Unit 10 The Idiocy of Urban Life课文翻译综合教程四

Unit 10

The Idiocy of Urban Life

Henry Fairlie

1 Between about 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. the life of the city is civil. Occasionally the lone

footsteps of someone walking to or from work echo along the sidewalk. All work that has to be done at those hours is useful -in bakeries, for example. Even the newspaper presses stop turning forests into lies. Now and then a car comes out of the silence and cruises easily through the blinking traffic lights. The natural inhabitants of the city come out from damp basements and cellars. With their pink ears and paws, sleek, well-groomed, their whiskers combed, rats are true city dwellers. Urban life, during the hours when they reign, is urbane.

2 These rats are social creatures, as you can tell if you look out on the city street

during an insomniac night. But after 6 a.m., the two-legged, daytime creatures of the city begin to stir; and it is they, not the rats, who bring the rat race. You might think that human beings congregate in large cities because they are gregarious. The opposite is true. Urban life today is aggressively individualistic and atomized. Cities are not social places.

3 The lunacy of modern city life lies first in the fact that most city dwellers try to

live outside the city boundaries. So the two-legged creatures have created suburbs, exurbs, and finally rururbs (rubs to some). Disdaining rural life, they try to create simulations of it. No effort is spared to let city dwellers imagine they are living anywhere but in a city: patches of grass in the more modest suburbs, broader spreads in the richer ones further out; prim new trees planted along the streets; at the foot of the larger backyards, a pretense to bosky woodlands.

4 The professional people buy second homes in the country as soon as they can

afford them, and as early as possible on Friday head out of the city they have created.

The New York intellectuals and artists quaintly say they are “going to the country”

for the weekend or the summer, but in fact they have created a little Manhattan-by-the-Sea around the Hamptons, spreading over the Long Island6 potato fields whose earlier solitude was presumably the reason why they first went there. City dwellers take the city with them to the country, for they will not live without its pamperings. The main streets of America’s small towns, which used to have hardware and dry goods stores, are now strips of boutiques. Old-fashioned barbers become unisex hairdressing salons. The brown rats stay in the cities because

of the filth the humans leave during the day. The rats clean it up at night. Soon the countryside will be just as nourishing to them, as the city dwellers take their filth with them.

5 Work still gives meaning to rural life, the family, and churches. But in the city

today work and home, family and church, are separated. What the office workers do for a living is not part of their home life. At the same time they maintain the pointless frenzy of their work hours in their hours off. They rush from the office to jog, to the gym or the YMCA pool, to work at their play with the same joylessness.

6 Even though the offices of today’s businesses in the city are themselves moving

out to the suburbs, this does not necessarily bring the workers back closer to their workplace. It merely means that to the rush-hour traffic into the city there is now added a rush-hour traffic out to the suburbs in the morning, and back around and across the city in the evening. As the farmer walks down to his farm in the morning, the city dweller is dressing for the first idiocy of his day, which he not only accepts but even seeks -the journey to work.

7 In the modern office building in the city there are windows that don’t open. This

is perhaps the most symbolic lunacy of all. Outdoors is something you can look at through glass but not to touch or hear. These windows are a scandal because they endanger the lives of office workers in case of fire. But no less grievous, even on the fairest spring or fall day the workers cannot put their heads outside. Thus it is not surprising that the urban worker has no knowledge of the seasons. He is aware simply that in some months there is air conditioning, and in others through the same vents come fetid central heating. Even outside at home in their suburbs the city dw ellers may know that sometimes it’s hot, and sometimes it’s cold, but no true sense of the rhythms of the seasons is to be had from a lawn in the backyard and a few spindly trees struggling to survive.

8 The city dweller reels from unreality to unreality through each day, always

trying to recover the rural life that has been surrendered for the city lights. No city dweller, even in the suburbs, knows the wonder of a pitch-dark country lane at night.

Nor does he naturally get any exercise from his work.

9 Every European points out that Americans are the most round-shouldered

people in the world. Few of them carry themselves with an upright stance, although

a correct stance is the first precondition of letting your lungs breathe naturally and

deeply. Electric typewriters cut down the amount of physical exertion needed to hit the keys; the buttons of a word processor need even less effort, as you can tell from

the posture of those who use them. They rush out to jog or otherwise Fonda-ize their leisure to try to repair the damage done during the day.

10 Everything in urban life is an effort either to simulate rural life or to compensate

for its loss by artificial means. It is from this day-to-day existence of unreality, pretence, and idiocy that the city people, slumping along their streets even when scurrying, never looking up at their buildings, far less the sky, have the insolence to disdain and mock the useful and rewarding life of the country people who support them. Now go out and carry home a Douglas fir, call it a Christmas tree, and enjoy 12 days of contact with nature. Of course city dwellers don’t know it once had roots.



1 每天凌晨3点到6点,城市生活文明有礼。偶有匆匆上下班的脚步寂寥而过,回响在人行道上。在这个时段中所做的一切工作都是有用的——比如面包房此时的忙碌。这时即便是报纸印刷机也不再化森林为谎言了。偶尔从寂静中开来一辆汽车,在闪闪烁烁的红绿灯中悠然穿梭。居住在城市中的大自然居民从潮湿的地下室和地窖中冒出来;它们有着粉红色耳朵和脚爪,全身毛发油光发亮,触须平整——这些老鼠真是名副其实的城市居民。城市生活,当老鼠们大行其道之时,堪称文明生活。

2 这些老鼠是群居动物,如果你在一个不眠之夜向外张望城市街道,便可知道这一点。但到早晨6点以后,两条腿的城市动物们便开始躁动。正是他们,而不是老鼠,带来了你死我活的鼠斗。也许你会认为人类聚集在大城市当中是因为他们喜欢群居。恰恰相反。在今天的城市中,人们离群索居,生活四分五裂。城市并不是社交的好地方。

3 现代城市生活的愚蠢荒谬首先在于大多数城市居民都试图住在城外。所以这些两条腿的家伙创造了近郊、远郊甚至是更偏远的郊区(某些人称之为"rubs")。他们一方面看不起农村生活,一方面又试图模拟农村生活。他们不遗余力地让城里人想象自己现在住的地方绝不是城市:一块块草坪点缀在相对不那么富裕的郊区,在更为富裕的远郊,草坪的面积更大;街道两旁种植着修剪齐整的簇新的树木;面积更大的后院里,有类似林木成荫的植被。

4 专业人士一旦有钱便马上在乡下购置第二套房产,周五便尽早地离开他们创建的城市。纽约的知识分子和艺术家古怪地说他们“到乡下”过周末或者消夏,但事实上他们已经在汉普顿四镇周边建造了一个“海边的小曼哈顿”,横跨长岛的马铃薯地。这里早先的幽静与孤寂也许正是他们最早到那里去的缘由。城里人把城市带到了乡间,因为他们离不开城市对他们的娇宠。过去拥有五金商店和纺织品商店的美国小镇的中心商业街,如今到处都是精品专卖店。老式理发店成为不分男女的美发沙龙。褐色老鼠呆在城里是因为人类白天在那里留下的污物。老鼠们晚上将污物打扫干净。很快乡下对老鼠来说就会和城里一样吃喝不愁,因为城市居民走到哪里就把垃圾带到哪里。

5 工作对乡村生活、家庭和教会仍有意义。但如今城市中工作和家,家庭和教会却分道扬镳。办公室白领赖以谋生的工作并不是他们家庭生活的一部分。与此同时他们在上班之余仍然保持工作时的无目的疯狂状态。他们从办公室冲出来接着慢跑,或者冲向健身房,或者冲向基督教青年会的游泳池,带着同样兴味索然的神情,似乎玩耍也是一种工作。

6 尽管今天城里公司的办公室本身也在迁往郊区,这并不一定使员工更靠近他们的工作场所。这仅仅意味着早高峰时间除了涌向城市的车流之外又增加了涌向郊区的交通,晚上是反方向横穿城市的交通。正当农民早晨走向农场的时候,城里人穿好衣服就奔向一天中的第一桩蠢事,那就是他不仅欣然接受甚至孜孜以求的事情——上班之旅。

7 城里的现代化写字楼窗户总是关得严严实实。也许这正是城市生活最具象征性的疯狂。户外世界是你能透过玻璃看到但却不能接触或者聆听的。这些窗户非常糟糕,因为万一发生火灾,办公室里的白领恐怕性命不保。一样糟糕的是在最最晴朗的春秋季节,白领们也无法伸出脑袋(享受一下好天气)。所以难怪城里上班族没有四季的概念。他只知道有些月份有空调制冷,其他月份相同的管道传来的是带着恶臭的中央供暖。即便在郊外的家外面,城里人也许知道天气时冷时热,但仅凭后院的草坪和细长纤弱苦苦求生的绿树,他们感受不到真正的四季更迭。

8 日复一日,城里人从一个虚幻旋绕到另一个虚幻中,永远忙着找回为了城市灯光所放弃的乡间生活。即便住在近郊的城里人,也没人能体会在漆黑一团的乡间小路上行走的美妙感受。城里人也没法从工作中得到任何天然的运动。

9 每个欧洲人都说美国人是世界上最含胸驼背的人。几乎没有人走路时器宇轩昂,尽管正确的站姿是让人呼吸自然顺畅的首要前提。电子打字机使人不再需要费劲地敲击按键;从使用者的姿态可以看出,文字处理机的按钮让人更省力了。他们冲出去慢跑,要不就是像简·方达那样做时尚运动消磨时间,来修复日间的劳损。

10 城市生活中的一切努力,都是为了模仿乡村生活,或是以人为方式弥补这种生活方式的缺失。城里人垂头丧气地在街道上走动,即便是步履匆匆时,也从来不向上看一眼一座座楼房,更不要说仰望天空。他们正是通过这种虚幻不实、装腔作势、愚蠢透顶的日常生活来蔑视嘲笑他们赖以为生的乡下人的有用有益的生活。现在出门去,之后带一棵花旗松回家,管它叫做圣诞树,然后可以享受和大自然的12天接触。当然,城里人不晓得花旗松本来是带着树根的。