一,作者简介:

  张炜,1956年出生于山东龙口,原籍山东栖霞。1980年毕业于烟台师范学院中文系,毕业后在山东省档案局从事历史档案资料编研工作。1984年调山东省文联从事专业创作。现为山东省作家协会主席,万松浦书院院长。

  张炜1975年开始文学创作,一开始是发表诗歌,1980年发表小说处女作《芦青河告诉我》。先后发表作品一千三百余万字,被译成英、日、法、韩、德、瑞典等多种文字。在国内及海外出版单行本四百余部。主要作品有长篇小说《古船》《九月寓言》《外省书》《远河远山》《柏慧》《能不忆蜀葵》《丑行或浪漫》《刺猬歌》《半岛哈里哈气》《你在高原》《独药师》;散文《融入野地》《夜思》《芳心似火》;文论《精神的背景》《当代文学的精神走向》《午夜来獾》等。短篇小说《声音》《一潭清水》分别获1982年、1984年“全国短篇小说奖”;长篇小说《刺猬歌》于2007年获得了由美国总统亚太顾问委员会颁发的“杰出成就奖”;长篇小说《你在高原》获第八届“茅盾文学奖”,被评为《亚洲周刊》“全球十大华文小说”之首。

  二,作品梗概:

  《古船》以胶东小镇洼狸镇自土改至改革开放40余年的历史为背景,讲述了隋、赵、李三个家族之间的恩怨情仇。三家族间的恩怨与历次政治运动相互纠葛,真实地再现了那个特殊年代里人性的扭曲与异化,以及在改革大潮的冲击下那片土地的变迁。隋家是小说中的核心,隋家三兄妹的命运迥异,却都在苦难中挣扎:大儿子抱朴经历了父亲和二娘的死,目睹了历次政治运动的残酷,变得压抑沉默。二儿子见素要把已承包给赵家的粉丝厂夺回来。美丽而高贵的小女儿含章一直生活在赵家四爷爷的阴影下。

  隋抱朴是小说的主人公。他亲眼目睹父亲的死、母亲的死、土改时血与火的斗争、三年困难时期的艰难、“文革”当中人与人之间无休止的戕害与残杀。这惨痛的记忆笼罩了他一生,造就了他沉重忧患的人生观、世界观。他没有泯灭真挚的爱心,而把自己视为洼狸镇这个群体中的一员,不单为自己、为老隋家,也为整个族类作着深刻的忏悔,表现出伦理学范畴的主体的自觉意识,他把这归结为人类的“兽性”和“私欲”。

  小说的情节矛盾是围绕着粉丝厂而展开的。作者的故乡龙口及莱阳几乎每个镇子上都有数家粉丝厂。它们每年为当地创造经济效益,是当地的支柱产业之一。

  粉丝厂内一片白沙地,竖立着一排排的木桩,木桩之间的铁丝上晾晒的雪白粉丝在阳光下白得耀眼。晾粉女工穿梭在木桩间,愉快的歌声感染着过往的行人。粉丝厂万一发生倒缸,全村都会慌乱。隋、赵、李三家都想掌握粉丝厂的权力,由此便产生了一场你死我活的、或明或暗的斗争。赵炳、赵多多、隋见素与隋抱朴是两组对立的人物,分别代表着两个营垒、两股势力和两种道德。赵炳作为封建宗法势力的代表,借助于极左的政治运动,为非作歹,鱼肉乡民,在洼狸镇建立了一个封建小王国。隋见素虽然在压迫与反压迫的意义上是老赵家的对立面,但在维护家族利益这一点上又与赵炳之流相同无二。他为了把粉丝厂从赵多多的手中夺过来,绞尽脑汁,费尽心机,甚至不惜以造成洼狸镇的重大损失——粉丝厂出现“倒缸”事件为代价。赵多多第二次承包粉丝厂后,更加无所顾忌地在粉丝原料中掺假以中饱私囊,结果事情暴露,粉丝厂被上级有关部门调查后处以重重的罚款。

  隋抱朴看透了欲望对人性的侵蚀。他认为,洼狸镇要永远地摆脱苦难,就要寻思怎样共同过日子,就要放弃个人和家族的利益,为全镇人着想。所以,当见素要他与自己一起为从赵多多手中夺回粉丝厂而行动时,他拒绝了。他主动去为赵多多的粉丝厂“扶缸”,因为他觉得粉丝厂出现“倒缸”是全镇的耻辱。赵多多感觉到粉丝厂经理的位置坐不稳了,但他并不甘心坐以待毙,便开着车到镇委,要找镇委书记拼命。因喝得酩酊大醉,将石墙误认作人,一头撞去,车毁人亡。这时候,隋抱朴意识到了自己的历史责任,他走出老磨屋,出任了粉丝厂的经理。而见素在竞争粉丝厂的承包权失败后,便到了城里与人合伙经商,但他始终没有放弃夺回粉丝厂的念头。当他得知抱朴决定出任粉丝大厂的经理时,他决定与几十年的仇人赵炳联合,将粉丝厂从哥哥抱朴手里夺过来。不想就在此时,他得了绝症。临死前他与哥哥抱朴有了一次推心置腹的长谈,他将自己阴谋夺权的计划告诉了哥哥,但他感叹道:“老天有眼——它在紧急关口判了我的死刑。让我害了绝症。那场争斗再没有了,老天惩罚了我。”

  隋抱朴上任后,带领大家从困境中走出来,粉丝厂“生产能力猛然增大。紧接着就是晒粉丝场的扩大,一辆辆满载粉包的车子从街道上辘辘驶过”。粉丝大厂焕然一新的面貌,使“所有的人惊叹不已”,“洼狸镇似乎再也没有比隋抱朴担当这个职务更合适的人了”。为全镇人着想的隋抱朴开始将洼狸镇这条古船调到正确的航向上来,曾经是血流成河、灾难不已的洼狸镇的历史终于翻开了新的一页。

  三,推荐语

  张炜的《古船》在中国当代文学史上具有标志性的意义,张炜在这部小说中,开启了思考中国文化命运和出路的历史叙述方式,此后的《白鹿原》《马桥词典》等可以说都是这一历史叙述方式的延续。张炜试图从民间文化中吸取精神养分,奠定了他的回归民间、“融入野地”的寻求理想的路径。小说以改革开放所带来的农村社会结构和经济关系的变动为契机,由当下生活切入建国后40年间的历史变迁,集中笔力描写了一座乡村小镇上以隋、赵、李三个家族为代表的三种力量的消长和变化。有的论者认为,这三种社会力量亦即是活动在中国近、现代历史舞台上的“民族资本工商业势力、农民势力和科技知识力量”。它们之间的消长和变化,事实上亦即是历史和发展对它的方向和道路所做的选择与追求的结果。作者把笔触探及作为传统文化心理的母体与原型的农民文化意识、农村人际结构的深层,可以说这种思考已提升到了人类文化意识的哲学高度。

The Ancient Ship

By Zhang Wei

Author’s profile

      Zhang Wei, a native of Shandong Province, was born in Longkou and has origins in Qixia. After graduating in 1980 from the Chinese Department of Yantai Normal College, he worked in the Archives Bureau of Shandong Province compiling and researching historical documents. He was later transferred to Shandong Provincial Federation of Literary & Art Circle for professional creation in 1984. Now, Zhang Wei stands as chairman of the China Writers’ Association Shandong Branch and head of Wansongpu Academy.

      Zhang Wei began his literary career writing poems in 1975. In 1980, he published his maiden novel Tell me, Luqing River, and to date has published an oeuvre totaling over 13 million words, which have been translated into English, Japanese, French, Korean, German and Swedish, as well as over 400 separate editions both home and abroad. His major works include the novels: The Ancient Ship, September’s Fable, Letters from Another Province, Rivers and Mountains in the Far Distance, Bo Hui, How Can One Not Miss Mallow, Scandal or Romance, The Song of a Hedgehog, Kids on the Peninsula, You are on the Highlands, A Lone Pharmacist; proses: Melting into Wilderness, Night Thoughts, Her Heart is like Fireand essays: Background of the Spirit, Spiritual Orientation of Contemporary Literature, and Midnight Badger. His short stories Sound and A Pool of Clean Water won the National Short Story Award in 1982 and 1984 respectively. His novel The Song of a Hedgehog won AAPI (President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) Outstanding Achievement Award in 2007, and another novel You Are on the Highlands won the 8th Mao Dun Literature Prize and was designated No.1 of the top ten Chinese novels in the world by Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly). 

Synopsis

      Set in Wali, a small town on Shandong Peninsula during the 40-odd years from land reform to reform and opening up, The Ancient Ship gives a detailed account of the mutual enmity between the Sui, Zhao and Li clans. Their historical grudges are intertwined with successive political movements, truthfully reproducing the distortions of humanity that took place during that unique period as well as the sea of land-related changes happening under the reform. The Sui family makes up the core of the story, whose three children have experienced sharply different fates but all struggled in hardships. Baopu, the eldest son, has turned depressed and gloomy after confronting the deaths of his father and his second mom, as well as witnessing the atrocities of successive political movements. Jiansu, the second son, has tried desperately to return the bean vermicelli plant already contracted to the Zhaos. Hanzhang, the beautiful and elegant daughter, has lived under the shadow of Zhao’s fourth Grandpa.

       The protagonist of the story is Sui Baopu, who has seen with his own eyes the deaths of his father and mother, the conflicts of the land reform, the atrocities of the three years between 1959 and 1961, and the never-ending cycle of death that took place under the Cultural Revolution. These traumatic memories hang like a thick mist over his life, shaping his heavy and oppressive outlook on the world. But he hasn’t yet lost his genuine sense of concern and compassion; he still regards himself as an integral member of Wali Town, or as some call it, “the ancient ship”. He’s buried in deep repentance for himself, the Sui family and the whole clan; he demonstrates a strong self-awareness based in ethics, attributing his loss to humanity’s brutish nature and selfish desire.

       The plot revolves around the bean vermicelli factory, the epicenter of all their conflicts and disputes. Dozens of such factories can be found in almost every town of Longkou, the author’s hometown and Laiyang, as they constitute a key pillar industry for the area and bring annual revenue to the local economy.

       The plant is carpeted with white sand on which stand piles of wooden pegs; snow-white bean vermicelli shines brightly in the sun as it dries on the iron wires pulled between the pegs. Walking along the pegs are women workers drying the vermicelli, their singing touching the hearts of the passers-by. Should by any ill chance an engine in this plant stop working, the whole town would run into chaos.

      The Sui, Zhao and Li clans all control of the plant, hence bringing forth a life-and-death fight between them. Zhao Bing, Zhao Duoduo, Sui Jiansu and Sui Baopu form two opposing factions, representing two camps, two forces and two morals. Zhao Bing stands for the feudal patriarchal power. With the aid of the ultra-left political movement, he acts unscrupulously, preys upon the townspeople and sets up a small feudal kingdom in Wali Town. As for Sui Jiansu, although he demonstrates the exact opposite of Zhao’s oppressive policy, he sees eye to eye with them on the point of safeguarding family interest. He tries all possible means to take the plant back from Zhao Duoduo, going so far as to damage an engine in the plant, causing huge economic losses for the town.

      The second time Zhao Duoduo contracts the factory, he becomes all the more unscrupulous to the extent that he starts cutting raw materials with other foodstuffs so as to increase his own benefit. After the upper authorities expose this dirty deed, the plant undergoes heavy fines. Sui Baopu, however, understands exactly what damage a thing like lust can do to humanity. He believes that if Wali Town is to get out of this distressing situation once and for all, the only solution is to plan out a community-based lifestyle, abandon individual and familial interest, and consider what benefits the whole town. Therefore, when Jiansu asks him to join in the effort to take back the plant from Zhao Duoduo, he refuses.  

       Instead, he goes to Zhao’s plant on his own accord to correct the engine trouble, for he feels it a disgrace to the whole town that there’s an engine in the plant that doesn’t work. Zhao Duoduo senses that his position as plant manager won’t last long, but he doesn’t want to be a sitting duck – in desperation, he drives to the Town Council to get even with the secretary. But he gets so whopping drunk that he mistakes a stone wall for a man, plowing “the man” to his own death.

       It’s only at this point where Sui Baopu realizes his duty in writing history. He bids goodbye to the old mill room and takes the position of plant manager. As for Jiansu, after his bid for the contracting rights ended in defeat, he goes into business in the city with some partners. But the idea of regaining the plant has never left him. Upon learning that Baopu is going to assume the role of manager, he is bent on taking it back from his elder brother by allying with Zhao Bing, his age-old nemesis. But unexpectedly, he contracts an incurable disease and later has a heart-to-heart talk with Baopu while on his deathbed. He tells his scheme to his brother, sighing: “Heaven has eyes; it sentences me to death at the critical juncture. No more struggles, no more strife. Heaven has given me my due.”

       After taking office, Sui Baopu leads the people out of the predicament. In almost no time, the bean vermicelli factory is achieving huge growth in productivity, bringing with it additional floor space for drying vermicelli, while lorries loaded with bags of finished products rumble through the streets. Everyone is amazed by the new look of the plant, and everyone believes that Wali Town has no other person as capable a manager as Sui Baopu, who puts the interests of the townspeople before anything else. The ancient ship of Wali is finally back on track, the town’s disaster-laden history laid to rest once and for all.

 

Reviews

       The Ancient Ship by Zhang Wei is a monumental work in China’s body of contemporary literature. In this novel, the author utilizes historical narrative to reflect upon Chinese culture’s destiny and way out. In its wake, Both White Deer Plain and A Dictionary of Maqiao can be said as the continuation of historical narrative. Drawing spiritual nourishment from folk culture, Zhang Wei has set a path for achieve his ideals of returning to the folk world and melting into wilderness. The novel takes place during the social and economic transformations brought about by reform and opening up and draws on the many historical vicissitudes that took place in the forty years of New China’s founding, so as to highlight the rise and fall of three different forces represented by the three clans of Sui, Zhao and Li in their rural town.  

       Some critics believe that these three social forces are the very forces active in China’s modern and contemporary historical stage: national capital businessmen, farmers and science and technology experts. These forces in their rise and fall, reflect – if anything – the choices and pursuits dictated by history and development on their direction and path. With his pen, the author explores traditional cultural notions, rural culture, and inter-village relations on a deep level, attaining a new height of philosophy regarding the human condition. 

  


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