一、作者简介

  阿城,原名钟阿城。原籍重庆江津,1949年生于北京。高中一年级逢“文革”中断学业。1968年起,先后在山西、内蒙插队,并开始学画,后去云南建设兵团农场落户。1979年返京,在中国图书进出口公司工作,曾任《世界图书》编辑。此后,帮助其父钟惦棐撰写《电影美学》。1984年7月在《上海文学》发表中篇小说《棋王》,引起广泛关注。1986年赴美国参加为期三个月的爱荷华国际写作计划。1987年再度赴美参加美国图书馆学会年会,之后留居美国。

  主要作品有中篇小说《棋王》《树王》《孩子王》,系列短篇《遍地风流》。其中,《棋王》获全国第三届优秀中篇小说奖,短篇小说《会餐》获首届《作家》小说奖。1985年发表关于“寻根”的理论文章《文化制约着人类》。阿城的这些小说和文论使他成为上世纪八十年代文化寻根派的主要代表人物。1990年代定居美国后,阿城出版有《常识与通识》《闲话闲说——中国世俗与中国小说》等随笔集。

 

  二、作品梗概

  王一生自小家贫。他和母亲给印刷厂叠书页子糊口谋生,有次偶得一本讲象棋的书,自此迷上下棋。他先在学校下,后在街上找人下,无人能赢。后来日日沉迷其中,视棋如命。母亲不久之后病逝,留给他一副亲手用牙刷把磨的无字棋,算是母亲在下棋上所能给他的疼爱。某日,王一生在垃圾站翻找自己不小心丢掉的棋谱,遇见一位捡烂纸的老人。不料老人竟是一位下棋高手,两人在垃圾站下盲棋,王一生败在老人手下。自此,王一生每天与老人下棋,下完棋就回去琢磨老人的棋路,最后终于赢了一次。老人传给王一生一本棋谱,让王一生看。王一生钻研不透,老人又将道家的阴阳之道说与他听,并告知“太盛则折,太弱则泄”的棋道。后来,王一生帮老人捡烂纸时,误撕大字报被卷入动乱当中,一时之间批判他的大字报贴得满街都是。

  我的父母在动乱中被打死。我为了生计申请下乡,在火车上王一生拉我下棋,于是我与王一生相识,并相互攀谈起来。王一生问我父母死后的两年我是怎么生活的,又特别关心吃饭的问题。我看他对吃很感兴趣,就注意观察他吃的时候。我发现他对吃极其虔诚,有时你会可怜那些饭被他吃得一个渣儿都不剩。王一生对吃的态度,使我想起杰克·伦敦的《热爱生命》。有次吃饭的时候,我给他讲了这个故事和巴尔扎克的《邦斯舅舅》。王一生由此发表了自己对吃的看法,即吃饱就是目的,知足,不贪不馋。火车到站,我和王一生分别,去往各自所属的农场。

  许久不见,我在山上干活时,王一生来找我。原来王一生为了找人下棋,请了事假,一路找人下棋,找到我这里时,已经出来半个月了。在我工作的农场,王一生与棋坛世家的后人倪斌结识。倪斌又瘦又高,外号“脚卵”。倪斌家境优越,动作起来颇有些文气,衣服总要穿得整整齐齐,与王一生颇为不同。为了招待王一生,我们大餐一顿。饭后,王一生与倪斌斗棋。最终,王一生在下盲棋时赢了倪斌,两人也成为相互赏识的好友。闲谈之际,倪斌将地区运动会棋类比赛的消息告知了王一生,并劝他去参加比赛。第三天早上,王一生与我们告别离开。

  之后半年,我与王一生并没有再见,只是听闻各处传来的王一生与别人下棋的消息。在地区运动会比赛开始之前,大家相约去总场看王一生比赛,可是王一生直到地区决赛之前才出现,原来这半年他为了找人下棋总是请假,分场说他表现不好,不让他出来参加比赛,连名都没报上。倪斌的父亲认识当地的文教支书,并托支书照顾他。倪斌带我们去拜访支书家,看能不能让王一生直接参加决赛,结果并没有得到应许。倪斌第二次拜访支书时,以赠送家中古董和家传的乌木棋为承诺,来换取自己上调的机会,并使王一生有机会参加地区决赛。大家得知这个消息都很高兴,但王一生却拒绝了倪斌的好意。他不愿意用倪斌的家传之物来换取这次机会,而且觉得这样做会被人戳脊梁骨。

  王一生决定比赛结束后私下找前三名切磋棋艺。赛后,王一生说要同时和冠季亚军下棋,引起了轰动,竟引来数千人观战,其中又有不服者要与王一生比试棋艺。最终是王一生盲棋同时对战九人,包括冠季亚军在内。赛前,王一生将他母亲留给他的无字棋交给我保管。一直下到天黑,王一生挫败了其中八人,只剩冠军的一盘棋与之对阵。地区冠军是位老者,是这个山区的一个世家后人。本来在家中令人传棋的老者,竟亲身来到现场。此时,王一生孤身一人坐在大屋子中央,像铁铸的细树桩。老者向前几步,大赞王一生的棋道精妙,并说中华棋道,毕竟不颓,主动与王一生求和。王一生已经坐得肢体肌肉僵硬,我们给他揉搓了一会儿,他才缓过来,开口答应了老者的求和。赛后,人渐渐散去,我将手中攥着的一枚无字棋给王一生看,王一生起初似乎不认得,然后猛然“哇”的一声儿吐出一些黏液,大哭了一阵才清醒过来。我在这场棋赛中也感受到了传统文化的精神与魅力。

 

  三、推荐语

  1984年,阿城的《棋王》一经发表,便在文坛刮起一股“旋风”,引发了持续广泛的讨论。《棋王》,无论是主题意旨,还是表现形式,都给当时的文坛提供了新的探索向度,并引发了二十世纪八十年代的“文化热”,在中国当代文学史上具有标志意义。

  在题材归类方面,小说以“知青”和“知青生活”为写作对象,所以有人将它归类为知青文学;又因小说中透露出浓厚的传统文化意味,又有人将它视为寻根文学的代表作。在对小说的文化阐释上,不少人认为它体现的是儒道互渗的传统文化精神在现代个体身上的再造和重现,也有人认为小说在潜层次上体现了一种世俗文化中的游侠精神。至今,人们还在对《棋王》中所体现的文化内涵进行多角度的解读。

  小说在表现形式上也独具一格,迥异于同时期的知青小说。《棋王》的故事发生在“文革”时期,可作者淡化了重大的政治事件背景,以底层小人物王一生的下棋经历为切入点,书写了独特的“文革”记忆。在叙述方式上,既有类似明清世情小说的笔致,又化用西方现代主义的叙事技巧,融会贯通,别致淡雅。小说的语言简短、平淡、自然,勾勒出了淡远、超脱、自然的意境。

 

King of Chinese Chess

By Ah Cheng

  Author Profile

  Ah Cheng, originally known as Zhong Ahcheng, was born in Beijing but has origins in Jiangjin, Chongqing Municipality. When he was still young, his academic career was cut short as a freshman in high school, a direct result of the Cultural Revolution. Starting in 1968, he went to the countryside and worked as a farmer in Shanxi and Inner Mongolia, during which time he started to take up painting, then settled in the construction corps’ farms in Yunnan Province. Upon returning to Beijing in 1979, he found employment in the China National Publications Import and Export Corporation and served as editor for World Books. Afterwards, he assisted his father Zhong Dian in writing Film Aesthetics. In July 1984, he published a novella titled King of Chinese Chess in Shanghai Literature Monthly, earning him instant, nation-wide recognition. In 1986, he went to the University of Iowa in USA to participate in their three-month-long International Writing Program. The next year he travelled to USA again to attend the American Library Association’s annual meeting, and has lived in America ever since.

  Ah Cheng’s major works include the novellas King of Chinese Chess, King of Trees, and King of Kids and the short story series Seeking Pleasure All Around. King of Chess was conferred the 3rd National Best Novella Award, while the short story A Dinner Party won the 1st Writers Monthly Novel Award.

  In 1985, Ah Cheng published Culture Constrains Humanity, a theoretical article about seeking one’s familial origins. His stories and literary theories made him a major representative of the 1980s school of genealogy. Ah Cheng also published some essay collections in the 1990s following his relocation to the United States, such as Common Sense and General Sense, Chatting about Chinese Conventions and Chinese Stories.

 

  Synopsis

  Wang Yisheng came from a poor family, he and his mother eked out a living by folding pages for a printing factory. But one day, he got his hands on a book about chess, which made him addicted to the game ever since. He begged people to play chess with him in school and in the street, and always came out on top. He became infatuated by it, chess taking over his whole life. It was not long after that his mom passed away, leaving behind a characterless chess set she made by scrubbing off the characters using a toothbrush – this was the only love she could give him outside of playing chess.

  One day, Wang Yisheng came across an old trash-digger when he was searching for his lost chess manual in the garbage collection station. And he was surprised to find out that the man was a master of chess, beating him at a game of blindfolded chess over at the station. Since then, Wang would play chess with the old man every day, pondering on his moves after returning home. And at long last he won a game. Afterwards, the old man handed him a chess manual containing many parts that Wang couldn’t understand; the old man also lectured him on the Taoist way of Yin and Yang, imparting him with the essence of chess, which is that “Ferocity begets usurpation, while timidity begets suppression.” Later, Wang Yisheng happened to tear some big-character posters by mistake when helping the old man collect junk. This misstep threw him into the unrest that was taking place, and overnight the street walls were covered with posters criticizing him.

  My parents were beaten to death in the unrest and I had to apply to go to the countryside for a living. I met Wang Yisheng on the train, who challenged me to a few games of chess, hence making our acquaintances and striking up a conversation. He asked me how I managed to survive those two years following my parents’ deaths, inquiring particularly in regards to how I had been eating. I found that he was very interested and knowledgeable concerning dining, so I paid close attention to his table manners. I could see that he took the matter very seriously, to the extent that no single bit or crumb would be left after a meal. His pious attitude towards eating reminded me of Jack London’s novel Love Life. Once during our mealtime, I mentioned this story and Balzac's Uncle Banc, then Wang Yisheng shared his views on eating. To him, filling one’s stomach was the sole aim of eating, no more, no less. We parted from each other when the train arrived at the station, heading to our respective farms.

  After quite some time, Wang Yisheng paid me a visit when I was working in the mountains. It turned out that he was on leave to find chess rivals and it had already been half a month before he came to me. In the farm where I was working, he got to know Ni Bin, a chess family descendent. Nicknamed “Foot-egg”, Ni Bin was lean and tall, a well-off guy who behaved gently and dressed neatly, Wang’s opposite in every way. We treated Wang to a big dinner, after which Wang and Ni held a chess match, with Wang defeating Ni while blindfolded. With that, they became friends of a common appreciation, and Ni told Wang mid-conversation that a chess game was to be held during the local sports meeting, persuading him to compete in it. On the third morning Wang bid us goodbye and left.

  For the following six months I saw nothing of Wang, but news spread far and wide that he was out there playing chess with others all the time. Prior to the local sports meeting, we agreed to see him in the first quarter of the game. However, Wang didn’t show up until the local finals started. Truth is, he was not allowed to enter the game by the branch field, not even sign up for it, simply because he kept asking for leave to find chess mates. Ni’s father knew the secretary in charge of local cultural education, who received us at his home upon request by Ni’s father. But we faced a flat rejection when we pleaded him to let Wang directly enter the finals match. The second time Ni went to his home, Ni offered him family heirlooms and ebony chess sets so that Wang could enter the local finals. When the secretary accepted, we were up in arms in delight, but Wang decided to turn down Ni’s favor, as he didn’t want Ni to give away his family heirlooms and possibly be backbitten because of it.

  Wang Yisheng decided to play chess with the top three winners in private after the game, and this idea caused quite a stir in the community. Thousands came to watch the face-off, many ecstatic over the opportunity. Wang Yisheng played against nine people while blindfolded, including the top three winners, all at the same time. Before the match, Wang entrusted me with the characterless chess set his mother left him. The battle went on until nightfall – eight of the challengers were already defeated, and one chess match against the champion remained. The local champion was an old man from a chess family up in the mountains. Who’d expect that he would deliberately show himself out here when he’s only ever played at his home upon request? Now, sitting in the middle of the large house was Wang Yisheng, all alone, looking like a thin stump carved from iron.

  The old man walked up a few steps, praised him on his superb skills, and offered to make peace, saying that the spirit of Chinese chess had not wavered. We rubbed and massaged his limbs which were rigid from sitting for so long, and after a while he came over and agreed to the peace offering. The crowd melted away. I showed him a characterless chess piece I’d been holding in my hand. He did not seem to recognize it at first, but hocked up a loogie and cried for a bit before coming around. And from this grand match, I could feel the spirit and charm that resides behind this element of traditional culture.

 

  Reviews

  With the publishing of Ah Cheng’s monumental work in 1984, King of Chinese Chess stirred up a “whirlwind” in the literary world, sparking sustained and extensive discussion. The novel, both in terms of its themes and forms of expression, provided new dimensions of exploration for the contemporary literary world and ushered in a “Culture Craze” in the 1980s, thus carrying much weight in contemporary Chinese literary history.

  As for the genre, some may classify this novel as Educated Youth Literature since it addresses the educated youth and their lives, as well as a master work of genealogical study for the rich traditional culture embedded within. In terms of its cultural interpretation, many people believe it demonstrates the reproduction in modern individuals of a traditional cultural spirit characterized by the mutual permeation between Confucianism and Taoism. At a much deeper level, the novel also reflects the spirit of chivalry present in secular culture, and to date, people are still observing its cultural implications from new angles.

  In sharp contrast with other Educated Youth Novels of the same era, the novel also boasts a unique style in forms of expression. Although set in the period of the Cultural Revolution, the story only light touches on this particular historical background. Instead, it writes out a distinctive memory of that eventful time, taking as its entry point the experience of chess-playing by Wang Yisheng and some common underclass folk. In narration, the story blends the traits similar of secular Ming and Qing dynasty novels with the techniques of Western realism, forming an elegant, unified whole. The language is clean, concise, and unpretentious, inducing a light, detached and natural frame of mind in the reader.

 

  作者 | 南京师范大学教授 何平

译者 | 李欣

审校 | Damine Liles


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