顾虚弱,尽量在他们做看守时大声唱歌,以便向这帮人表明,他们的怀疑对自己是多么的不公道。但这无济于事。这些看守更是佩服他人灵艺高,竟在唱歌时也能吃东西。所以,饥饿艺术家特别喜欢那些“秉公执法”的看守人员,他们靠近铁栅坐在一起,嫌大厅灯光太暗而举起演出经理提供的手电筒把自己照得通明。刺眼的光线对他毫无影响,反正他根本睡不成觉,但是无论什么光线,也不管什么时候,就是大厅里人山人海,喧闹嘈杂,打个盹儿他总是做得到的。他非常乐意彻夜不眠和这样的看守共度通宵,喜欢同他们逗乐取笑,给他们讲述自己的流浪生活,然后再悉听他们的奇闻趣事。所有这些,都是为了使看守们保持清醒,让他们始终看清,他的笼子里压根儿就没有吃的东西,他在挨饿,不论哪个看守都没有这个本事。而最令他兴奋的是早晨自己掏腰包,请看守们美餐一顿让人送来的早饭。这些壮汉子们在艰难地熬了一个通宵之后个个像饿狼扑食,胃口大开。然而,有些人却认为请客吃饭有贿赂之嫌疑,这纯属无稽之谈,当别人问到他们是否愿意兢兢业业值一夜班而拒吃早餐时,这些人却溜之大吉了,可要让他们消除疑心并不容易。
  诸如此类种种猜疑,饥饿艺术家似乎也难于摆脱。任何一位看守也做不到夜以继日、丝毫不间断地守在饥饿艺术家身边,因此无人亲眼目睹过,他是否确实持续不断地挨饿。只有饥饿艺术家自己心里最清楚,只有他才算得上是对自己的饥饿表演最为满意的观众。但是由于另一种原因,他又从未满意过。或许他干瘦如柴的躯体根本就不是由于饥饿所造成的,而是对自己不满所致,以致于有些人出自于对他的同情而不来观看饥饿表演,因为这些人不忍心看他那被折磨的样子。其实他自己明白,饥饿表演极为简单,是世上最容易做的事,这一点恐怕连行家也不清楚。对此,饥饿艺术家直言不讳,但人们死活就是不信。善意的说法还好,说他谦虚,可大部分人认为他自吹自擂,更有甚者说他是个骗子手,他当然觉得挨饿是件轻松的事,因为他懂得如何能使挨饿变得轻松,而他竟然厚颜无耻,不肯百分之百地道出实情。所有这一切,饥饿艺术家都得忍受着。天长日久他也习以为常,然而内心深处的不快总搅得他不得安宁。每当一轮饥饿表演结束时,饥饿艺术家没有一次是自愿离开笼子的,这一点,人们一定要为他作证。演出经理规定每轮表演最高期限为四十天,期限过后,他绝不让饥饿艺术家再继续挨饿,即使在世界大城市里也是如此。经理这样做不无道理,因为根据以往经验,全城人的兴趣会通过四十天里越来越火的广告充分被激发出来,而四十天后,观众就会感到疲倦,看表演的人数随之锐减。在这一点上城市和乡村当然有些小小的区别,可是四十天最高期限已经成了一条通用的规律。在第四十天,笼子的门被打开,笼子四周插满鲜花,半圆形露天剧场里人海如潮,观众兴高采烈,军乐队奏着乐曲。两个医生走进笼子为饥饿艺术家作必要的检测,检测结果通过高音喇叭传遍剧场。随后,两位女士走上前来,她们乐滋滋的,庆幸自己能被选中去搀扶饥饿艺术家离开笼子走下前面的台阶。台阶前的小桌子上早已摆好了精心准备好的病号饭。在这种时刻,饥饿艺术家总是加以拒绝,虽然他还是自愿地把自己皮包骨头的手臂递向前来帮忙的女士,但是他不愿站立起来。为什么刚到四十天就停止表演呢?他本来能长期地、无休止地饿下去,为什么恰恰要在他表演最紧要的关头停下来呢?他还没有真正精彩地表演过一回哩!他还能继续饿下去,他不仅能成为空前最伟大的饥饿艺术家(他或许已经是了),而且还要超越自我,达到不可思议的境界,因为他感到自己的饥饿表演能力永无止境。可是人们为什么要夺走他继续挨饿的荣誉呢?为什么这些对他佩服得五体投地的人多一点耐心都没有呢?他都能坚持继续饥饿表演,为什么这些人连耐心当观众都做不到呢?唉,他也累了,本该坐在干草上好好歇一会儿,可现在他得立起他那又高又细的身躯去吃饭。他一想到吃就感到恶心,只是想到女士在自己旁边才把要说的话咽了下去,他抬头看了看表面上和蔼其实残忍的两位女士的眼睛,摇了摇耷在他无力的脖子上那过于沉重的脑袋。紧接着,老一套又来了。演出经理登场,他像哑巴一样,一句话也不说(其实是音乐声吵得他没法讲话),双手举到饥饿艺术家的头上,好像在邀请老天爷下凡,参观他那坐在蓬乱干草上的作品——这位颇值怜悯的殉道士。说实在的,饥饿艺术家确实是个殉道士,只是在另外一层意义上罢了。经理双手卡住饥饿艺术家的细腰,有些过分小心翼翼,他的动作神情使人联想到,他手中不是一个活人,而是一件极易破碎的物品。这时经理或许暗中轻轻碰了一下饥饿艺术家,以致于他的双脚和上身左右摇摆不停。紧接着经理把他交给了两位脸色早已吓得苍白的女士,饥饿艺术家任其摆布,他脑袋聋拉在胸前,好像它是不听使唤地滚到那里,然后又莫名其妙地一动不动。他的身体已经掏空,双腿出于自卫本能紧紧和膝盖贴在一起,双脚却擦着地面,似乎那不是真正的地面,它们好像正在寻找真正的可以着落的地方。他全部的、其实已经很轻的身体重量倾斜在其中一个女士身上。她喘着粗气,左顾右盼,寻求援助,她真没想到,这件光荣的差事竟会是这样,她先是尽量伸长脖子,这样自己的花容月貌起码可以免遭“灾难”,可是她却没有办到。而她的那位幸运些的伙伴只是颤颤悠悠,高高地扯着饥饿艺术家的手——其实只是一把骨头——往前走,一点忙也不帮,气得这位倒楣姑娘在大庭广众的起哄声中哇地一声大哭起来,早已侍候在一旁的仆人不得不把她替换下来。随后开始吃饭,经理先给处于昏厥状态、半醒半睡的饥饿艺术家喂了几勺汤水,顺便说了几句逗乐的话,以便分散众人观察饥饿艺术家身体状况的注意力。接着,他提议为观众干杯,据说此举是由饥饿艺术家给经理耳语出的点子,乐队憋足了劲演奏。随后大家各自散去,没有人对眼前发生的一切不感到满意,只有一个人例外,那就是饥饿艺术家自己,他总是不满。
  就这样,表演、休息;休息、表演,他过了一年又一年,表面上光彩照人,受人尊敬,而实际上阴郁的心情经常缠绕着他。由于得不到任何人的真正理解,他的情绪变得越来越坏。人们该怎样安慰他呢?他还有什么渴求呢?如果同情他的某个好心人告诉他,他的悲哀可能是饥饿所致,那么他就会勃然大怒(特别是在饥饿表演进行了一段时间以后),像一只凶猛的野兽吓人地摇晃着栅栏。但对于这种状况,演出经理自有一套他喜欢采用的惩罚手段。他当众为饥饿艺术家辩解并且表明,饥饿艺术家的行为可以原谅,因为这种由于饥饿引起的反常的易怒心态是正常人根本无法理解的。接着他就开始大讲饥饿艺术家自己的需要加以解释的观点,说他实际能够挨饿的时间比他现在做的饥饿表演的时间要长得多,经理大为赞赏他的执著追求、良好心愿以及伟大的自我克制精神,这些当然也包括在饥饿艺术家的说法之中。而随后,他又拿出一叠照片(照片也用于出售),轻而易举就把艺术家的说法驳倒。因为从照片上人们可以看到,饥饿艺术家在第四十天的时候躺在床上虚弱不堪,奄奄一息。这些虽是老生常谈,却又不断使饥饿艺术家难以忍受。他气愤的是这种歪曲事实的做法,明摆着是提前结束饥饿表演的结果,人们却要把它说成是不得不停止表演的原因。同愚昧抗争,同这个愚昧的世界抗争是徒劳的。他总是虔诚地、如饥似渴地抓着栅栏认真地听经理说的每一句话,但当经理展示照片时,他每次都放开栅栏,唉声叹气地坐回草堆。于是,受到抚慰的观众又重新围过来看他表演。
  数年之后,每当这一场面的见证人回忆起这一幕时,连他们自己都弄不明白这是怎么一回事,因为这期间发生了那个被提及的事变。这变化来的极其突然,它或许有更复杂的原因,但有谁去深究呢?无论如何,这个曾受大家喜欢的饥饿艺术家有一天发现自己被那些热闹上瘾的观众忘却了,他们纷纷涌向其它演出场所。演出经理领着他又一次跋涉了半个欧洲,他们想看看,是否能在某个地方重新找回逝去的狂热和兴趣,然而他们一无所获。好像人们私下达成了某种默契,到处都笼罩着厌恶饥饿表演的气氛。当然,这种情绪绝非一朝一日形成的,只怪当时人们过分陶醉于胜利的喜悦之中,没有引起足够的重视,也未加防范,而现在采取对策为时已晚。尽管肯定有一天,饥饿表演定会再次红火起来,但这对于活着的人毫无慰藉。眼下,饥饿艺术家该去做什么呢?成千上万观众曾为之欢呼的饥饿艺术家如今去集市上的简陋戏台上演出未免太惨了些,改做其它行当吧,他不仅年纪太大,而更主要的是他对饥饿表演有着如痴如狂的追求。最终,他告别了经理——这位人生旅途上无与伦比的伙伴,受聘于一家庞大的马戏团。为了避免再受刺激,他甚至连合同条件都没瞥上一眼。
  马戏团确实很大,数不清的人、动物、器械随处可见,他们需要不断更新和补充,不论什么人才,任何时候都能在马戏团派上用场,当然饥饿表演者也不例外,只要条件不苛刻。另外,他之所以受聘当属特殊情况,这不单单是聘用一个艺术家本身,而更重要的是他当年的赫赫大名。其实,饥饿表演的技艺根本不会随着年龄的增长而黯然失色,单凭这一点,人们起码不能说,一个老得不中用的、再也不能站在技艺巅峰表演的饥饿艺术家想躲到马戏团某个安静的位置上去混日子。恰恰相反,饥饿艺术家向人保证,他的饥饿艺术不减当年,这是绝对可信的。他甚至还宣称,只要人们准许他按自己的想法行事(人们马上答应了他的这一要求),他要真正地震撼世界,达到前所未有的轰动效应。饥饿艺术家一激动起来,早把当今形势忘得一干二净,他的话只引起懂行的人付之一笑。
  然而,饥饿艺术家到底还是没有忘记着眼于现实。人们把他和笼子没有作为精彩节目放在马戏团的中心地段,而是安插在一个交通路口,他也认为这是理所当然的事。笼子四周挂满了标语,那些花花绿绿的大字在告诉人们那里可以看到什么东西。若是观众在其它演出休息的时候涌向兽场的话,总要从饥饿艺术家跟前走过并在那儿停留片刻。假如不是道窄人挤,后面的人又能够理解前面的观众为什么不急着去看野兽而停留下来,人们或许能在他面前多呆一会儿,慢慢欣赏他的表演。这就是饥饿艺术家看到观众马上要向他走来时不往颤抖的原因。他以人们观看自己为生活目的,自然盼望这种时刻。起初,他急不可待地盼着演出休息,眼看一群群观众朝自己蜂拥而来,他激动得欣喜若狂,可是他很快就看出,观众的本意是去看野兽,每次如此,几乎无一例外,就是最固执的、故意自欺欺人的人也不得不承认这一事实。但是不管怎么说,看着远处的观众朝自己走来是令他最为高兴的事,人们涌过来时,持续不断的呼喊声和叫骂声乱成一片,一些人慢悠悠地看他表演,不是出于对他的理解(这些人使饥饿艺术家甚感痛苦),而是故意和后面催他们的人过不去,而另一些人则是心急火燎地想去兽场。大批人过后,剩下的是一些姗姗来迟者,没人催赶他们,只要他们有兴趣,满可以在他面前多呆一会,但是这些人大步流星,目不斜视,直奔兽场。不过,饥饿艺术家偶尔也能碰到幸运的时刻。有时父亲领着孩子来到他面前,父亲一边指,一边详细地讲述这是怎么一回事,他讲到过去的年代,说他曾经看过类似的表演,但那时盛况空前。可是孩子们无论在学校还是在生活中都没有经历过这些事情,所以,他们始终不能理解大人的话,这也难怪,他们怎么能懂得什么叫饥饿呢?但是,从他们那探究性闪闪发光的眼睛里流露出一种崭新的、属于未来的、更为仁慈的东西。饥饿艺术家有时悄然思忖,假如自己的表演场地离兽场稍远一点,或许情况会好起来,而现在离兽场这么近,人们很容易选择去看野兽,更不用说兽场散发的臭味、动物夜间的闹腾、给野兽送生肉时人走动的响声以及投食时动物的狂嘶乱叫搅得他不得安宁,使他长期忧郁消沉。但是,他又没有胆量向马戏团的头头们去说。他还得感谢那些野兽们,没有它们,哪能引来那么多观众?况且众人当中还能找到某位真的是冲着他而来的呢。如果他要提醒人们注意自己的存在,那么人们马上就会联想到,他——确切地说——只不过是通往兽场的一个障碍,谁知道人家会把他塞到哪个角落。
  当然只是一个小小的障碍,而且会越变越小。人们在当今时代还要为一个饥饿艺术家耗神费力,这简直是个怪事,可是人们对奇怪现象已习以为常,而正是这种习惯宣判了他的命运。他想使出最大能力做好饥饿表演,他也确实这么做了,然而这一切都挽救不了他的命运。观众个个如匆匆过客飞快地从他面前掠过。去试试给人讲饥饿艺术吧!但是谁对饥饿艺术没有亲身感受,就根本不可能心领神会。漂亮的彩色大字已经被弄脏,变得模糊不清,它们被撕了下来,没有有想到换上新的。用于计算饥饿表演天数的小牌子上的数字当初每天都有新的记录,现在却无人问津,数字多日不变,因为数周之后,连记录员自己都对这项单调的工作感到厌腻。虽然饥饿艺术家不停地做饥饿表演,这是他过去梦寐以求的事,也是他曾经夸过的海口,现在,他可以任意独行其事了,但是,没有人为他记录表演天数,没有人,甚至连他本人也搞不清楚自己的成果究竟达到了何种程度,他的心情变得沉重起来。假如某个时候来了一个游手好闲的家伙,用那个旧数字逗笑取乐,说这是骗人的鬼把戏,那么,他的话才真正是最愚蠢的、能编制冷漠和恶意的谎言。因为,饥饿艺术家诚实地劳动,他没有欺骗别人,倒是这个世界骗取了他的工钱。
  又过了许多日子,表演告终了。有一天,那只笼子引起了一位看管人的注意,他问仆人们,为什么把一个好端端的笼子闲置不用,里边的谷草已经发霉变味,对此无人知晓,直到其中一位看见了记数的小牌子,他才猛然想起饥饿艺术家。人们用棍子拨开腐草,在里边找到了他。“你还一直不吃东西?”看管人问道,“你究竟什么时候才算完呢?”“诸位,请多多原谅。”饥饿艺术家有气无力地低声细语,只有看管人才能听清他说的话,因为他把耳朵贴在栅栏上,“当然,当然。”看管人一边点头,一边把手指向额头,以此来暗示其他人,说明饥饿艺术家的身体状况非常危险,“我们当然会原谅你。”“我一直在想着,你们能赞赏我的饥饿表演,”饥饿艺术家说。
  “我们确实也挺赞赏的,”看管人热情地说。“可是你们不应该赞赏,”饥饿艺术家说。“那么我们就不赞赏,”看管人说,“为什么我们不应该赞赏呢?”“因为我只能忍饥挨饿,我也没有其他办法。”饥饿艺术家说。“你们瞧,太怪了不是,”看管人说,“你为什么没有其他办法呢?”“因为我,”饥饿艺术家说着,小脑袋微微抬起,嘴唇像要吻看管人似的,直贴在他的耳根,生怕露掉一个字,“因为我找不到适合我胃口的食物。假如我找到这样的食物,请相信我,我不会招人参观,若人显眼,并像你,像大伙一样,吃得饱饱的。”这是饥饿艺术家最后的几句话,然而,从他那瞳孔已经放大的眼睛里还流露出一种不再是自豪、而是坚定的信念:他还要继续饿下去。
  “好了,大伙整整吧!”看管人说。饥饿艺术家连同腐草一起被埋掉了。笼子里放进了一只年轻的美洲豹子。即使是感觉最迟钝的人,看到这只野兽在闲置长久的笼子里活蹦乱跳时,他也会觉得这是一种舒服的休息。这只豹子什么也不缺,可口的食物看守人员无须长时间考虑就会送来。失去自由对它似乎都无所谓,这个高贵的躯体应有尽有,不仅带着利爪,而且连自由好像也带在身边,自由似乎就藏在它利齿的某个地方。它生命的欢乐总是同它大口里发出的强烈吼叫而一起到来。观众从它的欢乐中很难享受到轻松,可是他们克制住自己,挤在笼子周围,丝毫不肯离去。


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