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chapter 24
Professor Erlin gave Philip a lesson every day. He made out a list of books which Philip was to read till he was ready for the final achievement of Faust, and meanwhile, ingeniously enough, started him on a German translation of one of the plays by Shakespeare which Philip had studied at school. It was the period in Germany of Goethe’s highest fame. Notwithstanding his rather condescending attitude towards patriotism he had been adopted as the national poet, and seemed since the war of seventy to be one of the most significant glories of national unity. The enthusiastic seemed in the wildness of the Walpurgisnacht to hear the rattle of artillery at Gravelotte. But one mark of a writer’s greatness is that different minds can find in him different inspirations; and Professor Erlin, who hated the Prussians, gave his enthusiastic admiration to Goethe because his works, Olympian and sedate, offered the only refuge for a sane mind against the onslaughts of the present generation. There was a dramatist whose name of late had been much heard at Heidelberg, and the winter before one of his plays had been given at the theatre amid the cheers of adherents and the hisses of decent people. Philip heard discussions about it at the Frau Professor’s long table, and at these Professor Erlin lost his wonted calm: he beat the table with his fist, and drowned all opposition with the roar of his fine deep voice. It was nonsense and obscene nonsense. He forced himself to sit the play out, but he did not know whether he was more bored or nauseated. If that was what the theatre was coming to, then it was high time the police stepped in and closed the playhouses. He was no prude and could laugh as well as anyone at the witty immorality of a farce at the Palais Royal, but here was nothing but filth. With an emphatic gesture he held his nose and whistled through his teeth. It was the ruin of the family, the uprooting of morals, the destruction of Germany.

‘Aber, Adolf,’ said the Frau Professor from the other end of the table. ‘Calm yourself.’

He shook his fist at her. He was the mildest of creatures and ventured upon no action of his life without consulting her.

‘No, Helene, I tell you this,’ he shouted. ‘I would sooner my daughters were lying dead at my feet than see them listening to the garbage of that shameless fellow.’

The play was The Doll’s House and the author was Henrik Ibsen.

Professor Erlin classed him with Richard Wagner, but of him he spoke not with anger but with good-humoured laughter. He was a charlatan but a successful charlatan, and in that was always something for the comic spirit to rejoice in.

‘Verruckter Kerl! A madman!’ he said.

He had seen Lohengrin and that passed muster. It was dull but no worse. But Siegfried! When he mentioned it Professor Erlin leaned his head on his hand and bellowed with laughter. Not a melody in it from beginning to end! He could imagine Richard Wagner sitting in his box and laughing till his sides ached at the sight of all the people who were taking it seriously. It was the greatest hoax of the nineteenth century. He lifted his glass of beer to his lips, threw back his head, and drank till the glass was empty. Then wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he said:

‘I tell you young people that before the nineteenth century is out Wagner will be as dead as mutton. Wagner! I would give all his works for one opera by Donizetti.’

 

第二十四章

欧林教授每天给菲利普上一堂课。他开了一张书单,规定菲利普要读哪些著作,为最后研读巨著《浮士德》作好准备。与此同时,欧林教授独具匠心地一上来先教菲利普学一册莎翁剧作的德译本,莎翁的剧作他在中学里就念过的。那阵子,歌德在德国正处于盛名的顶峰。尽管歌德对爱国主义持相当傲慢的态度,但他还是作为民族诗人被德国人接受了。自一八七○年战争爆发以来,他似乎更成了最能体现民族团结的光辉代表人物之一。热情冲动的人们,听到炮击格拉夫洛的隆隆排炮声,似乎沉迷在五朔节前夜的颠狂之中。然而,一个作家之所以伟大,其标志就在于不同的人可以从他的作品里汲取到不同的灵感。这位憎恶普鲁士人的欧林教授,对歌德却佩服得五体投地,因为只有他那些庄严肃穆的作品,才为神志清醒的人提供了一个能抵御当代人蛮横进攻的庇护所。近来在海德堡,经常有人提到一位戏剧家的大名,去年冬天,他的一个剧本在剧院上演时,追随者欢呼喝彩,而正派人士却报以一片嘘声。在教授太太家的长桌旁,菲利普不止一次听到人们在议论这件事;逢到这种场合,欧林教授一反泰然自若的常态,挥拳拍桌,大声吼叫,他那低沉悦耳的喉音压倒了所有的反对意见。这出戏纯粹是乱弹琴,污言秽语不堪入耳。他硬逼着自己坐等戏演完,讲不出自己是厌烦呢,还是更感恶心。要是将来的戏剧都成了这副模样,那还不如趁早让警察出面干预,把所有戏院都来个大封门的好。欧林教授可不是个拘谨古板的夫子,他在皇家剧院观看闹剧时,听到台上伤风败俗之徒的插科打诨,也同所有观众一样捧腹大笑。可是在上面讲的那出戏里,除了乌七八糟的东西外,什么内容也没有。他打了个有力的手势,捏住鼻子,从牙缝间嘘了一声口哨。那出戏实在是家庭的毁灭,道德的沦丧,德意志的崩溃。

"Abor,Adolf,教授太太在桌子另一端说,"别激动嘛!"

他朝她扬了扬拳头。他这个人的性格再温驯不过,从不敢不向太太请教就贸然行事的。

"不,海伦,你听我说,"他大声嚷嚷,"我情愿让女儿死在我脚下,也不放她们去听那个无耻之尤的无聊废话。"

那出戏是《玩偶之家》,作者是亨利克·易卜生。

欧林教授把易卜生和理查德·瓦格纳归在一类里,但是他谈到后者时,并不生气,只是不甚计较地哈哈一笑。瓦格纳是个冒充内行的河湖客,不过冒充得不露破绽,单凭这一点,就颇有几分喜剧色彩,足以令人陶然。

"Verruckter kerl!"他说。

他看过《洛亨格林》,这出歌剧还算过得去,虽然有点沉闷,还不至于太糟。但是《齐格弗里特》,欧林教授一提到这出歌剧,就把头往于上一靠,声若洪钟似地大笑起来。歌剧从头到尾,一节悦耳动听的旋律也没有。不妨可以作这样的想象:剧作家理查德·瓦格纳本人就坐在包厢里,看到台下所有观众都在一本正经地观看这出歌剧,他忍俊不禁,最后连肚子也笑疼了。这是十九世纪最大的骗局。欧林教授把自己的那杯啤酒举到嘴唇边,头往后一仰,一饮而尽。然后,他用手背抹了抹嘴,说:

"年轻人,我可以告诉你们,不出十九世纪,瓦格纳就会被人们忘得一干二净。瓦格纳!我宁愿拿他所有的作品去换唐尼采蒂的一出歌剧。"


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