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Lingering Past

The Great Gatsby
ISBN: 1847492584

I intentionally bought the book in Shakespeare and Company in Paris last year. The book store, often crowded with excited travelers in these more recent years, shares a sense of glorious past with the novel. The Gatsby movie came out later in May, but I have not watched it. Tragedy is the category I shun. The movie, however, with its delicate and flamboyant outfits, gave me an impression that meticulous descriptions of exquisite scenes should fill up the book. To my surprise, the story is quite short, only 180 pages in my version, with 9 chapters divided almost calculatingly equal.

The novel begins with an advice from the father of the narrator Nick, Gatsby’s neighbor: “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” It is a brilliant advice to people in every era, but we are well aware of the difficulties taking it. And Nick could not refrain him criticizing tone when telling this tragedy.

The plot is well-known. Nick became acquainted with his mysterious neighbor Gatsby, who threw endless big parties in summer and who was once in love with Nick’s rich cousin Daisy. Daisy, who had been cheated by her husband Tom, re-encountered Gatsby later under Nick’s arrangement and was impressed by his wealth. They got back together, with their own separate agendas, one for love and one for revenge. During a ride back from New York, Daisy hit-and-ran Tom’s mistress with Gatsby’s car. The mistress’s husband traced the car and mistakenly regarded Gatsby as the man having an affair with his wife. So he shot Gatsby in his great mansion before committed suicide. No friend except Nick came to Gatsby’s funeral.

One notable recurring topic of the novel is Gatsby’s history. In first 3 chapters before his appearance, rumor had it that he was a doubtful Oxford man and he must have killed someone. Then Gatsby revealed his history to Nick himself, saying he inherited big money and was indeed an Oxford man. Later when everything had gone south, it was revealed that he did not inherited any money, had been poor for most of his life and was not educated in Oxford. It was indicated that the wealth came from illegitimate business. Nevertheless, Nick sympathized him deeply, partially because neither of them came from the rich. They fought hard to earn money and they were all attracted, to some extent, to rich girls.

Daisy’s voice. Fitzgerald wrote about her voice many times in this concise story. Nick fell for it almost from the beginning. A voice Gatsby remarked as “full of money”. It cruelly demonstrated the tragedy of Gatsby that even if he could pretend to be born rich, he was still unimportant to the real rich borne. The past is the present, inconcealable and unchangeable. Daisy did not telegraphed after the incident although his death was unquestionably her responsibility. Nick saw it clear, so he gave up the dream and left the East.

It is about love, or so-called “love”. Married couples are actually cheating husbands and cheating wives. Who did not cheat were dead. Others seemed to be unaffected. And the dream to fix the past ended in vein. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

———————

去年在巴黎的Shakespeare and Company书店,我特地买了这本书。书店里如今总是挤满各地的游客,但那种往事已矣的感觉却和书的感觉有些吻合。我没有看去年五月上映的电影,因为实在不爱看悲剧。但电影里那些华丽精巧的服侍让我以为小说里会充满这些情景的细节描写。实际则不然,故事很短,我这本书只有180页,几乎是平均地分成了9章。

小说开始是盖茨比的邻居,也是我们故事的叙述者Nick讲述他父亲的一个忠告:每当你想要批评别人的时候,记住并不是每个人都有你那般优越的条件。这当然是一个充满智慧却又很难做到的忠告。Nick也不可抑制地在讲述这个故事的过程中表露出批评的态度。

故事的情节已经非常有空。Nick渐渐和他总是在办Party的神秘邻居Gatsby相熟,而后得知Gatsby曾和自己的表亲Daisy相恋。Daisy如今已经嫁为人妇,不过丈夫Tom总是在出轨。Nick安排二人重逢后,Daisy震惊于Gatsby的财富,他们又重新来往起来,不过各有各的算盘,一个想着爱情,一个却想着报复。在一次从纽约回来的旅途中,Daisy开车撞死了Tom的情妇,情妇的丈夫通过汽车的线索找到了Gatsby,误会Gatsby是和他妻子来往的男人并枪杀了他,随后自杀。Gatsby冷清的葬礼上除了Nick没有一个朋友。

小说中一个反复的主题是Gatsby的过去。在前三章Gatsby实际出现之前,谣言说他可能是牛津毕业的但是很可疑,谣言说他好像杀死过人。后来Gatsby自己向Nick介绍了他的故事,所以他继承了一大笔钱而且确实在牛津受的教育。再后来当事故发生以后,事实逐渐显山露水,他不仅没有继承过大笔钱财,而且其实一直都很穷,他也没有去过牛津。小说暗示他的钱财也是靠非法经营所得。尽管如此,Nick仍然深深同情他,可能因为两人谁都没有来自大富大贵的家庭。他们在这个世界上努力营生,而且都不同程度上被来自富裕家庭的女孩们吸引。

Daisy的声音。Fitzgerald在这篇简短的小说中几次写到Daisy的声音。Nick几乎从一开始就沉醉于这个声音中。Gatsby则称其为“富裕”的声音。这更加残忍地揭示了Gatsby的悲剧,即使他塑造了一个来自富裕家庭的身份,他对于这些真正的富二代们来说仍然一文不名。过去即是现在,不可隐藏不可更改。在事故过后,即使Gatsby的死毫无疑问是Daisy的责任,她甚至没有发来一封电报。Nick看清楚了这一切,放弃了营造未来的梦,离开了东部。

这是关于爱情或者所谓“爱情”的故事。夫妻实际不过是出轨的丈夫和出轨的妻子。而没有出轨的人都离开了人世,其他人似乎没有受到任何影响。修补过去的梦徒劳无功。“我们努力划着,逆流而上的小舟却不停地被带回过去。”

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1 Response
  • Silwile
    2014-4-15, Tue

    去年也买了这个版本的 Gatsby; 是读了海明威的 A moveable feast 后买的。海明威在这本书里写了不少有关菲茨杰拉德挺好玩的轶事; 还有对Fitzgerald的无与伦比的天才的XMJDH…