精緻的英文 - 馮睎乾

蘋果日報 2017/06/05 00:00


錢鍾書的英文,今天很多有識之士不太欣賞,他們並非說錢先生識字少,或文法錯,而是嫌他習語多,欠自然,常拋書包,令人難以卒讀。然而這種批評針對的,不是英語水平,是文章風格。錢先生有篇散文〈Apropos of the “Shanghai Man”〉(〈關於「上海人」〉),有句嘲諷上海人有錢萬事足:「Mammon is in Heaven and all's right with the world!」Mammon指錢神,顯而易見,但若你同時看到這是脫胎自白朗寧詩「God's in His heaven—/All's right with the world!」,自會更佩服錢先生文思。另一句:「Like the poet, the "Shanghai Man" is born, not made.」熟悉西方文學者必看得出,錢先生用的典是拉丁文諺語「Poeta nascitur, non fit」。又一句:「I know many persons who have spent twenty or thirty years in Shanghai and yet remained to the end strangers in a strange land.」末五字來自〈出埃及記〉「a stranger in a strange land」,見《英王欽定本聖經》。隨便舉例,已見錢氏英文的精緻,而他寫時只是廿四歲。好的英語,標準由誰定呢?海明威淺白,喬伊斯晦澀,同是大師。錢先生英文用典雖多,可當時的文人學者,只賞其博雅,不覺其生僻。百年過去,這些文字古董還有多少知音?