回fide | 悖離母語的 Yiyun Li


Dear fide,

我讀了你給我推薦的兩篇文章。Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your LifeTo speak is to Blunder But I Venture.

YiYun Li徹底悖離,甚至棄絕了母語。不想亦不願解釋意圖。且不準作品被母語染指。如此決絕。

Over the years, my brain has banished Chinese. I dream in English. I talk to myself in English. And memories—not only those about America but also those about China; not only those carried with me but also those archived with the wish to forget—are sorted in English. To be orphaned from my native language felt, and still feels, like a crucial decision.
It’s the absoluteness of my abandonment of Chinese, undertaken with such determination that it is a kind of suicide.
——To speak is to Blunder But I Venture



I had this notion, when I first started it, that this essay would be a way to test—to assay—thoughts about time. There was even a vision of an after, when my confusions would be sorted out.

Assays in science are part of an endless exploration: one question leads to another; what follows confirms or disconfirms what comes before. To assay one's ideas about time while time remains unsettled and elusive feels futile: just as one is about to understand one facet of time, it presents another to undermine one's reasoning.
To write about a struggle amidst the struggling: one must hope that this muddling will end someday.

Before and After 判然二分。而她卡在其間,在掙扎中寫作,在恍惚中前行。


My abandonment of my first language is personal, so deeply personal that I resist any interpretation—political or historical or ethnographical. This, I know, is what my husband was questioning years ago: was I prepared to be turned into a symbol by well-intentioned or hostile minds?





是的,讀Li 真誠懇切的文字,我想起言叔夏的<辯術之城>。

當時 手抄了一些言的文字。現在 和Yiyun Li的文字一起讀。




I've been asked throughout my life: what are you hiding? The question baffles me because I don't know what I'm hiding, and the more I try to deny it, the less trustworthy people find me. My mother used to comment on my stealthiness to our guests. A woman in charge of admission at the public bathhouse often confronted me, asking what I was hiding from her; nothing, I said, and she would say she could tell from my eyes that I was lying.

One hides an affair if one is unfaithful in a marriage; one hides a misdeed—people hide to make things not difficult for themselves. But reticence is a natural state; it is not hiding. People don't show themselves easily and equally to all.

There is a distance that comes with being reserved, but it does not make one feel lonely the way hiding does. Still, that distance must be hard for other people: it can invalidate the importance of others; hiding, however minor, can be blamed on the one who hides.


There are five time zones in China, but the nation uses a unified time—Beijing time. When the hour turns, all radio stations sound six beeps, followed by a solemn announcement: “At the last beep, it is Beijing time seven o’clock sharp.” This memory is reliable because it does not belong to me but generations of Chinese, millions of us: at seven o’clock, the beeping and announcement were amplified through loudspeakers in every people’s commune, school, army camp, and apartment complex.

But underneath this steadfastness, time is both intrusive and elusive. It does not leave us alone even in our most private moments: in every thought and feeling about life time claims a space. When we speak of indecision, it’s an internal deadline that we’re afraid of both meeting and not meeting. When we speak of moving on—what a triumphant phrase—it’s what we pack up so we can carry on. And if one seeks kindness from time, it slips away tauntingly, or worse, indifferently. How many among us have said that to others or to ourselves: if only I had a bit more time . . .

One hides something for two reasons: that one feels protective of it, or one feels ashamed by it; and then it’s not always the case that one can separate the two possibilities. If my relationship with time is difficult, if time is intrusive and elusive, could it be that I am only hiding myself from time?

中國橫跨了五個時區。五個時區的 時間 都是北京的時間。整齊劃一。時針指向7時,時間 透過大氣電波大聲公知會好幾代的人 :"it is Beijing time seven o’clock sharp."

I resist any interpretation, she said.

時間 不可捉摸不仁不義對任何人都一視同仁鉅細靡遺。

時間 無處不在。

It does not leave us alone even in our most private moments: in every thought and feeling about life time claims a space.

猶豫不決也有個時限。moving on是 triumphant phrase. Time is linear.

If Time was linear, 她為何要思量如何躲避時間

太初首先 是氣。書上說。
另一個人發言:太初首先 應該是分離……。
I don't wonder what my life would've been had I stayed in China: not leaving had never felt like an option since elementary school. For a decade there had been a concrete after ingrained in everything I did: the day I arrived in America I would become a new person.

But there is the possibility that I might never have taken up writing. Had I stayed a scientist, would I have turned out differently: calmer, less troubled, more sensible? Would I have stopped hiding, or become better at it?

原來 Li 小學時 就已立定志向。現在 | 自殺未遂 回首過去,明白了——除了離開,她別無選擇。

於是她離開。此後在美國成為一個新人。這此後 二字,她用了10年鑄成。

成為一個新人後,Li自問 :要是不寫作,我會不會成為一個更穩定的人。不再躲躲藏藏。或因而更善於此道?

Yet language is capable of sinking a mind. One's thoughts are slavishly bound to language. I used to think that an abyss is a moment of despair becoming interminable; but any moment, even the direst, is bound to end. What's abysmal is that one's erratic language closes in on one like quicksand: "You are nothing. You must do anything you can to get rid of this nothingness." We can kill time, but language kills us.


但你知道嗎? 終有一天,語言會殺了我們的。

圖 | 阿嗅


English is my private language. Every word has to be pondered before it becomes a word. I have no doubt—can this be an illusion?—that the conversation I have with myself, however linguistically flawed, is the conversation that I have always wanted, in the exact way I want it to be.
In my relationship with English, in this relationship with the intrinsic distance between a nonnative speaker and an adopted language that makes people look askance, I feel invisible but not estranged. It is the position I believe I always want in life.

英文是Li的private language,她選擇用英文來寫作。她從頭開始,一字一句地斟酌用詞,思考用詞的貼切與否,撿拾自己,寫出不自然的文句。和自己進行一場又一場真誠無偽的對話。

If you can be articulate about your thoughts, why can’t you articulate your feelings? the doctor asked.
It took me a year to figure out the answer. It is hard to feel in an adopted language, yet it is impossible in my native language.

一年。Li足足用了一年 來想通自己為何無法言說。第二語言未足以副。母語呢?更不可能。

讀了上面那段文字,我更了解 Li 為何要悖離母語。

她要絕「聖」棄「智」,將母語乃至母語的影響通通拋卻。用英文寫作,是打掉重來,換一套新的語言,把自己生出來。套句 @iago 的話,就是做自己的母親。


English is to me as random a choice as any other language. What one goes toward is less definitive than that from which one turns away.

比起選擇用什麼語言寫作,逃離本來 熟悉的語言才是關鍵。因此

過去 用母語寫下的一切,Li 選擇銷毀。

Before I left China, I destroyed the journal that I had kept for years and most of the letters written to me, those same letters I had once watched out for, lest my mother discover them. What I could not bring myself to destroy I sealed up and brought with me to America, though I will never open them again. My letters to others I would have destroyed, too, had I had them. These records, of the days I had lived time and time over, became intolerable now that my time in China was over. But this violent desire to erase a life in a native language is only wishful thinking. One’s relationship with the native language is similar to that with the past. Rarely does a story start where we wish it had, or end where we wish it would.

可母語讓人過不去。從前 那種習焉不察,運用自如以至欺人自欺的語言讓她深深困惑。

Once, in high school, I entered an oratory contest. Onstage, I saw that many of the listeners were moved to tears by the poetic and insincere lies I had made up; I moved myself to tears, too. It crossed my mind that I could become a successful propaganda writer. I was disturbed by this. A young person wants to be true to herself and to the world. But it did not occur to me to ask: Can one’s intelligence rely entirely on the public language; can one form a precise thought, recall an accurate memory, or even feel a genuine feeling, with only the public language?



與其說她擁有了母語,不如說母語as a public language擁有了她。於是她悖離母語。

此後 用private language寫作。

A private language, however, defies any confinement. Death alone can take it away.


In the summer and autumn of 2012, I was hospitalized in California and in New York for suicide attempts, the first time for a few days, and the second time for three weeks. During those months, my dreams often took me back to Beijing......Waking up, I would list in my journal images that did not appear in my dreams

死不去時夢引她回到北京。夢遺漏的景物,她寫在日記上。她用private language記下缺席夢境的影像。


There were diagnoses to grapple with, medications to take, protocols to implement, hospital staff to report to, but they were there only to eliminate an option. What to replace it with I could not see, but I knew it was not within anyone’s capacity to answer that. Not having the exact language for the bleakness I felt, I devoured Mansfield’s words like thirst-quenching poison. Is it possible that one can be held hostage by someone else’s words? What I underlined and reread: Are they her thoughts or mine?
There is nought to do but WORK, but how can I work when this awful weakness makes even the pen like a walking stick?

There is something profound & terrible in this eternal desire to establish contact.

It is astonishing how violently a big branch shakes when a silly little bird has left it. I expect the bird knows it and feels immensely arrogant.
One only wants to feel sure of another. That's all.

I realise my faults better than anyone else could realise them. I know exactly where I fail.

Have people, apart from those far away people, ever existed for me? Or have they always failed me, and faded because I denied them reality? Supposing I were to die, as I sit at this table, playing with my indian paper knife—what would be the difference. No difference at all. Then why don't I commit suicide?





Recently someone pointed me out onstage as an example of the American dream. Certainly I have done that too, putting myself on a poster of before and after. The transformation, however, is as superficial and deceitful as an ad placed on the back of a bus.
Time will tell, people say, as though time always has the last word. Perhaps I’m only resisting that notion as I’ve resisted those who want the power to have the last word about others.


她用英文寫作。不代表誰也不被誰代表。No one has the last word. 就算是時間 也不行。

 In an ideal world, I would prefer to have my mind reserved for thinking, and thinking alone. I dread the moment when a thought trails off and a feeling starts, when one faces the eternal challenge of eluding the void for which one does not have words. To speak when one cannot is to blunder. I have spoken by having written—this piece or any piece—for myself and against myself. The solace is with the language I chose. The grief, to have spoken at all.

言的符號是盾牌。Li的private language也是盾牌。她們用自己選擇的語言抵抗這個世界。

可“The World” 無處不在。只要小小的讓步。只要一個不小心。我們就會淪陷。



又,此時 的我,只能寫出這樣的文字。知道你不會介意。



Yours, 阿嗅

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