教育头条 > 高中英语 > 英文小说连载《朗读者The Reader》Part 2 Chapter 12

英文小说连载《朗读者The Reader》Part 2 Chapter 12

高中英语 01-17 浏览量: 分享:

  I DECIDED TO speak to my father. Not because we were particularly close. My father was undemonstrative, and could neither share his feelings with us children nor deal with the feelings we had for him. For a long time I believed there must be a wealth of undiscovered treasure behind that uncommunicative manner, but later I wondered if there was anything behind it at all. Perhaps he had been full of emotions as a boy and a young man, and by giving them no outlet had allowed them over the years to wither and die.

  But it was because of the distance between us that I sought him out now. I wanted to talk to the philosopher who had written about Kant and Hegel, and who had, as I knew, occupied himself with moral issues. He should be well positioned to explore my problem in the abstract and, unlike my friends, to avoid getting trapped in the inadequacies of my examples.

  When we children wanted to speak to our father, he gave us appointments just like his students. He worked at home and only went to the university to give his lectures and seminars. Colleagues and students who wished to speak to him came to see him at home. I remember lines of students leaning against the wall in the corridor and waiting their turn, some reading, some looking at the views of cities hanging in the corridor, others staring into space, all of them silent except for an embarrassed greeting when we children went down the corridor and said hello. We ourselves didn’t have to wait in the hall when our father had made an appointment with us. But we too had to be at his door at the appointed time and knock to be admitted.

  I knew two of my father’s studies. The windows in the first one, in which Hanna had run her fingers along the books, looked out onto the streets and houses. The windows in the second looked out over the plain along the Rhine. The house we moved to in the early 1960s, and where my parents stayed after we had grown up, was on the big hill above the city. In both places, the windows did not open the room to the world beyond, but framed and hung the world in it like a picture. My father’s study was a capsule in which books, papers, thoughts, and pipe and cigar smoke had created their own force field, different from that of the outside world.

  My father allowed me to present my problem in its abstract form and with my examples. “It has to do with the trial, doesn’t it?” But he shook his head to show that he didn’t expect an answer, or want to press me or hear anything that I wasn’t ready to tell him of my own accord. Then he sat, head to one side, hands gripping the arms of his chair, and thought. He didn’t look at me. I studied him, his gray hair, his face, carelessly shaven as always, the deep lines between his eyes and from his nostrils to the corners of his mouth. I waited.

  When he answered, he went all the way back to beginnings. He instructed me about the individual, about freedom and dignity, about the human being as subject and the fact that one may not turn him into an object. “Don’t you remember how furious you would get as a little boy when Mama knew better what was good for you? Even how far one can act like this with children is a real problem. It is a philosophical problem, but philosophy does not concern itself with children. It leaves them to pedagogy, where they’re not in very good hands. Philosophy has forgotten about children.” He smiled at me. “Forgotten them forever, not just sometimes, the way I forget about you.”

  “But . . .”

  “But with adults I see absolutely no justification for setting other people’s views of what is good for them above their own ideas of what is good for themselves.”

  “Not even if they themselves are happy about it later?”

  He shook his head. “We’re not talking about happiness, we’re talking about dignity and freedom. Even as a little boy, you knew the difference. It was no comfort to you that your mother was always right.”

  Today I like thinking back on that conversation with my father. I had forgotten it until after his death, when I began to search the depths of my memory for happy encounters and shared activities and experiences with him. When I found it, I was both amazed and delighted. Originally I was confused by my father’s mixing of abstraction and concreteness. But eventually I sorted out what he had said to mean that I did not have to speak to the judge, that indeed I had no right to speak to him, and was relieved.

  My father saw my relief. “That’s how you like your philosophy?”

  “Well, I didn’t know if one had to act in the circumstances I described, and I wasn’t really happy with the idea that one must, and if one really isn’t allowed to do anything at all, I find that . . .” I didn’t know what to say. A relief? A comfort? Appealing? That didn’t sound like morality and responsibility. “I think that’s good” would have sounded moral and responsible, but I couldn’t say I thought it was good, that I thought it was any more than a relief.

  “Appealing?” my father suggested.

  I nodded and shrugged my shoulders.

  “No, your problem has no appealing solution. Of course one must act if the situation as you describe it is one of accrued or inherited responsibility. If one knows what is good for another person who in turn is blind to it, then one must try to open his eyes. One has to leave him the last word, but one must talk to him, to him and not to someone else behind his back.”

  Talk to Hanna? What would I say to her? That I had seen through her lifelong lie? That she was in the process of sacrificing her whole life to this silly lie? That the lie wasn’t worth the sacrifice? That that was why she should fight not to remain in prison any longer than she had to, because there was so much she could still do with her life afterwards? Could I deprive her of her lifelong lie, without opening some vision of a future to her? I had no idea what that might be, nor did I know how to face her and say that after what she had done it was right that her short- and medium-term future would be prison. I didn’t know how to face her and say anything at all. I didn’t know how to face her.

  I asked my father: “And what if you can’t talk to him?”

  He looked at me doubtfully, and I knew myself that the question was beside the point. There was nothing more to moralize about. I just had to make a decision.

  “I haven’t been able to help you.” My father stood up and so did I. “No, you don’t have to go, it’s just that my back hurts.” He stood bent over, with his hands pressed against his kidneys. “I can’t say that I’m sorry I can’t help you. As a philosopher, I mean, which is how you were addressing me. As your father, I find the experience of not being able to help my children almost unbearable.”

  I waited, but he didn’t say anything else. I thought he was making it easy on himself; I knew when he could have taken care of us more and how he could have helped us more. Then I thought that perhaps he realized this himself and really found it difficult to bear. But either way I had nothing to say to him. I was embarrassed, and had the feeling he was embarrassed too.

  “Well then . . .”

  “You can come any time.” My father looked at me.

  I didn’t believe him, and nodded.






























01-25 21:17