Yidan Han

  Contributing Editor:
  Kyle David Anderson

Susan Stewart

Poet and critic. Susan Stewart was born in 1952. She received a B.A. in English and anthropology from Dickinson College, an M.A. in poetics from Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of several collections of poetry, including Red Rover (2008), Columbarium (2003), The Forest (1995), The Hive (1987), and Yellow Stars and Ice (1981).



Peter Feng


Peter Feng was born in Chongqing, China, in 1979. He has received a Ph.D degree in literature from Nanjing University and currently teaches English at Jinan University. He has co-translated A Journey through the Chinese Empire, Intimate China, and The Web and the Rock, and co-written a book of poems Cruel Raven (2011). His study includes poetry, psychoanalysis, and contemporary philosophy.

A Language


I had heard the story before about the two prisoners, alone in the same cell, and one gives the other lessons in a language. Day after day, the pupil studies hard— what else does he have to do?—and year after year they practice, waiting for the hour of release. They tackle the nouns, the cases, and genders, the rules for imperatives and conjugations, but near the end of his sentence, the teacher suddenly dies and only the pupil goes back through the gate and into the open world. He travels to the country of his new language, fluent, and full of hope. Yet when he arrives he finds that the language he speaks is not the language that is spoken. He has learned a language one other person knew—its inventor, his cell-mate and teacher. And then the other evening, I heard the story again. This time the teacher was Gombrowicz, the pupil was his wife. She had dreamed of learning Polish and, hour after hour, for years on end, Gombrowicz had been willing to teach her a Polish that does not and never did exist. The man who told the story would like to marry his girlfriend. They love to read in bed and between them speak three languages. They laughed—at the wife, at Gombrowicz, it wasn't clear, and I wasn't sure that they themselves knew what was funny. I wondered why the man had told the story, and thought of the tricks enclosure can play. A nod, or silence, another nod, consent—or not, as a cloud drifts beyond the scene and the two stand pointing in different directions at the very same empty sky. Even so, there was something else about the story, like teaching a stunt to an animal—a four-legged creature might prance on two legs or a two-legged creature might fall onto four. I remembered, then, the miscarriage, and before that the months of waiting: like baskets filled with bright shapes, the imagination run wild. And then what arrived: the event that was nothing, a mistaken idea, a scrap of charred cloth, the enormous present folding over the future, like a wave overtaking a grain of sand. There was a myth I once knew about twins who spoke a private language, though one spoke only the truth and the other only lies. The savior gets mixed up with the traitor, but the traitor stays as true to himself as a god. All night the rain falls here, falls there, and the creatures dream, or drown, in the lair.


从前我听过一个故事 关于两个囚犯,被单独关押 在同一个囚室,一个 给另一个上语言课, 日复一日,学生学得很刻苦 他还能做什么呢?—— 年复一年,他们如此进行着 等待被释放的那刻。 他们解决名词,变格,词性 祈使句和词形的变化规则, 但在刑期将满的时候,老师 突然死去只剩下学生 只身一人穿过大门走向 敞开的世界。他去到那个新语言的 国家旅行,口语流畅,满怀希望。 他到达时却发现 他所说的这门语言并不是 那里所说的语言。他学了一门 只有一个人懂的语言——它的创造者, 他的狱友老师。 然后在另一个 夜晚,我又听到了这个故事。 这一次,老师是贡布罗维奇,学生 是他的妻子。她曾经梦想着学习 波兰语,一小时接一小时,持续了 很多年,贡布罗维奇一直愿意 教她一种从未存在的波兰语。讲这个故事的 男人想和他的女友结婚。 他们喜欢在床上阅读并 在他们之间说着三种语言。 他们嘲笑那个妻子和贡布罗维奇,我 弄不清楚也无法确定的是 他们自己是否知道为什么笑。 我困惑于那个男人为何 讲这故事,我想着围场 能玩出的把戏。一次点头或沉默 再一次点头,同意——不,像一朵 飘出场景的云,两人 站着指向不同的方向 在同一片空旷的天空。 即便如此,这个故事 也还有没讲完的地方,就像 教给某个动物特技——一只四条腿的 动物用两条腿腾跃 或是一只两条腿的动物能够 四脚趴地。 然后我想起了 那次流产,在那之前 是数月的等待;像满载的篮子 有着明亮的形体,想象 变得狂野。然后到来的是: 一次虚无的事件,一个错误的想法, 一小片烧焦的布,巨大的 现在折叠在未来之上, 像一个波浪压倒 一粒沙。 我曾知道 关于两个孪生子 说同一种私人语言的神话,尽管一个 只说真话,另一个 只说谎话。拯救者与 背叛者混淆了,但是背叛者 忠实于自己如一个神。 整夜,雨落在这儿,落在那儿, 动物们做梦,或溺毙,在巢穴里。

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