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第六卷不眠之夜 第04章“不死的肝脏”

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CHAPTER IV THE IMMORTAL LIVER[68]


[68] In allusion to the story of Prometheus.

The old and formidable struggle, of which we have already witnessed so many phases, began once more.

Jacob struggled with the angel but one night. Alas! How many times have we beheld Jean Valjean seized bodily by his conscience, in the darkness, and struggling desperately against it!

Unheard-of conflict! At certain moments the foot slips; at other moments the ground crumbles away underfoot. How many times had that conscience, mad for the good, clasped and overthrown him! How many times had the truth set her knee inexorably upon his breast! How many times, hurled to earth by the light, had he begged for mercy! How many times had that implacable spark, lighted within him, and upon him by the Bishop, dazzled him by force when he had wished to be blind! How many times had he risen to his feet in the combat, held fast to the rock, leaning against sophism, dragged in the dust, now getting the upper hand of his conscience, again overthrown by it! How many times, after an equivoque, after the specious and treacherous reasoning of egotism, had he heard his irritated conscience cry in his ear: "A trip! You wretch!" How many times had his refractory thoughts rattled convulsively in his throat, under the evidence of duty! Resistance to God. Funereal sweats. What secret wounds which he alone felt bleed! What excoriations in his lamentable existence! How many times he had risen bleeding, bruised, broken, enlightened, despair in his heart, serenity in his soul! and, vanquished, he had felt himself the conqueror. And, after having dislocated, broken, and rent his conscience with red-hot pincers, it had said to him, as it stood over him, formidable, luminous, and tranquil: "Now, go in peace!"

But on emerging from so melancholy a conflict, what a lugubrious peace, alas!

Nevertheless, that night Jean Valjean felt that he was passing through his final combat.

A heart-rending question presented itself.

Predestinations are not all direct; they do not open out in a straight avenue before the predestined man; they have blind courts, impassable alleys, obscure turns, disturbing crossroads offering the choice of many ways. Jean Valjean had halted at that moment at the most perilous of these crossroads.

He had come to the supreme crossing of good and evil. He had that gloomy intersection beneath his eyes. On this occasion once more, as had happened to him already in other sad vicissitudes, two roads opened out before him, the one tempting, the other alarming.

Which was he to take?

He was counselled to the one which alarmed him by that mysterious index finger which we all perceive whenever we fix our eyes on the darkness.

Once more, Jean Valjean had the choice between the terrible port and the smiling ambush.

Is it then true? the soul may recover; but not fate. Frightful thing! An incurable destiny!

This is the problem which presented itself to him:

In what manner was Jean Valjean to behave in relation to the happiness of Cosette and Marius? It was he who had willed that happiness, it was he who had brought it about; he had, himself, buried it in his entrails, and at that moment, when he reflected on it, he was able to enjoy the sort of satisfaction which an armorer would experience on recognizing his factory mark on a knife, on withdrawing it, all smoking, from his own breast.

Cosette had Marius, Marius possessed Cosette. They had everything, even riches. And this was his doing.

But what was he, Jean Valjean, to do with this happiness, now that it existed, now that it was there? Should he force himself on this happiness? Should he treat it as belonging to him? No doubt, Cosette did belong to another; but should he, Jean Valjean, retain of Cosette all that he could retain? Should he remain the sort of father, half seen but respected, which he had hitherto been? Should he, without saying a word, bring his past to that future? Should he present himself there, as though he had a right, and should he seat himself, veiled, at that luminous fireside? Should he take those innocent hands into his tragic hands, with a smile? Should he place upon the peaceful fender of the Gillenormand drawing-room those feet of his, which dragged behind them the disgraceful shadow of the law? Should he enter into participation in the fair fortunes of Cosette and Marius? Should he render the obscurity on his brow and the cloud upon theirs still more dense? Should he place his catastrophe as a third associate in their felicity? Should he continue to hold his peace? In a word, should he be the sinister mute of destiny beside these two happy beings?

We must have become habituated to fatality and to encounters with it, in order to have the daring to raise our eyes when certain questions appear to us in all their horrible nakedness. Good or evil stands behind this severe interrogation point. What are you going to do? Demands the sphinx.

This habit of trial Jean Valjean possessed. He gazed intently at the sphinx.

He examined the pitiless problem under all its aspects.

Cosette, that charming existence, was the raft of this shipwreck. What was he to do? To cling fast to it, or to let go his hold?

If he clung to it, he should emerge from disaster, he should ascend again into the sunlight, he should let the bitter water drip from his garments and his hair, he was saved, he should live.

And if he let go his hold?

Then the abyss.

Thus he took sad council with his thoughts. Or, to speak more correctly, he fought; he kicked furiously internally, now against his will, now against his conviction.

Happily for Jean Valjean that he had been able to weep. That relieved him, possibly. But the beginning was savage. A tempest, more furious than the one which had formerly driven him to Arras, broke loose within him. The past surged up before him facing the present; he compared them and sobbed. The silence of tears once opened, the despairing man writhed.

He felt that he had been stopped short.

Alas! in this fight to the death between our egotism and our duty, when we thus retreat step by step before our immutable ideal, bewildered, furious, exasperated at having to yield, disputing the ground, hoping for a possible flight, seeking an escape, what an abrupt and sinister resistance does the foot of the wall offer in our rear!

To feel the sacred shadow which forms an obstacle!

The invisible inexorable, what an obsession!

Then, one is never done with conscience. Make your choice, Brutus; make your choice, Cato. It is fathomless, since it is God. One flings into that well the labor of one's whole life, one flings in one's fortune, one flings in one's riches, one flings in one's success, one flings in one's liberty or fatherland, one flings in one's well-being, one flings in one's repose, one flings in one's joy! More! More! More! Empty the vase! Tip the urn! One must finish by flinging in one's heart.

Somewhere in the fog of the ancient hells, there is a tun like that.

Is not one pardonable, if one at last refuses! Can the inexhaustible have any right? Are not chains which are endless above human strength? Who would blame Sisyphus and Jean Valjean for saying: "It is enough!"

The obedience of matter is limited by friction; is there no limit to the obedience of the soul? If perpetual motion is impossible, can perpetual self-sacrifice be exacted?

The first step is nothing, it is the last which is difficult. What was the Champmathieu affair in comparison with Cosette's marriage and of that which it entailed? What is are-entrance into the galleys, compared to entrance into the void?

Oh, first step that must be descended, how sombre art thou! Oh, second step, how black art thou!

How could he refrain from turning aside his head this time?

Martyrdom is sublimation, corrosive sublimation. It is a torture which consecrates. One can consent to it for the first hour; one seats oneself on the throne of glowing iron, one places on one's head the crown of hot iron, one accepts the globe of red hot iron, one takes the sceptre of red hot iron, but the mantle of flame still remains to be donned, and comes there not a moment when the miserable flesh revolts and when one abdicates from suffering?

At length, Jean Valjean entered into the peace of exhaustion.

He weighed, he reflected, he considered the alternatives, the mysterious balance of light and darkness.

Should he impose his galleys on those two dazzling children, or should he consummate his irremediable engulfment by himself? On one side lay the sacrifice of Cosette, on the other that of himself.

At what solution should he arrive? What decision did he come to?

What resolution did he take? What was his own inward definitive response to the unbribable interrogatory of fatality? What door did he decide to open? Which side of his life did he resolve upon closing and condemning? Among all the unfathomable precipices which surrounded him, which was his choice? What extremity did he accept? To which of the gulfs did he nod his head?

His dizzy revery lasted all night long.

He remained there until daylight, in the same attitude, bent double over that bed, prostrate beneath the enormity of fate, crushed, perchance, alas! With clenched fists, with arms outspread at right angles, like a man crucified who has been un-nailed, and flung face down on the earth. There he remained for twelve hours, the twelve long hours of a long winter's night, ice-cold, without once raising his head, and without uttering a word. He was as motionless as a corpse, while his thoughts wallowed on the earth and soared, now like the hydra, now like the eagle. Any one to behold him thus motionless would have pronounced him dead; all at once he shuddered convulsively, and his mouth, glued to Cosette's garments, kissed them; then it could be seen that he was alive.

Who could see? Since Jean Valjean was alone, and there was no one there.

The One who is in the shadows.


四 “不死的肝脏”①


①“不死的肝脏”,原文为拉丁文“ImmortaleJecur”。普罗米修斯因窃天火给人类,被钉在高加索山的悬崖上,宙斯每天叫一只大鹰啄食他的肝脏,到了夜晚啄食掉的肝脏又恢复原状。

以往可怕的搏斗,我们曾见过好几个回合,现在又开始了。

雅各和天使只搏斗了一宵。可叹的是,我们见到多少次冉阿让在黑暗中被自己的良心所擒,不顾死活地和它搏斗。

闻所未闻的恶斗!有时是失足滑脱,有时是土地塌陷。这颗狂热追求正义的良心多少次把他箍紧而压服!多少次,这个不可逃避的真理,用膝盖压住他的胸膛!多少次,他被光明打翻在地,大声求饶!多少次,主教在他身上,在他内心点燃的这个铁面无私的光明,在他希望看不见时,却照得他眼都发花!多少次,他在斗争中重新站起来,抓住岩石,依仗诡辩,在尘埃里打滚,有时他把良心压在身下,有时又被良心打翻!多少次,在支吾其辞、在以自私为出发点的一种背叛的似是而非的推论之后,他听见愤怒的良心在他耳边狂呼:“阴谋家!无耻!”多少次,他执拗的思想在无可否认的职责前痉挛地辗转不安!对上帝的抗拒。悲伤的流汗。多少暗伤,只有他自己感到仍在流血!他悲惨的一生中有过多少伤痛!多少次他重新站了起来,鲜血淋淋,受了致命伤,碰到挫折,于是恍然大悟,心里绝望,灵魂却宁静了!他虽然失败,但却感到胜利了。他的良心使他四肢脱臼,受到百般折磨,筋断骨折之后,就站在他上面,令人望而生畏,这良心光芒四射,在安详地向他说:“现在,平安无事了!”

但经过这样一场沉痛的搏斗之后,唉!这是多么凄惨的一种平安!

然而这一夜,冉阿让感到他打的是最后一仗。

一个使人心碎的问题出现了。

天命不是一直都是笔直的,它们在命运已经注定的人面前展开的不是一条直的路;有绝路、死胡同①、黑暗的拐弯、令人焦急的多岔道的交叉路口。冉阿让此刻正停留在这样一个最危险的交叉路口上。

①死胡同,原文为拉丁文cacums。

他已到了最重要的一个善恶交叉的路口。这个暗中的交叉点就在他眼前。这次和以往在痛苦的波折里一样,两条路出现在他面前,一条诱惑他,另一条使他惊骇。究竟走哪一条路呢?

一条可怕的路是,当我们注视黑暗时,就能见到一个神秘的手指在指引着。

冉阿让又一次要在可怕的避风港和诱人的陷阱这两者之间作出选择。

据说灵魂能痊愈而命运则不能。难道这话是真的?多么可怕的事,一个无法挽救的命运!

出现的问题是这样的:

对于珂赛特和马吕斯的幸福冉阿让应抱什么态度?这一幸福是他愿意的,是他一手造成的,是他用尽心血使之实现的,此刻望着这个成果,他感到的满意,正如一个铸剑师看见从他胸口拔出来的热气腾腾的刀上,有自己铸造的标记。

珂赛特有了马吕斯,马吕斯占有了珂赛特。他们应有尽有,也不缺财富。这都是他一手造成的。

但这个幸福,现在既已存在,并且就在眼前,他冉阿让将如何对待?他是否硬要进入这一幸福中去?是否把它看成是属于他的呢?珂赛特当然已归另一个人,但他冉阿让还能保持他和珂赛特间一切能保持的关系吗?和以往一样当作一个偶尔见见面但受到敬重的父亲?他能泰然进入珂赛特的家里去吗?他能一言不发,把他的过去带到这未来的生活中去吗?他是否感到有权进去,并且戴着面罩,坐在这个光明的家庭里?他是否能含着笑用他悲惨的双手来和纯洁的孩子们握手呢?他能把带着法律上不名誉的黑影的双脚放在吉诺曼客厅中安静的壁炉柴架上吗?他能这么进去同珂赛特和马吕斯分享好运吗?他是否要把自己额上的黑影加深并使他们额上的乌云也加厚?他要把他的灾祸搀杂在他们两人的幸福里吗?继续隐瞒下去吗?总之一句话,在这两个幸运儿身旁,他将是命运阴森的哑巴?

当有些可怕的问题赤裸裸地暴露在我们面前时,必须对无数和一系列厄运感到习惯我们才敢正视这些问题。善或恶就在这严厉的问号后面。你打算怎么办呢?斯芬克司在问他。

冉阿让惯于接受这些考验,他目不转睛地看着斯芬克司。

他从各个方面去考虑这个残酷的问题。

珂赛特,这个可爱的生命,是沉溺者得救的木筏。怎么办?

抓紧它,还是松手?

如果抓紧,他可以脱离灾难,又回到阳光下,他可以使苦水从衣服和头发里流干净,他就得救了,他就能活了。

松手吗?

那就是深渊。

他痛苦地和思想协商。或者说得准确一点,他在斗争;拳打脚踢,怒火冲天,内心里有时反对自己的意愿,有时反对自己的信心。

痛哭对冉阿让来说是一种幸福。这样可能使他清醒。但开始时相当猛烈。一阵汹涌的波涛比过去把他推向阿拉斯时还更强烈,象脱了锁链似的在他心里爆发出来。过去又回来和现在正面相对;他比较了一下,于是嚎啕痛哭,眼泪的闸门一开,这个失望的人便哭得直不起腰来。

他感到出路被挡住了。

可叹的是,这种自私心和责任感之间的激烈拳击,当我们在不能剥夺的理想面前一步一步后退时,会心乱如麻,顽强抗拒的,我们为后退而激怒,寸土必争,希望有逃脱的可能,当我们正在寻找出路,忽然在我们后面碰到一堵墙。这是多么可怕的阻碍啊!

感到了神圣的黑影在挡住去路!

严正的冥冥上苍,怎么也摆脱不掉!

因此和良心打交道是没完没了的。布鲁图斯,你就死了心吧!卡托,你死了心吧。为了上帝,良心是无底的坑。我们可以把一生的事业丢进这深井,把家产丢进去,把财富丢进去,把成就丢进去,把自由或祖国丢进去,把舒适丢进去,把安息丢进去,把快乐丢进去。还要!还要!还要!把瓶子倒空!把罐子侧过来!最后还要把自己的心也丢进去。

在古老的地狱某一处的烟雾中,有一个这样的桶。

最后拒绝这样做,难道不能被原谅吗?可以有权没完没了地折磨人吗?漫长的锁链难道不是超过了人的耐力吗?谁会责备西绪福斯和冉阿让,如果他们说:“受够了!”

物质的服从是被磨擦所限制的;难道灵魂的服从没有一个限度?如果永恒的运转是不存在的,是否能要求永久的忠诚呢?

第一步不算什么,最后一步才是艰巨的。商马第事件和珂赛特的婚姻及其后果比起来又算得了什么?和再进牢房和变得一无所有比起来又算得了什么?

啊!要走的这第一步,你是多么暗淡呀!第二步,你是多么黑暗呀!

这一次怎么能不把头掉过去呢?

殉难者有高尚的品德,一种腐蚀性的高尚。这是一种使人圣化的磨难。开始时还能忍受,坐了烧红了的铁宝座,把红铁冠戴在头上,接过火红的铁地球,拿着火红的权杖,还要穿上火焰的外套,悲惨的肉身难道一刻也不能反抗,难道永远没有拒绝肉刑的时候?

最后冉阿让在失望中安静了。

他衡量,默想,他考虑着这个在轮番起落的光明和黑暗的神秘天平。

让这两个前途无限光明的孩子来承担他的徒刑,或是他自己来完成他那无可救药的沉沦。一边是牺牲珂赛特,另一边是牺牲自己。

他作了什么结论?采取了什么决定?他内心对这永不变化的命运的审问,最终将如何作答?他决定打开哪一扇门?他决定关掉并封闭生命中的哪一边?处在四周被深不可测的悬崖围困之中,他的选择是什么?他接受哪一条末路?他向这些深渊中的哪一条点头表示同意?

他经过了一整夜的头晕目眩的苦思。

他用同样的姿势呆到天明,在床上,上身扑在两膝上,被巨大的命运所压服,也许被压垮了,唉!他两拳紧握,两臂伸成直角,好象一个被钉在十字架上刚取下来的人,脸朝地被扔在那里。他呆了十二个小时,一个隆冬漫漫长夜里的十二个小时,他冻得冰凉,但没有抬一下头,也没有说一句话。一动不动,就象死尸一样,这时,他的思潮在地下打滚又腾空,有时象七头蛇,有时象鹰鹫。他一动不动,象个死人;忽然他痉挛地颤抖起来,他贴在珂赛特衣服上的嘴又在吻这些衣服;这时人才看到他是活着的。

谁?人?既然冉阿让是一个人,并没有任何人在旁?

这是个在暗中的“人”。
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