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Following Dickens Through Switzerland

NINETY minutes into what was supposed to be an hourlong snowshoe walk up the craggy Great St. Bernard Pass in the Alps, my Swiss guide — Patrick Vincent, professor of literature at the Université de Neuchâtel — swore that the 11th-century monastery we’d set out for was just around the next bend. The structure, perched on this 8,100-foot-high pass where the snowy seams of Switzerland, Italy and France converge, has a storied history: it was founded by St. Bernard himself, is the birthplace of the iconic dog bred by the monks, and it provided room and board for illustrious visitors like Napoleon and Alexandre Dumas. But I wanted to see it for a different reason. I was retracing the steps of Charles Dickens, who ascended this same pass to get to the monastery while living in Switzerland in 1846.

穿着雪鞋在阿尔卑斯山圣伯纳德大山口(Great St. Bernard Pass)崎岖的山路向上爬,本以为这段路只要走一个小时,现在已经走了90分钟。我的瑞士导游——纳沙泰尔大学(Université de Neuchâtel)的文学教授帕特里克·文森特(Patrick Vincent)发誓说,我们要去的那座11世纪修道院就在下一个拐弯处。这座建筑处在海拔8100英尺高处,位于瑞士、意大利和法国接壤的雪山地带上,有着丰厚的历史:它是由圣伯纳德本人创建的,修道士饲养的那种著名的圣伯纳德犬也诞生在这里;还曾经给拿破仑和大仲马等杰出的访客提供过食宿。不过,我想参观这个地方还另有原因。我正在追溯查尔斯·狄更斯(Charles Dickens)的足迹,1846年他居住在瑞士的时候,曾沿着这同一道大山口爬上了这座修道院。

Though known mostly for his depiction of gritty London streets and of his travels to America, Dickens was also inspired by Switzerland, where he spent five months writing “Dombey and Son,” found inspiration for “Little Dorrit” and “David Copperfield” and finished his fourth Christmas story. His visit was no mere writer’s retreat: he temporarily moved his wife, six children and the family dog to Lausanne, where they lived in a villa staffed with four servants.

尽管狄更斯最广为人知的是他对伦敦街头的生动刻画,还有他的美国游记,但他也同样受到过瑞士的启发。在这里,他花了五个月时间写出了《董贝父子》(Dombey and Son),找到了创作《小杜丽》(Little Dorrit)和《大卫·科波菲尔》(David Copperfield)的灵感,还写了他的第四个圣诞故事。不过他不仅是作为一个作家在这里休养,而是把妻子、六个孩子以及家里的狗都带到了洛桑(Lausanne),住在别墅里,雇了四个仆人。


Dickens found time to explore the country with his family and friends, and recounted his impressions in a ream of private letters, many of them prickly, that nonetheless indicated his unabashed love for Switzerland. “Oh god! What a beautiful country it is!” he proclaimed in one letter to John Forster, his friend (and later biographer). He became so fond of Switzerland that over the course of his life he visited four times and created a permanent souvenir in England: he reassembled a 16th-century Swiss chalet that a friend had mailed to him. He used it as a study, even connecting it to his home via an underground tunnel in true Helvetic style.

狄更斯抽出时间和家人、朋友一起探索了这个国家,并且在一大堆私人信件当中详细描述了对这里的印象,其中很多话语都满带讽刺,但仍然毫不掩饰地表达了他对瑞士的钟爱。“上帝啊!这是一个多么美丽的国家!”他在写给朋友(以及他后来的传记作者)约翰·福斯特(John Forster)的信中这样明确地说道。他越来越喜爱瑞士,一生中一共四次到访这里,并且还在英格兰建造了一个永久的纪念品:他让朋友将一所16世纪的瑞士小木屋邮寄给他,他再重新将它装砌起来,用作书房,甚至挖了一条真正瑞士风格的地下隧道,将小木屋与他家的房子连接起来。

This spring I set out on a four-day trip to explore three areas of Switzerland frequented by Dickens, in hopes of discovering what kept him coming back. In addition to the Great St. Bernard Pass, which Dickens took before overnighting at the monastery, I would stop in Lausanne, where the Dickens family stayed in a villa overlooking Lake Geneva, and the Lavaux Vineyards, where the writer took long nightly walks. These settings, described below, became an occasional writer’s muse.

今年春天,我进行了一次为期四天的旅行,在瑞士探索狄更斯经常到访的三个地方,希望能发现,到底是什么让他屡屡故地重游。除了狄更斯在修道院过夜之前走过的圣伯纳德大山口之外,我还会在洛桑停留。在那里,狄更斯一家人住在别墅里,眺望着日内瓦湖(Lake Geneva,也称“莱芒湖”——译注)和拉沃葡萄园(Lavaux Vineyards),作家每晚都在这里花很长时间散步。下面所描述的,便是这些曾经偶然成为作家灵感来源的地方。



We traveled to the Great St. Bernard Pass from Lausanne by car, on a 60-mile route that hugged the easternmost hook of Switzerland, passing clusters of chalets and steep vineyard terraces that resembled Machu Picchu.

我们从洛桑开车去圣伯纳德大山口,这是沿着瑞士最东边的山路大拐弯上一段60英里的路程,沿途会经过很多小木屋群,还有马丘比丘(Machu Picchu)那样的陡峭的葡萄梯田。

After parking in the abandoned Super St.-Bernard Resort, we began a climb up the gusty trail. “Dickens came in September, so there was no snow,” shouted the professor, tightening his snowshoes as downhill skiers zipped past us, dropping chirpy “Bonjours” along the way. “And he traveled on mule!”


We didn’t have a mule, and that’s not the only difference between our journey and Dickens’s. He and his 11-member party (including his wife, Kate, and two servants), traveled to the pass from Lausanne by steamer, then coach, then mule. The round-trip journey took them four days, and the last leg through the steep Valley of Desolation, described by Dickens as “awful and tremendous,” is probably no easier to climb today than it was in 1846.

我们没有驴子,而这也不是我们这趟旅程和狄更斯那次唯一的不同之处。他和其他10人(包括妻子凯特以及两名仆人),是从洛桑坐蒸汽轮船到达大山口,然后坐四轮大马车,然后再骑驴子。来回路程一共用了四天。他们最后穿过的“荒凉谷”(Valley of Desolation),被狄更斯描述成“巨大而可怕”,现在这里的路很可能也丝毫不比1846年时好走。

Dickens was an early Alpine traveler, arriving 22 years before Queen Victoria’s climb up toothy Mount Pilatus, which marked the apex of Switzerland’s golden age of Alpine exploration. In another letter to Forster, Dickens’s description of the monastery revealed his terror and reverence of the Alps. “A great hollow on top of a range of dreadful mountains, and in the midst, a black lake, with phantom clouds perpetually stalking over it. The air so fine, it is difficult to breathe ... the cold so exquisitely thin and sharp that it is not to be described.”

狄更斯很早就已经在阿尔卑斯山旅行。维多利亚女王爬上陡峭崎岖的皮拉图斯峰(Mount Pilatus),标志着探索瑞士阿尔卑斯山的黄金时代到达顶峰,而在那之前22年,狄更斯就已经来到这里。在写给福斯特的另一封信中,狄更斯对于那座修道院的描述流露了他对阿尔卑斯山的恐惧与敬畏。“除了一连串令人害怕的山脉,还有一个巨大的山谷,中间是一个黑色的湖泊,阴云长期笼罩在上面。空气是那么稀薄,连呼吸都困难……剧烈的寒冷尖锐锋利得无法形容。”

That description was a contrast to the scene that I took in when I reached the entrance to the monastery — just moments ahead of a group of older local snowshoers I’d barely managed to pass on the trail. The views of Italy, France and Switzerland were downright halcyon, and the lake was not cloudy and black but frost-blue under a hyacinth sky. We were met by a monk, who insisted we nourish ourselves over bowls of soup. Totally winded from the four-mile ascent, I made a beeline for the communal tables in the stone dining hall. The vegetable soup came with a generous slab of creamy Bagnes cheese, honey-sweetened tea, thick slices of brown bread, and a carafe of red Dôle wine produced in the Valais region just below us.


Dickens wrote in a letter that he “supped thirty strong in a rambling room with a great wood-fire,” probably nourishing himself on the same local cheese and wine that the monks serve today. But you won’t find his name on the Franco-centric register of “Les passants célèbres,” which includes Charlemagne, Napoleon and Dumas. It’s no surprise, considering that in various letters he described the monks as “grim,” “lazy” and “a piece of sheer humbug.” Though it’s still possible to stay the night, as Dickens did, I stayed for just a few hours, filling my time with a quick tour of the monastery’s oddball museum, which showcased local taxidermy and ancient coins and maps, once used for passage. I also searched for the 800-year-old crypt, allegedly stuffed with the bodies of ancient travelers who didn’t survive the crossing.

狄更斯在一封信中曾写到,他“在一个凌乱的房间里吃了一顿30多块钱的大餐,屋里柴火烧得很好”。他很可能也是用今天的修道士们所提供的土产奶酪和酒来给自己滋润了一下。不过你并不会在以法国人为主、包括了查理曼大帝(Charlemagne)、拿破仑和大仲马的“到访名人”(Les passants célèbres)名册上看到他的名字。但考虑到他多次在信中将这些修道士形容为“冷酷”、“懒惰”和“一群彻头彻尾的骗子”,这也就不算什么意外了。虽然我也可以像狄更斯曾经做过的那样在这里过一夜,但我只停留了几个小时,匆匆地参观了一下修道院的古怪博物馆。里面展出了本地的动物标本、古老的钱币还有曾经用于指引行程的地图。我还寻找了一下那个有800年历史的地窖,据说里面存放着那些在穿越大山口中丧生的古老旅行者们的尸体。

Dickens was especially obsessed with it, describing it in several letters and even devoting a gripping passage of “Little Dorrit” to its grisly occupants. “The mother, storm-belated many winters ago, still standing in the corner with her baby at her breast; the man who had frozen with his arm raised to his mouth in fear or hunger, still pressing it with his dry lips after years and years. An awful company, mysteriously come together!”




Lausanne marks the beginning of the Swiss Riviera, which stretches along Lake Geneva toward moneyed Montreux. The region is no stranger to writers. When the English essayist Joseph Addison visited Lake Geneva’s Alps in 1699, describing them as “an agreeable kind of horror” in his travelogue “Remarks on Several Parts of Italy,” he probably didn’t know he was kick-starting a literary trend that would later draw the likes of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edward Gibbon, Byron, the Shelleys, Mark Twain and Hemingway.

瑞士的里维埃拉(Riviera)沿着日内瓦湖一直延伸到富裕的蒙特勒(Montreux),而洛桑便是里维埃拉的起始点。这一片地区对于作家们来说并不陌生。英国散文家约瑟夫·艾迪生(Joseph Addison)在1699年来到日内瓦湖边的阿尔卑斯山脉,在游记《意大利几个地方的几点评论》(Remarks on Several Parts of Italy)中,他形容这里有一种“令人惬意的恐怖”,当时他或许并不知道,他正在文学领域开创一种风尚,后来让-雅克·卢梭(Jean-Jacques Rousseau)、爱德华·吉本(Edward Gibbon)、拜伦(Byron)、雪莱(Shelley)一家、马克·吐温(Mark Twain)和海明威(Hemingway)等作家也相继效仿。

And, of course, Dickens. When he arrived in Lausanne, he was greeted by a small English community that had already settled there. From June into November of 1846, Dickens paid £10 a month to rent Villa Rosemont, which overlooked the snowy Dents du Midi and the lake. His first letters back to England were lucid: the “moonlight on the lake is noble” and the steep up-and-down streets are “like the streets in dreams.” And his love of the landscape only grew stronger.

当然了,还有狄更斯。当他来到洛桑时,迎接他的是一个在当地定居的英国人小社区。1846年的6月到11月,狄更斯每月支付10英镑租住罗斯蒙特别墅(Villa Rosemont),从那里可以眺望白雪皑皑的密迪齿峰(Dents du Midi)和旁边的湖泊。他寄回英格兰的第一批信件中说得很清楚:“湖上的月色很是瑰丽”,而那崎岖陡峭的道路“就像梦中的街道一样”。他对这片风景的钟爱越发强烈。

But Dickens’s bucolic Lausanne has changed. Like most Swiss cities, Lausanne embraced modernism in the 20th century. The Hotel Gibbons, where the writer briefly stayed, is now a UBS bank; Villa Rosemont is now the Grand Rosemont, a brawny pink Art Deco condominium on Avenue Charles Dickens. Today, the L-shaped lane is home to a string of Beaux-Arts mansions shaded by sweet gum trees and glossy spikes of holly bushes pushing through iron gates. A walk down Avenue d’Ouchy brings you past La Villa at No. 57, where one of Dickens’s sons took French lessons. A left turn on Avenue de l’Elysée leads to the leafy Elysée Estate, which Dickens considered renting but thought too large. The creaky parquet-floored building houses a photography museum (Musée de l’Elysée), one of many museums in arty Lausanne worth visiting.

不过狄更斯所描述的那个田园牧歌般的洛桑如今已经改变了。就像瑞士的大多数城市一样,现代主义在20世纪完全渗透进了洛桑。狄更斯曾经短暂居住过的吉本斯酒店(The Hotel Gibbons),如今是一家瑞士银行(UBS);罗斯蒙特别墅现在叫做“大罗斯蒙特”(Grand Rosemont),是一座宏伟的粉红色装饰派艺术公寓楼,位于查尔斯·狄更斯大街(Avenue Charles Dickens)上。如今,那条“L”形的走廊已经是一系列高雅艺术宅邸的所在地,被芳香的橡胶树和铁门两边光亮的冬青灌木丛包围。沿着乌契大道(Avenue d’Ouchy)往下走,你会路过“57号别墅”,狄更斯的一个儿子就曾在这里上法语课。在爱丽舍大道(Avenue de l’Elysée)上来一个左转弯,便会来到绿树繁茂的爱丽舍庄园(Elysée Estate),狄更斯曾考虑过租住在这里,但又觉得它太大了。这座铺着破旧镶木地板的建筑里,有个名叫爱丽舍摄影馆(Musée de l’Elysée)的地方,是艺术气息浓厚的洛桑值得一去的众多博物馆之一。

Today Lausanne’s vertical, steep streets and sidewalks retain a dreamlike quality. A youthful creative energy pervades the city, earning it the distinction of Switzerland’s counterculture capital, and not a bad place to be a flâneur for a day. On a warm April afternoon, I strolled past the ateliers of scruffy musicians and bespectacled architects near steep Avenue d’Ouchy, which plunges down Mount Jorat to the lake. The city bursted with modern contrasts: an elderly nun crossed the street near three Arab women in headscarves; a businesswoman in fishnets slinked into the driver’s seat of a black Mercedes, while a tie lay abandoned on the sidewalk in a loosened Windsor knot, as if its owner had flung it off, renouncing work forever. This was the French side of Switzerland after all.

如今,洛桑那些陡直的大街和人行道仍然保持着一种梦幻般的质感。一股年轻鲜活的创造力弥漫在整座城市,让它拥有“瑞士反传统文化之都”的美誉。在这里当一天的浪荡游民也是一个不错的选择。在4月一个温暖的下午,我在陡峭的乌契大道附近闲逛,这条路一直沿着诺拉山(Mount Jorat)直接俯冲到湖上,周围有很多工作室,属于那些邋遢不羁音乐家和戴眼镜的建筑师们。城中到处充满着现代社会的反差对照:一位年老的修女穿过街道,附近有三名包着头巾的阿拉伯女人;一位穿着鱼网袜的女商人滑步坐进一辆黑色奔驰的驾驶座上,与此同时,可以看到一根领带被人遗弃在路边,还打着一个松动的温莎结,仿佛是主人将它甩在那里,永远地放弃了工作。毕竟,这里是瑞士靠近法国的那一边。



Dickens was fond of walking, and his letters to Forster reveal that every evening that summer at 6 o’clock sharp, he set off on 9- to 10-mile treks through the neighboring “vineyards, green lanes, cornfields, and pastures of hay.” The “long twilight and delicious evenings” lured him to Lavaux, an ancient clover-green labyrinth of mountainside grape terraces that cobbles up the mountain from the lake. There he got a vantage view of the ever-changing Alps, “which were sometimes red, purple, or black and sometimes very ghosts in the clouds and mist.”


Lavaux, inscribed on Unesco’s World Heritage List in 2007, has a rarefied beauty but is cumbersome to explore. Trails are too steep for a leisurely bike ride and too narrow for an uninsured rental car. But they’re perfect for an e-bike, which I rented at the Lausanne train station. And because this is service-forward Switzerland, the bike was fine-tuned — tires inflated, chain oiled and batteries charged.

拉沃在2007年被写入联合国教科文组织世界遗产名录(Unesco’s World Heritage List)。它有着纯净的美,但要探索游览它却并非易事。想进行轻松的自行车旅行,它的道路太陡;而如果租用没有上过保险的汽车,它的路又太窄。不过我在洛桑火车站租的电动自行车却是再完美不过。由于这里是服务至上的瑞士,那辆自行车被保养得很好——轮胎充满了气,链条上足了油,电池也充够了电。

The e-bike allowed me to see as much of Lavaux in one day as Dickens might have seen in a month on foot, and I got plenty of exercise too. The steep hill still got the adrenaline flowing, but not so much that I was too sweaty to enjoy a glass of Epesses with locals when I stopped. Whatever bits of Dickens were lost in modern Lausanne were rediscovered here. I rolled through picturesque wine villages like Grandvaux and Chardonne, which dangle from hillsides like charms on a bracelet. I admired the alpenglühen, a pinkish sunset glow atop the peaks, and l’heure bleue, that sapphire hour after dusk. A stop at Vinorama Wine Museum was an excellent way to sample flinty Swiss whites. Though only 2 percent of Swiss wines are exported today, the grapes have been cultivated there for 1,000 years.

这辆电动自行车让我得以在一天之内看到了狄更斯可能徒步一个月才能看到的拉沃景色,而我也得到了不少锻炼。陡峭的山能让人肾上腺素激增,但却没有让我汗流浃背,停下来时还是可以与当地人一起享受一杯埃佩斯(Epesses)葡萄酒。狄更斯描述的景色在现代的洛桑已经损失了很多,但却可以在这里重新找回来。我骑车驶过格朗沃(Grandvaux)和沙尔多纳(Chardonne)这些风景如画的葡萄酒庄,它们如同手镯上的挂饰一样围绕在山间。我倾慕那一片晚霞,淡红的日落在山峰上泛着光。还有那“暮色时刻”(l’heure bleue),就是黄昏之后天边呈现蔚蓝光芒的那段时间。在维诺拉马葡萄酒博物馆(Vinorama Wine Museum)稍作停留,也是品尝瑞士白葡萄酒的绝佳机会。如今瑞士的葡萄酒只有2%用于出口,而那些葡萄已经在当地培育生长了1000年。

It’s hard not to be softened by Lavaux’s beauty, and Dickens’s warmest observations of Switzerland were made here, and ended up in the pages of “Little Dorrit”: “The air there was charged with the scent of gathered grapes. Baskets, troughs, and tubs of grapes stood in the dim village doorways. Church-roofs, distant and rarely seen, had sparkled in the view.”


But just like Amy Dorrit’s journey though the Continent, Dickens’s Swiss summer came to an end. Before he left, he wrote in a final letter: “Surely there is no such place as London. I seem to have heard of it in my childhood, but I am pretty sure it was a lie of the nurse’s. Mountains, valleys, lakes and vines and green lanes, are all I believe in.”

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