BOOK REPORT: Winesburg, Ohio | Sherwood Anderson

     Winesburg, Ohio, great.

     Sherwood Anderson, great.

     Winesburg, Ohio, published in 1919, is defined a masterpiece of Sherwood Anderson and also world’s finest literature. This is not about boasting or following the suit. The tales and persons are vividly portrayed, imagined though, in a perfect way.

     There are 21 short stories totally. I would rather not say that it’s a collection of short stories concentrated on different people and different personalities, but a novel which is essentially made up of several short stories that are appeared independently while connected somehow.

     I was impressed, first of all, by his good command of English. The description of the appearance, characteristics, utterance of people is way to amazing which is the result of his keen observation. According to a letter Anderson wrote to his novelist friend, he had made “a serious of intensive studies of people in his hometown and there is a sad note running through them. One or two of them get pretty closely down to ugly things of life.”

     In Chapter II, Hands, Anderson exerted his efforts to portray the hands just like the way he did to a person. Wing Biddlebaum, the major character, was talked about, mocked, remembered for that pair of hands which like a signature of him that he hated and blamed. “The man was bald and his nervous little hands fiddles about the bare white forehead as though arranging a mass of tangled locks.” The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hand. “The slender expressive fingers, forever active, forever striving to conceal themselves in his pockets or behind his back, came forth and became the piston rods of his machinery of expression.” More miserable, “their restless activity, like unto the beating of the wings of an imprisoned bird, had given him his name. Some obscure poet of the town had thought of it.” What a tragedy! Linguistically speaking, the power to name implies the power to control. I have read this several times and every time I read it a strong feeling of anxiety and grief strikes me. There is a deep fear in this man. It is the fear that made his life miserable and more. The tragedy did not linger. It spreads to his whole life and captured him like a nightmare. But there was a moment that for once he forgot the hands. “You must try to forget all you have learned. You must begin to dream. From this time on you must shut your ears to the roaring of the voices.” He is the one that shut the door to get relief for himself.

        “Upon the veranda of his house by the ravine, Wing Biddlebaum continued   to walk up and down until the sun had disappeared and the road beyond the field was lost in the grey shadows. Going into his house he cut slices of bread and spread honey upon them. When the rumble of the evening train that took away the express cars loaded with the day’s harvest of berries had passed and restored the silence of the summer night, he went again to walk upon veranda. In the darkness he could not see the hands and they become quiet. Although he still hungered for the presence of the boy, who was the medium through which he expressed his love of man, the hunger became again a part of his loneliness and his waiting. Lighting a lamp, Wing Biddlebaum washed the few dishes soiled by his simple meal and, setting up a folding cot by the screen door that led to the porch, prepared to undress for the night. A few stray white bread crumbs lay on the cleanly washed floor by the table; putting the lamp upon a low stool he began to pick up the crumbs, carring them to his mouth one by one with unbelievable rapidity. In the dense blotch of light beneath the table, the kneeling figure looked like a priest engaged in some service of his church. The nervous expressive fingers, flashing in and out of the light, might well have been mistaken for the fingers of the devotee going swiftly through decade after decade of his rosary.”

     “在靠近山涧的房屋前廊,飞翼手比德•鲍姆来回徘徊不停,直到夕阳消逝了,田野那边的道 路隐没在灰色的阴影里。走进屋子,他切了几片面包,涂上蜂蜜。晚间的火车载着全天收获的浆果,隆隆地驶去,夏天的夜晚恢复了宁静,他再一次走到游廊上。黑 暗中,他无法看见自己的手,它们也保持着安静。他依然渴望着少年的到来,通过这个中介他才能表达对人类的热爱,可是这盼望再一次成为他的孤独和期待的一部 分。点亮油灯,飞翼手比德•鲍姆清洗了简单的晚餐弄脏的几只盘子,然后把折叠床安放在通向走廊的纱门背后,准备脱衣就寝。桌子旁整洁的地板上撒着一些面包 屑,他把油灯移到一张矮凳上,检起面包屑,以让人难以相信的速度丢到自己嘴里。在桌子底下的一束束光斑中,他跪着的身体像极了教堂里正在祈祷的牧师。紧张 挥舞着的手指在光线中出没,极容易被人们误解为某个虔诚的人正迅速地一个个数着手中的念珠。”
     This is the very last paragraph of “Hands”, and I regard it as a sketch of the whole life of the character, Wing Biddlebaum.

     It is always truly acknowledge for me that a good work is like a allegory. No matter how tiny a molecules, it is meantime a vast world.

     I think that “小镇畸人” is a very good translation for Winesburg, Ohio. Most characters in Winesburg, Ohio are portrayed in a moment of crisis. They are repeatedly driven by sudden impulses and overwhelmed by strange compulsions that can be neither mastered nor understood. The prevailing mood—expressed in a colloquial and lyrical style—is one of misunderstanding and loneliness, restlessness, dissatisfaction and disillusionment. Anderson boldly depicts the destructive passions that swirl beneath the apparently calm surface which is opposite to the traditionally idyllic portrayal of small-town life.

     “That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such a thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.”

     “起初,世界年轻的时候,有许许多多的思想,但没有真理这东西。人自己创造真理,而每一个真理都是许多模糊思想的混合物。全世界到处是真理,而真理通通是美 丽的。一个人一旦为自己掌握一个真理,称之为他的真理,并且努力依此真理过他的生活时,他便变成畸人,他拥抱的真理便变成虚妄。”

     The so-called “Grotesques” include everyone of us, I assume.

     And I dare not to read it too many times, for once is enough to ensure myself not forgetting.



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