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一本充满奥运特异人士亚文化的小说

On the Line
一本充满奥运特异人士亚文化的小说

Did Chris Cleave write “Gold” on a bar bet?

小说《金牌》是克里斯·克利夫(Chris Cleave)的酒吧赌约之作吗?

Formerly a columnist for The Guardian, Cleave is the author of two previous novels, “Incendiary” and “Little Bee,” whose career in fiction began with a bizarre bit of calendrical happenstance. The publication date of Cleave’s first novel, “Incendiary,” about a fictional terrorist attack on London, chanced to coincide with the July 7, 2005, London Underground bombings. Written as a series of letters from an attack victim’s widow to Osama bin Laden, the book received high praise and international awards. Cleave’s next novel, “Little Bee,” told the story of a smart-set London editor and a young Nigerian girl whose lives become entwined after a harrowing encounter on a West African beach. “Little Bee” was a tour de force — I recall reading it in about two and a half minutes, or so it seemed — that became a smash hit.

克利夫曾是英国《卫报》的专栏作家,之前出版过两部小说:《燃烧弹》(Incendiary)和《小蜜蜂》(Little Bee)。在克利夫的小说事业起步之初,曾出现了一桩离奇的偶然事件——他的首部小说《燃烧弹》虚构了一起伦敦恐怖袭击事件,其出版日期2005年7月7日正好是伦敦地铁爆炸案发生的日子。该书的情节推动,是由一名受害者遗孀写给奥萨马·本·拉登(Osama bin Laden)的一系列信件构成,为克利夫赢得了高度赞誉和国际奖项。他的第二部小说《小蜜蜂》讲述了一个时髦阔绰的伦敦编辑和一个年轻的尼日利亚女孩在西非海滩上悲惨邂逅,以及他们的生活自此交织在一起的故事。《小蜜蜂》是部红极一时的佳作——我记得自己只用了两分半钟的时间就把它读完了,或者似乎是这样。
 

Now comes “Gold,” a story of athletic ambition, Olympic glory, parental sacrifice and the mightily tedious sport of track cycling. “Gold” is so unlike Cleave’s earlier work that it doesn’t seem implausible to imagine a mate down at the pub challenging him to write a novel without any of the qualities that so delighted readers of “Incendiary” and “Little Bee”: vibrant first-person narrators, snap-snap dialogue, sharp wit, complex cultural-­political themes, brisk scenes and deeply engaging characters. Or maybe Cleave just wanted to try something different.

《金牌》是克利夫的第三部小说,它描写了运动员的雄心、奥林匹克的荣耀、父母的牺牲,以及场地自行车这种相当乏味的运动。《金牌》跟克利夫两部前作的差异如此之大,就算他是为了挑战自我,那也有点令人难以置信——他在酒吧里接受了一个朋友的挑战,要写一本没有《燃烧弹》和《小蜜蜂》中取悦读者的任何特质的小说,没有活力四射的第一人称叙述者,没有快节奏的对话,避免机智敏锐和复杂的文化政治主题,躲避轻快的场景以及深具魅力的人物角色。也有可能克利夫写这本书只是为了尝试一些不同的东西吧。

“Gold” takes place in the run-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Kate Meadows and Zoe Castle are world-class sprint cyclists who live and train in Manchester. Longtime friends and rivals, they’ve been racing against each other since they were 19. Now 32, with their careers winding down, they see the London Games as a last chance for glory.

《金牌》的故事发生在2012年伦敦夏季奥运会的准备阶段。凯特·梅多斯(Kate Meadows)和佐伊·卡斯特(Zoe Castle)是世界一流的场地自行车运动员,都在曼彻斯特生活和训练。两人既是老朋友也是老对手,从19岁起就在赛场上你争我夺了。 现年32岁的她们,随着运动生涯接近尾声,都把伦敦奥运视为赢得荣耀的最后一次机会。

Kate’s the good girl. “Pretty happy,” Zoe says of Kate. “Pretty normal. Pretty pretty.” Kate’s always eager to do the right thing, order the sensible meal, sacrifice for her family. The arrival of an infant daughter, Sophie, kept her out of the 2004 Athens Games; on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kate again bowed out when little Sophie was found to have leukemia. Now it’s 2012, her last shot, and it’s finally good mother Kate’s turn. The only thing standing in her way is her friend.

凯特是书中的好女孩。佐伊说她:“很快乐,很正常,很漂亮。”凯特总是渴望做正确的事情,准备合理的膳食,为了家庭做出牺牲。女儿苏菲(Sophie)的降生使她无缘参加2004年的雅典奥运会,而在2008年的北京奥运会前夕,小苏菲被诊断出患有白血病,令凯特再次错过扬威赛场的机会。现在到了2012年,最后一次机会似乎终于轮到了好妈妈凯特,惟一的障碍就是她的朋友佐伊。

Zoe’s the naughty one. “I’m ugly on the inside,” she warns a prospective beau. “I’ll mess your head up.” Haunted by childhood traumas, Zoe trains nonstop and swallows the empty calories of victory as a substitute for the nourishment of friends and family. She cares about nothing but winning. She’ll crash an opponent, steal a boyfriend, do whatever it takes. Ruthlessness, of course, has its rewards — lucrative sponsorships, magazine covers, a luxurious apartment and billboard fame.

佐伊是书中的坏女孩。 “我的内心丑陋,”她警告未来的男朋友:“我会让你变得一个头两个大。”佐伊被孩提时代的创伤所困扰,她不间断地训练,用胜利这种缺乏营养的空虚热量来替代朋友和家人才能给予的营养。除了胜利,佐伊什么都不在乎。她会不惜一切代价地击溃对手,撬走别人的男朋友。当然,这样的冷酷无情也带来了回报——丰厚的代言收入、杂志封面、豪华公寓,以及名扬四方。

A rule change sets the plot spinning. To placate television executives who love finals and loathe preliminary heats, the International Olympic Committee trims the slots available to each nation in sprint cycling: One athlete per flag, please. Who will it be, Britain: Kate or Zoe?

一条参赛规则的改变让形势急转直下。电视台的高管层喜欢决赛,讨厌预赛,为了安抚他们,国际奥林匹克委员会削减了每个国家自行车参赛选手的名额:每个国家只能派一名选手。那么谁将代表英国出征呢?凯特还是佐伊?

Tough call. Even Tom Voss, the wizened Olympic cyclist (Mexico City, ’68) who coaches both athletes, can’t decide: “He wasn’t supposed to have a favorite, and the truth was that he didn’t. Kate was the more naturally gifted rider, Zoe leveled the score with pure determination, and Tom liked them equally.”

难题出现了。即使是她们的教练汤姆·沃斯(Tom Voss)也无法做出选择,这位瘦削的前奥运自行车手(曾参加1968年的墨西哥城奥运会)“不应该偏心她们中的任何一个,但他确实也没有偏心。凯特的天分更高一些,但佐伊意志坚定,两人旗鼓相当,汤姆对她们的喜爱也不分辕轾。”

A race is agreed to. Best two out of three sprints, Kate against Zoe. I won’t reveal the ending, but I will tell you it takes absolute ages to get there.

佐伊和凯特同意比试一场,三局两胜定乾坤。我不会剧透它的结局如何,但我会告诉你,结局费了很长很长时间才出现。

“Gold” is a head-scratcher of a novel. Rival champions can produce riveting drama. Think Navratilova-Evert, Graf-Seles. And the Olympic sports I’ve seen up close often nurture a rich subculture of peculiar characters: rising stars, wily veterans, dopers and cheaters, has-beens, never-weres, vulpine agents, arrogant federation heads, wealthy supporters and creepy hangers-on. It’s a real zoo. The setting of Cleave’s novel also sounds quite promising. Having watched “24 Hour Party People,” I understand that Manchester can be an interesting town. But in “Gold,” all we see are Kate and Zoe, temperamental friends, training and working out their relationship against a backdrop as blank as Toronto.

《金牌》会令一些人感到费解。两强相斗的设定可以制造精彩纷呈的戏剧效果:想想纳芙拉蒂洛娃(Navratilova)对埃弗特(Evert),或者格拉芙 (Graf)对塞莱斯(Seles)吧。我比较关注的奥运项目通常会孕育丰富的特异人士亚文化:冉冉升起的新星、老谋深算的宿将、兴奋剂服用者和作弊者、过气的体坛明星、一直没熬出头的人、狡猾的经纪人、傲慢的联合会负责人、富有的支持者、 让人不舒服的随从等等。总之,这样的圈子里会有各型各色的生物。《金牌》的背景设置听上去也会让人有这样的期待。而且在看过电影《24小时狂欢派对》(24 Hour Party People)之后,我知道曼彻斯特也可以是一个很有趣的城市。但在《金牌》中,我们看到的全是凯特和佐伊这对关系无常的朋友如何训练、如何处理她们之间的关系,其背景几乎是白茫茫一片。

And then there’s the ­cancer.

还有患上血癌的女儿。

Little Sophie battles it courageously, keeping fear at bay by imagining the adults around her as “Star Wars” characters. Her father, Jack, an Olympic cyclist and good-natured lunk, is forever brewing a cup of tea for his lovely wife and inquiring of his daughter, “Do you feel poorly?” The tear-welling virtue never stops. When Sophie began to feel ever more poorly, this reader couldn’t help recalling Oscar Wilde’s reaction to the death of Little Nell.

小苏菲勇敢地和癌症作战,通过把身边的成年人想象成《星球大战》(Star Wars)中的角色,她免受了恐惧的威胁。苏菲的父亲杰克(Jack)也是一名奥运自行车赛手,一个性情温厚的笨蛋,总是为可爱的妻子泡上一杯热茶,总是问女儿:“你觉得难受吗?”这种让人热泪盈眶的品质展现永不止歇。当苏菲开始觉得越来越难受时,读者不禁会联想到奥斯卡·王尔德(Oscar Wilde)对小内尔(Little Nell)之死的反应。

Zoe does what she can to redeem the book. Her many failings give Cleave a chance to exercise his substantial literary muscle. “Off the bike she was like a smoker without cigarettes,” he observes of Zoe, “never sure what to do with her hands.” Zoe’s a self-destructive rotter on the scale of the infamous Shane of “The L Word.” She does what she likes. She shows up late. She sleeps with cads who kiss and tell to the tabloids. Zoe doesn’t care. Even a cad can provide a human connection for a few hours, as she realizes upon waking with one. “She hadn’t wanted the sex as much as she wanted to share this space with another human being, 46 floors up in the clouds. Sex was cheap money that you could print on demand and use to buy a reprieve from loneliness till morning.”

佐伊为补救这本书尽了全力。她身上的诸多缺点给克利夫提供了展示其坚实文学造诣的机会。 “不骑车的时候,她就像没有香烟的吸烟者,”克利夫这样写她:“不知道该把手往哪儿放。”佐伊是一个有自我毁灭倾向的坏蛋,跟《拉字至上》(The L Word)里著名的谢恩(Shane)有得一比。她为所欲为,她迟到,她跟透露绯闻给八卦小报的无赖男人睡觉。佐伊对此并不在意,甚至是无赖也可以给她带来几个小时人类的温暖,正如她在一个无赖身边醒来后意识到的:“她没有那么想要性,她更想和另外一个人分享这里,在这高耸入云的46层楼上。性是来得容易的钞票,你可以根据需要印钞,用它购买暂时的孤独缓解剂,效果持续到第二天早上。”

Lovely writing, that is. Readers of “Gold” may wish there were more of it. This might have been the “North Dallas Forty” or “Ball Four” of an obscure Olympic sport — sharp, revelatory, funny. ­Instead it’s “Beaches” on bikes.

《金牌》写得赏心悦目,读者们可能会希望克里斯·克利夫多写一些。这部小说本来可以是一个冷门奥运项目的《达拉斯猛龙》(North Dallas Forty )或《四坏球》(Ball Four)—— 敏锐、有趣、有启示性——实际上,它却是自行车版本的《海滩》(Beaches)。
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