2008年2月2日 星期六

Yemen : Travels in Dictionary Land 葉門:字典國度奇幻之旅



















【葉門:字典國度奇幻之旅-當代名家旅行文學23】 I S B N:9578278292 作 者:鄭明華譯 精平裝: 平裝本 出版社:馬可孛羅 出版日: 2000/01/03
本書的副標:「字典國度奇幻之旅」,意思是,這個國家對於作者來說,原本就像是只存在於字典之中,夢幻而遙不可及。

對於hc而言 本書有"字彙表" 相當精彩--當然內文對於阿拉伯茶的說明更詳細多多




 本書堪稱為阿拉伯的大旅行。每一頁皆令人神迷,就像書中這片充滿神奇色彩的土地,書中紀錄作者在葉門的生活點滴,實際的融入葉門人們的日常作息,也記錄觀漁業們的種種傳說和神奇傳奇。


  在《葉門──奇幻之旅》中,提姆.麥金塔-史密斯以他在葉門旅居十三年的經驗,筆觸細膩、感情貼切,同時飽覽博學。他是那種最好的旅伴:博學、機智, 並帶著些古怪。他穿越高山、海洋,以及三千年的歷史,描寫抓蹄兔的獵人、駕駛單桅船的航海者、冷血的弒君者,以及對俄式沙拉有偏好的黷武暴君,無一不充滿 感情。在他的觀察中,即使最平凡的葉門百姓也顯得如此特別:他們的宗譜遠溯至遙遠而古老的北方,和諾亞方舟及大洪水有著緊密的關聯。而那片啟始之地,借用 現代詩人的說法,正是葉門人的博學和知識之地。《葉門》堪稱為阿拉伯式的「大旅行」(Grand Tour)。此書的每一頁皆令人神迷,就像書中這片充滿神奇色彩的土地.書中記錄作者在葉門的生活點滴,實際的融入葉門人們的日常作息,包括和海關打交道 討價還價……。也記錄關於葉門的種種傳說和神話傳奇。


關於本書書評:雖然是麥金塔-史密斯的第一部作品,但《葉門》漫談式的文字機智、詭異、博學且充滿詩 意。──《泰晤士報》

麥金塔-史密斯的成就是,創造了一種對葉門的娛樂性和知識性的觀點,免除對阿拉伯人的熟悉偏見,讓人為書中的世故和野蠻而動容,也為 其中的真實與傳說而微笑。──《週日泰晤士報》

(麥金塔-史密斯)寫來充滿機智、洞察力與學識。──《週日泰晤士報》
讓(葉門)的風土民情變得清新,並在 令人印象深刻的博學上增添了熟悉民間疾苦的感情……大有可為且熟練的處女作。──《泰晤士報文學副刊》

足堪與《智慧七柱》(Seven Pillars of Wisdom)和威福瑞.塞西格(Wilfred Thesiger)的作品並列的阿拉伯著作。──羅勃.卡佛,《蘇格蘭人》

這是一本介於嚴肅和輕鬆之間的書,也正是這樣而讓它如此有趣。──《獨立報》

一 個多采多姿的故事。──《前鋒快報》

一個機智且幽默的旅行故事。──《圖書館期刊》

【葉門:字典國度奇幻之旅-當代名家旅行文學23】 I S B N:9578278292 作 者:鄭明華譯 精平裝: 平裝本 出版社:馬可孛羅 出版日: 2000/01/03
本書的副標:「字典國度奇幻之旅」,意思是,這個國家對於作者來說,原本就像是只存在於字典之中,夢幻而遙不可及。

對於hc而言 本書有"字彙表" 相當精彩--當然內文對於阿拉伯茶的說明更詳細多多


萨那, propn, Sana'a/Capital of the Republic of Yemen

Book review

Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land

Tim Mackintosh-Smith

There is, of course, a longish and well-established tradition of Englishmen writing about Arabia, and much of it is in a similar vein. Take a romanticisation of the ‘noble bedu’, add a sense of the spiritual cleanliness of the desert, throw in a dash of half-acknowledged sexual ambiguity and ‘voila!’ - there is your cocktail, and a pretty unpalatable one it can be too.

Fortunately, Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s book is not like that at all. True, he has his prejudices- ‘the dour Saudi’, the ‘impossibly polite Levantine’ and - a recurring theme, this one, - the ‘smug Egyptian’. And like so many of the Englishmen who have engaged with the peninsula, Mackintosh-Smith manages more or less to ignore the female of the species (there is a rather self-conscious and unconvincing apologia for this near the beginning of the book). But by and large, ‘Travels in Dictionary Land’ is a compelling account of life in contemporary Yemen through the eyes of a foreigner who has decided to make the place his home. As Mackintosh-Smith himself says, the book is ‘unfashionably digressive’, but therein lies perhaps the most endearing of its various qualities.

It helps that the writer has so much promising material to deal with. For this is of course the upland ‘other Arabia’, away from the deserts and motorways and camels and shopping malls of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Without being for a moment in any way patronising, he makes it clear on every page that he is very fond of Yemen and the Yemenis - as well he might be. He is clearly a ‘qabili’ by instinct, much happier walking in the Wadi Surdud than drinking beer in Aden, but he is naturally generous and his descriptions, while retaining a healthy sense of the ridiculous, are never small-minded or carping.

Mackintosh-Smith lives in Sana’a, so it is appropriate that his Yemeni progress both starts and ends here. On both occasions, qat is much in evidence (‘in the end, though, the question of its desirability and permissibility revolves around matters of politics, taste, ethnocentrism and sectarian prejudice’ - which sums up the issue pretty neatly in my view). But the greater part of the book consists of set-piece excursions (or diversions), which taken as a whole give a remarkably full picture of Yemen and its diversity, both now and in the past. Mackintosh-Smith has a good sense of history, and learning worn lightly is another of the qualities that give the book its shape and depth. He takes us gently by the hand through the quasi-mythological genealogies of the Arabs in general and the Yemenis in particular (and I defy even the most battle-scarred Arabist of the old school to take the end of Muhammad al-Hajari’s ‘Compendium’ in his or her stride: ‘... Now, this Shayban married three wives: Mihdad the daughter of Humran ibn Bishr ibn Amr bin Murthad, who bore him Yazid; Akrashah the daughter of Hajib ibn Zurarah ibn Adas, who bore him al-Ma’mur; and Amrah the daughter of Bishr ibn Amr ibn Adas who bore him al-Maq’ad ... etc, etc).

Then, we are introduced by way of Baraqish and the Marib dam to the complexity of Yemen’s pre-Islamic history, which even if it did not quite encompass the Yemeni state in Tibet claimed by Nashwan ibn Sa’id, certainly achieved a remarkable degree of organisation and sophistication before the Roman mercantile fleet succeeded where Aelius Gallus’s legion had failed and diverted the great overland Arabian incense routes, precipitating a decline that culminated in the bursting of the dam and the demise of ‘al-Qalis’, the great Sana’a Cathedral whose site can still be seen in the souq. And next, the crucial role played by Yemeni warriors in the first breathtaking expansion of Islam, intermingling with the Berbers of North Africa and bringing down Visigothic Spain before ‘briefly occupying Bordeaux’.

Interwoven with this historical tale - the first arrival of the Ottomans, impressions recorded by the occasional European visitor - are visits to Sa’ada, the ‘architect’s city’, where in the qat souq the writer, the qat merchant and a local Jew get down to the ‘ancient rivalry of the People of the Book- trying to get the best price’, and to Shahara, where he encounters German tourists, ‘fashionably weathered by a life of smart travel destinations’ (would the author prefer his tourists unfashionable, or does he disapprove in principle, in which case what exactly is he?), and to Jabal Raymah, where he catches perfectly that exhilarating Yemeni experience of walking through clouds, and where he drinks a can of ginger beer- ‘Flavoured with chemicals resulting from decades of research, packed in al-Hudaydah under franchise from a German firm in a can made from the product of a Latin American bauxite mine, furnished with a ring-pull that was the chance brainchild of a millionaire inventor, and brought here by truck, and then donkey, for my delectation, it wasn’t nearly as refreshing as the ‘qishr’- but then doubtless those Yemenis in Bordeaux encountered some fairly complicated cultural and commercial cross-fertilisations too along the way.

If all this seems slightly incoherent or out of control, it isn’t. It is merely, as said, digressive. Mackintosh-Smith is skilled at taking a place or an event and using it as a peg on which to hang all manner of fascinating and improbable detail. A visit to Wadi Dahr is the occasion, naturally enough, for a brief history of and meditation on the ‘gorgeous and disorderly’ Imamate and its overthrow (while he is doubtless an impeccable Sana’ani in all other respects, I suspect Mackintosh-Smith harbours a certain romantic sympathy, and I would not want to put it any stronger, for these intriguing if bloodstained despots). Gradually, the outside world began to intrude. The author relates the reaction of a Court historian, one Isma’il al-Washali: "Some (new inventions) he was able to see for himself, like the telegraph, which on one occasion brought word of the destruction, by a comet, of two cities of India whose people are infidels. They are cities of Amrika in the land of the Franks’. The wireless telegraph arrived soon after: al-Washali suggests that it works by means of mirrors ... Other inventions are reported second-hand, like the ‘land steamer’ on the Hejaz Railway, and the ‘steamer which flies in the air’- two were brought down during fighting between the Ottomans and the British near Aden, ‘perhaps with a magnet’." Here, we have the fascinating and authentic voice of one civilisation encountering another, of worlds in collision.

Interestingly, perhaps, given his particular affection for the mountainside tribal culture of northern Yemen, Mackintosh-Smith has particularly interesting things to say about the two places in Yemen perhaps most remote from it, and by no means only in the geographical sense: the Hadhramawt and Socotra. The Hadhramawt, with its ‘palazzos of the merchant sayyids’, its lore of ‘priapic-Oedipal’ activities and with the ‘cities of the imagination’, Ad and Thamud, just beyond, is generally acknowledged to be a place that gets under one’s skin, but here one senses that Mackintosh-Smith is a visitor too, which is not the case in most of the other parts of Yemen he describes. And this is even more the case in Socotra, scarcely less remote than Waq Waq, ‘the Arab Ultima Thule’; a fabulous island of dragons and phoenixes and weird plants and trees that the British apparently once considered as an adjunct to the Jewish state in Palestine. Nominally Christian for several centuries in the past and briefly occupied by the Portuguese (the writer meets a woman ‘unveiled and handsome in a strikingly Iberian way - the sort of woman you might run into in a smart Lisbon department store’) and now claimed by whatever currently passes for the government of Somalia, Socotra is in every sense the end of Yemen, both in fact and in the author’s mind.

Travels in Dictionary Land is therefore not merely a book about Yemen, but about how one person has come to find contentment there, despite the vicissitudes of civil war and violence, and despite those aspects of daily life in Yemen which make one realise how precarious life itself can be. That is why it does not actually matter a great deal whether anyone has ever really called Tim Mackintosh-Smith ‘Sheikh of the Nazarenes’, or even whether he really did come across a young boy in the Sana’a souq wearing his own old prep school blazer, complete with tell-tale inkstain on the inside pocket. These stories feel right, which speaks for itself.

Reviewed by Dominic Simpson

1 則留言:

hanching chung 提到...

阿拉伯菸茶khat:謹奉如下茶
Khat ( Catha edulis Forsk), pronounced "cot" and also known as qat, gat, tschat, and miraa, is a plant used for centuries in parts of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There, chewing khat predates the use of coffee and is used in a similar social context. Its fresh leaves and tops are chewed or, less frequently, dried and consumed as tea, in order to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation. Due to the availability of rapid, inexpensive air transportation, the drug has been reported in London, Rome, Amsterdam, Canada, and the United States. The public has become more aware of this exotic drug through media reports pertaining to the United Nations mission in Somalia, where khat use is endemic, and its role in the Persian Gulf. The khat plant is known by a variety of names, such as qat in Yemen; tschat in Ethiopia, and miraa in Kenya.

In 1980 the World Health Organization classified khat as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychic dependence.--(From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia)

詳見:http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/khat

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