張新穎還談到了做學問並非是一種消耗。“如果學問做得足夠好，就會滋養人的生命和精神，” 張新穎表示。1975年以後的一段時間，沈從文在體力和精神上特別充沛，常常一天只睡兩三個小時，不感到疲倦，心情也很輕快。沈從文對此自己分析道，人千萬年發展下來，把聰明才智多用在對付人的得失競爭上，紛爭不已，顧此失彼，把原始人的嗅覺、視覺、聽覺，甚至於綜合分析能力，都壓抑下去了。可以設法恢復已失去的能力，人有極大的潛力可以發掘。“他從人類的進化 / 退化來反思，從個人的退出——從人事紛爭的發展習慣上退出——來實踐，以‘忘我’來恢復‘潛伏能力’，聽起來似乎無比迂闊，事實上在他個人卻是生命更上一層的親證和體驗，” 張新穎說。*****
去年在紐約的時候我見過一次漢學家金介甫(Jeffrey C.Kinkley)，他是《沈從文傳》(The Odyssey of Shen Congwen)的作者。1977年金介甫以《沈從文筆下的中國》獲得哈佛大學博士學位，後來經過幾次擴充，成為公認最為詳盡的沈從文傳記。
沈從文是發自內心想改造自我。《沈從文的後半生》里寫到1949年9月，沈從文給妻子張兆和寫信，說自己在把「一隻大而且舊的船作調頭努力，扭過來了」，後來他寫詩，又說自己「已得到一個完全新生」。但一個人無法全情投入自己本就懷疑的狂熱，所以在毛澤東登上城樓那天，沈從文完成長詩《黃昏和午夜》：「城樓上大鐘大鼓灰塵蒙蒙/沉沒喑啞相對 已半個世紀./帝國封建的種種,早成傳說故事,/慢慢在時間下退盡顏色,/惟剩餘點滴片段,保留在老人記憶中,/當作生命遲暮的慰藉。」與之對比的是，詩人何其芳在幾乎完全相同的時間段里，寫了《我們最偉大的節日》：「是如此巨大的國家的誕生， 是經過了如此長期的苦痛 而又如此歡樂的誕生， 就不能不象暴風雨一樣打擊着敵人， 象雷一樣發出震動世界的聲音......」沈從文沒法和自己的情感世界做這樣徹底的告別，他的確努力把船調頭，但是撞上暗礁，他失敗了，所以在如火如荼的1949年之後，他停止了文學創作，埋進出土文物的汪洋大海，只有這個世界讓他感覺安全。根據 2003年陝西師範大學出版社《沈從文晚年口述》的記錄，沈從文反反覆復強調自己沒有資格談文學，「我的寫作應該說是失敗了」，因為自己「沒有生活」，在那個時刻，可怕的不是整個世界都不知道他的價值，而是他自己也不知道，他以為自己早就過時。
瑞典漢學家馬悅然(Goran Malmqvist)曾經公開說過，1987年沈從文進入了諾獎評選的最後名單，但那一年得獎的人是詩人約瑟夫·布羅茨基（Joseph Brodsky)。布羅茨基做了一個名為《美學高於倫理》的受獎演說詞：「個人的美學經驗愈豐富，他的趣味愈堅定，他的道德選擇就愈準確，他就愈自由——儘管他有可能愈不幸。」沈從文沒有說過這樣的話，但這也如同他的人生。早在1930年代蔡元培提出「以美育代替宗教」的口號時，沈從文就為這條口號加上附款：「也要代替政治」。在1949年前夕，革命吸引不了他，他喜歡的那些詞語，是美感、博愛、道德、自由與和平。因為美應該凌駕一切，沈從文和布羅茨基一樣，並不願意展示自己的苦難，在布羅茨基流亡美國後，他從來不願意提及蘇聯以社會寄生蟲的罪名對他進行指控，判處他去俄羅斯北方勞改的經歷，他還在課堂上建議自己的學生要不惜一切代價避免賦予自己受害者的地位。沈從文並不這樣清晰地論證道理，但他總有一種直覺，在1980年訪美的三個半月里，他做了23場講座，明知聽眾更希望聽到他個人的經歷，那些關於苦難的證詞，但他的講座依然一半關於文學，一半關於文物，通通關於美。這才是沈從文的靈魂所在，和它們比起來，苦難並非那樣重要。
Shen Congwen, 85, a Champion Of Freedom for Writers in China
By EDWARD A. GARGAN, Special to the New York Times
Published: May 13, 1988
BEIJING, May 12— Shen Congwen, a novelist, short-story writer, lyricist and passionate champion of literary and intellectual independence, died Tuesday in Beijing, his relatives reported. He was 85 years old.
Although almost entirely unknown to Western readers, Mr. Shen's oeuvre, much of it embued with the folklore and customs of his native western Hunan, has been compared to that of William Faulkner.
One of the first films from China to be released commercially in the United States, ''Girl From Hunan,'' which opened in New York in March, was based on ''Xiao Xiao,'' a novel by Mr. Shen.
Denounced by the Communists and Nationalists alike, Mr. Shen saw his writings banned in Taiwan, while mainland publishing houses burned his books and destroyed printing plates for his novels. Ranked With Chekhov
So successful was the effort to erase Mr. Shen's name from the modern literary record that few younger Chinese today recognize his name, much less the breadth of his work. Only since 1978 has the Chinese Government reissued selections of his writings, although in editions of only a few thousand copies.
''Shen's masterpieces rank with Chekhov's,'' wrote Jeffrey C. Kinkley, a professor of Asian studies at St. John's University in New York and the leading American authority on Mr. Shen. ''Shen Congwen looms large in the history of Chinese literature not because he wrote an unusually monumental work but, on the contrary, because his contributions to literature were so diverse and pervasive.''
He was born Shen Yuehuan on Dec. 28, 1902, near the town of Fenghuang, in the western mountains of Hunan Province. His father was a failed military officer and writer who mismanaged and lost his family wealth. Influenced by China in 1920's
In his teens, Mr. Shen tried his hand at soldiering although the corrupt character of the military eventually repelled him and he gravitated toward an idealized notion of the literary life, adopting the name Congwen, meaning dedicated to culture.
Mr. Shen was influenced by the ferment in China's literary world in the early 1920's. He wrote exuberant if undisciplined poetry exploring nature, and one-act farces skewering modern social conventions.
He developed a preoccupation with sexual themes during these early years, a focus often criticized by Communist writers decades later. First Major Work in 1932
As he developed as a writer, his work concentrated increasingly on the mores of the people in western Hunan. ''Ultimately,'' Mr. Kinkley wrote, ''he conveyed a sense of his country folk as a moral community sitting in judgment of modern China.''
In 1932, he published ''Fengzi,'' his first major work, a psychological novel. ''Long River,'' thought by many literary critics to be his finest novel, appeared in 1943 and, according to Mr. Kinkley, ''presents Shen's most vivid, observant and extended scenes of country life.''
It was then, however, that his political problems began. A Communist intellectual described Mr. Shen as a reactionary. Mr. Shen agreed to take political classes, a process that led to his being forced to write a confession exposing his alleged failures. Into a Life of Study
His publisher announced in 1953 that his books were being burned and the printing plates destroyed. Mr. Shen retreated into a life of study and some writing, much of it devoted to antiquities and design. He published a respected study on bronze mirrors of the Tang and Song Dynasties.
In the political turmoil that swirled around intellectuals from the late 1950's until the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, Mr. Shen cleaned toilets, attended political indoctrination courses and tried, unsuccessfully, he said, to write fiction.
In 1978, he was freed to write what he wished, but by this time his age prevented an aggressive return to writing. He visited the United States briefly in 1980 and returned to China to live in a spacious apartment provided by the Government in belated recognition of his contributions to 20th-century Chinese literature.
''I have a rule,'' Mr. Shen declared in 1980. ''Once people are promoted to high office, I no longer seek to have social intercourse with them.'' He remained true to his rule, living quietly and attended by his son and wife until his death. In China, his passing was unreported.
An Expert on Loss
By Jonathan Spence
Published: December 17, 1995
IMPERFECT PARADISE By Shen Congwen. Edited by Jeffrey Kinkley. Translated by Jeffrey Kinkley, Peter Li, William MacDonald, Caroline Mason and David Pollard. 537 pp. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. $42.
THIS has been a hard century for China's writers. Dynastic collapse, civil war, Japanese invasion and the insistent pressures of dictatorial one-party governments have formed their political contexts. Their own once-hallowed language, with its rich traditions and endless subtleties, has been subject to constant assault and reconfiguration in the name of accessibility and modernity. Groping for order in the chaos, they have had to adjust their styles to the cadences of ordinary speech, and at the same time to absorb a bewildering mass of new foreign influences and concepts. As the century nears its end, only a handful among them can be clearly seen to have had a creative center so strong that they could overcome these challenges, forging a unified and enduring body of truly rich and original work. Among them is Shen Congwen.
Shen was born in the western part of Hunan province in 1902, to a family with military traditions going back several generations. The region in which he grew up was an area of wild rivers, hills and forests, a place where little influence from the newly emerging east coast urban centers had yet penetrated. After a brief stint in a local military academy, Shen was assigned at the age of 15 to a regiment stationed in a Hunan country town; there he performed mainly clerical work.
The regiment's supposed task was to keep the peace and cleanse the surrounding areas of bandits, but military action was sporadic, and Shen had ample time to observe the minutiae of garrison life, as well as the soldiers' responses to the civilians among whom they were stationed. He also noted carefully the rhythms of life of the Tujia and Miao tribal peoples who farmed, fished and hunted in the surrounding countryside. And he read voraciously: not only Chinese traditional and modern works but foreign literature in translation. By 1922, after some years of wandering, he settled in Beijing, determined to be a writer. By 1935 he had already completed 35 volumes of work: short stories, essays, vignettes, novels and transcriptions of Miao songs and rural tales.
Shen is unusual among major 20th-century Chinese writers in his refusal to be political. If politics impinge at all on his work, it is only to set the scene, and the details are always left hazy. What absorbs him, as can be seen so well in this new collection of translations, is human dignity and genuine emotion -- the ways that men and women are capable of responding to each other, and the ways that those responses relate to their culture's past and present.
This is not a naive rustic utopianism, as the book's editor, Jeffrey Kinkley (the leading expert in the West on the work of Shen Congwen and the translator of a number of the entries in this volume), makes clear in his choice of a title, "Imperfect Paradise." Shen's bygone world of western Hunan does look like paradise, and both the tribal peoples and the Han Chinese who live there are often of startling strength and physical beauty, and unsullied by the corruption that seeps across China from the eastern cities. But the inhabitants of this remote countryside are also capable of extraordinary violence and cruelty, and their stoicism can be so blinkered that at times it becomes indistinguishable from stupidity, causing irreparable damage to themselves and to those they most dearly love.
Shen Congwen is an expert on loss. This can be seen in many of his finest stories. "The Husband," for example, is a powerful and absorbing account of a married woman from the country who helps support her family by working in a brothel boat moored on a riverbank outside a market town. Here the loss is apparent in the face and gestures -- even in the cramped and uneasy sleep -- of the woman's husband as he comes on a rare visit to see her, and finds that he too must wait his turn. In "Guisheng," another simple countryman is partly done out of his chance for a lifetime's happiness by the superior wealth of the local elite family, but it is mainly his own gullibility and stubbornness that cause his ruin. "Sansan" features one of the most lyrically etched adolescent girls in Shen's fiction, a heroine who endures a double loss -- of her work in a mill, with its tranquil pond, and of the imagined love of an ailing man from the city. In "The Vegetable Garden," a widowed mother who has created her own ordered world through hard work and skill sees her only son snatched away by an incomprehensible act of official violence.
There is no doubt that Shen is a man who loves women, and he describes them in many ages, moods and modes. Their worlds of strength and dignity are most effectively contrasted with those of the men around them in the group of stories that draw on Shen's army and garrison-town experience. Especially in "Staff Adviser," written in 1935, he shows absolute mastery in contrasting the fleshly greed of the title character (as he gleefully gobbles down his noontime meal of stewed bull penis, cabbage soup and Scotch whisky) with the largely unseen world of the man's pregnant wife and child. This story, along with "My Education," written in 1929, gives perhaps the best descriptions extant of garrison and warlord life in China. In "The Company Commander," written in 1927 at the beginning of Shen's greatest creative decade and translated here with the skill and sensitivity shown throughout the collection, the military world is drawn together into the world of loss -- "passive, helpless, possessive" -- with an extraordinary economy and freshness.
At one point in the story, yielding to the entreaties of his mistress, an officer reluctantly remains with her through a snow-filled evening rather than return to camp:
"Deprived of drink, the company commander regarded the outline of the woman, now turned away from him, by the light of the faint blue flames of the brazier beside him; he still uttered no word. Then out of boredom he swept together the husks of the peanuts and chestnuts on his lap, on the table and from beside the brazier and strewed them on top of the burning charcoal. First they smoked and crackled, then burst all together into roaring flames. In this blaze the company commander could see that the woman's face was streaked with tears. Nodding his head, close shaven in army style, he said husk ily he would obey her order and not go back to the barracks."
As any fine writer must, Shen experimented by describing situations and moods that were outside his ordinary realm. It is to Mr. Kinkley's credit that he includes stories that are not always successful but show Shen's varied attempts to move beyond the depictions of rural, tribal and army life for which he was best known. These include "Quiet," which tracks the thoughts of a teen-age girl, a refugee in the countryside, as she looks after her little nephew and waits for her father to come back to her; "The Housewife" and "Gazing at Rainbows," which depict the anomie of an uneasy marriage and the varied worlds of erotic stimulation within a relationship; and several stories that in different ways illuminate or parody the mental and sensual worlds of university professors, whose ranks Shen himself eventually joined as a teacher of literature.
IN the 1935 story "Big Ruan and Little Ruan," Shen is overtly satirical as he sketches the school days and subsequent careers of two young men in republican China. Each joins one of the two groups into which the schoolboys have divided themselves, the Gentleman's Society and the Cudgel Club; these titles and the values they express stay with the young men as one becomes an amoral bounder, the other an amoral political activist. This is one of the few Shen Congwen stories that deal with political issues, and Little Ruan is perhaps one of the least sympathetic radicals in the 20th-century literature of any country. Cadging money from his landlord father so he can pay the rent on his garret, planning to "strike down this, abolish that," Little Ruan "ridiculed conservatism and sneered at compromise, so the life style from his days at school and in Shanghai continued developing in the new environment." But when Big Ruan hears indirectly that Little Ruan has starved to death in prison after a hunger strike, Shen joins with Big Ruan in an uncharacteristic reflection:
"He was very happy, and that was enough. In these strange times, many people looking for happiness fall down in silence and are gone forever. Others, among the living, tend to think that they live happily and that raising a family and being successful in everything makes them the backbone of society -- indispensable to it. Especially those like Big Ruan."
Shen wrote little fiction after the Japanese invasion of 1937, and though he stayed on in China under the Communists, he ceased fiction writing altogether. After enduring many "struggle sessions" on the ground that he was a "pro-bourgeois" writer, as well as a period of "thought reform" and an attempt at suicide, Shen found a kind of release by working in the Palace Museum in Beijing. Before his death in 1988, he wrote a distinguished history of Chinese textile design through the ages and a careful study of archaic bronze mirrors. These scholarly works have their virtues, but it is for the mirror that he held up to his own youthful world that Shen Congwen will be remembered.