In重新覆盖, Lucy Scholes exhumes the out-of-print and forgotten books that shouldn’t be.
“You are so exquisitely made,” the American Major in Edith Templeton’s 1968 short story “The Darts of Cupid” tells the object of his desire, “I could break every bone in your body.” This predation is unsettling, as is the completeness with which Eve, the young woman who’s being seduced, embraces the role of submissive victim. Entwined in her new lover’s arms, she’s reminded of a Japanese print she once saw, in which a naked female corpse, floating in the sea, is penetrated by the many tentacles of a large octopus. Her physical and emotional surrender is similarly all-encompassing: “I knew that this was the rendering of love as it should be: trapped inescapably, secure and fastened, drowned in bed and water, both cradle and grave.”
Such sexually explicit content became what Templeton was best known for during her lifetime—a reputation made yet more notorious due to the fact that she drew direct inspiration from her own illicit trysts. She was born into a wealthy upper-class family in Prague in 1916, and raised in a world of sophistication, civility, and gentility: this social milieu would have been shocked by such self-exposing erotica. Edith Passerová, as she was then, met her first husband, the Englishman William Stockwell Templeton, when she was only seventeen. They married five years later, in 1938, and lived in England. The union quickly disintegrated, but rather than return home to what by that point was a war-torn Europe, Templeton remained in Britain after their separation. She initially took a job with the American War Office, during which time she had the brief fling described in “The Darts of Cupid.” The story’s candid, violently charged eroticism caused a stir when it was first published inThe纽约人, but even its level of graphic sexual detail paled in comparison to that of Templeton’s most famous novel.
Gordon,which was originally published—though not under her own name—two years earlier, in 1966, is set in London shortly after the end of the Second World War, and fictionalizes Templeton’s own fleeting but seminal sadomasochistic affair with a Scottish psychiatrist twenty years her senior in the mid-forties. Less than an hour after they first meet, in a pub in Mayfair, the eponymous Gordon has Louisa (Templeton’s fictional alter-ego) flat on her back on a stone bench in a nearby public garden. “The whole was achieved in a matter of about four seconds,” she reports incredulously. “It was speedy and casual and effortless and at the same time seemingly impossible, like a virtuoso performance.” After a nine-month dalliance—during which time Gordon regularly pressures Louisa into intercourse, often in public places and often employing excessive force in the process; refuses to kiss her or engage in any tenderness; and commands she “make loo loo” for him on demand—he abruptly ends the liaison, shortly after which he takes his own life.
Although the sexual politics of the novel are decidedly disturbing—“Nobody could have called it a rape,” Louisa says rather unconvincingly of her and Gordon’s dramatic first encounter; “I was neither willing or unwilling. I was nothing at all. I had not been given the choice to be either”—it’s the novel’s treatment of psychoanalysis that dates it most. When he’s not forcing himself on her body, Gordon’s trying to wheedle his way into Louisa’s unconscious by conducting an unethical bedside analysis, through which we learn that an early separation from her father (which mirrors Templeton’s own) has left Louisa with certain daddy issues. “You are right,” she tells her paramour towards the end of the novel; “it’s never occurred to me before. But it’s true. You are—you were—like a father to me.” While it’s plausible thatGordon’s first readers might have found these revelations surprising, today, it’s all somewhat clichéd.
Speaking in 2002, more than half a century after the real-life Gordon’s suicide, Templeton still described their relationship as the “fundamental event” of her life. It is apt, then, that its fictionalized version has made the most lasting mark on her literary reputation. It’s the only one of her six novels still in print today (along with the short-story collectionThe Darts of Cupid, which was published in 2002 and a finalist for that year’s National Book Critics Circle award). This distinction is due, no doubt, to the scandal caused by the book’s initial publication, at which time its sexual explicitness, especially for a woman writer, was radical: “The original五十深浅的灰色,” reads the tagline on Penguin’s website. But althoughGordonis a literary landmark of sorts, it is not Templeton’s finest work. In fact, it’s her first three novels that are her best:Summer in the Country(1950) (which was released in the U.S. under the alternative titleThe Proper Bohemians在1952年），Living on Yesterday（1951），以及The Island of Desire(1952). What is explicit inGordonis implicit in these novels. Although not officially a trilogy, they are best understood as a triumvirate of sorts: a detailed panorama of the upper classes of Central Europe between the wars, a society that gives the outward appearance of being refined, urbane, and elegant but has danger and disorder simmering beneath the surface.
Set in the sprawling castles that dot the Bohemian countryside and the large town houses of Prague’s most sought-after residential streets, Templeton’s little-known early novels depict a world of intricate, cryptic social codes—a language that is imprinted on those who belong but impossible to translate for those who don’t. Regularly dining out in restaurants is looked down upon (doing so implies deficiency in one’s own chef); ladies must employ a favored dressmaker (though it would be vulgar to wear actual couture); and the man who wears his slippers outside of the privacy of his own bedroom can never be a true gentleman. In a life so meticulously choreographed, the slightest faux pas is a red flag, a permanent sign of bad character. The inverse is true as well: a well-executed performance is interchangeable with an authentic one. “He looks like a man,” declares one character of another inLiving on Yesterday。“因为他看起来像是一个人，所以他认为自己是一个。”（当然，真正的问题是，其他人（算数的人）是否也是如此。在邓普顿（Templeton）的小说中，不可避免地，抛光的外观掩盖了一个笨拙的事实。这些表面上是举止的小说，但是正如英国小说家安妮塔·布鲁克纳（Anita Brookner）如此巧妙地观察到：“它们也是在社交喜剧之下奔跑的事情，所有主要球员都表现出色，这是疯狂，复仇的行为，报仇的行为，和起义。”然而，通过这一切，好的礼节占了上风；喜剧和悲剧都没有动摇邓普顿角色的镇定，也不会使她自己的散文受控优雅。
在邓普顿（Templeton）的前三本小说中，经常是母系人物是社会道德的仲裁者：世俗的，僵化的妇女，她们看到了一切，或者至少，至少，她们想要看到的一切 - 但岁月不给自己的一切。The Island of Desirefeatures the especially self-composed Mrs. Kalny; ever perfectly coiffed and smooth of brow, she remains “outwardly calm” even as great currents of frustration (caused by the behavior of her tiresome teenage daughter, Franciska) roil within her. Here is restraint, Templeton writes, “no less ascetic than the discipline of the soldier or the nun.” InSummer in the Country比尔克太太,这是一个谁主持家庭castle. Too polite to explicitly articulate her dislike of her daughter, Alice, Mrs. Birk nevertheless makes a point of evidencing her disdain in a more artful fashion. “Would you like some of this sherry, Mr Marek?” she asks one guest. “There is whiskey and gin, if you prefer it, but you’ll have to wait till my daughter Alice comes. She keeps it locked up. It gives her something to do.”
It is Alice’s daughter’s husband, the nouveau riche Oscar Ritter, who makes the mistake of leaving his bedroom at Castle Kirna without first changing out of his slippers. Although the Birk family disdains their in-law for his poor manners, it is his money that maintains their ancestral home and estate. Much of the equilibrium of Templeton’s world is sustained by similarly Faustian pacts. InLiving on Yesterday另一个受人尊敬的妇女,男爵夫人Kreslov-the妻子啊f a prosperous industrialist, and the intimidating society hostess of the most famed soirees in all of Prague—marries her daughter, Hedwig, to the young and handsome Count Szalay, a man whose lack of fortune is made up for by his impeccable breeding. Hedwig will provide the capital; he will provide the class. When, after the marriage, it is revealed that Szalay is not the nobleman he claims to be, the baroness remains unruffled—all she requires is that he sustain the masquerade.
Of these three novels,The Island of Desireshowcases the most stinging examples of the same ruthless sangfroid that’s so valued in the social world of Templeton’s writing. It’s impossible to tell, we’re told, how much Mr. Kalny knows about his wife’s habitual, though discreet, infidelities, “but it [is] certainly due to his sobriety and good sense—the good sense of the mediocre—that nothing scandalous ever transpired and that Mrs. Kalny had acquired the reputation of anallumeuse, which was flattering, instead of that of a society whore, which was not.” Templeton grasps the ferocity of her milieu, yet there’s nothing crude about the way she renders it on the page. As theTimes Literary Supplement’s review pointed out, “This is a most savage book, but it is subtle too.” Templeton spares neither husband nor wife in the episode above; never has the termmediocrebeen quite so cutting.
All of Templeton’s novels are about power play, even as the settings change from the salons and drawing rooms of Prague to the bedrooms and backstreets of London. The brutality that bubbles beneath the surface in her early work is given merely a plainly sexual form inGordonand “The Darts of Cupid,” though the subtlety of her prose, and therefore the mastery of her menace, is blunted in the process. But even in the first three novels, sex itself plays a—perhaps surprisingly—significant role for her characters. “Aren’t you sorry, Mama, after all that you did not marry Feldman?” asks Franciska, referring to a rather unattractive but “terribly rich” family friend. “Every day I am sorry. Every night I am glad,” is her worldly mother’s witty, and no doubt sincere, reply.
邓普顿（Templeton）认识到人之间的交易，并不惧怕命名。对她来说，亲密关系是商业交流的过程。她在2000年代初的一次采访中说：“我一直在妓女。”她澄清说：“不要误会，我并不是说我走进街头。”“我没有钱，我必须活着，所以我结婚了，我被各种各样的人保留了……我想成为一个寄生虫，我需要保留，所以我可以写信。”她对自己的手艺的承诺与她的厌恶症一样令人惊讶：在同一谈话中，她认为女权主义是“愚蠢的”。她宣称，男人“很高”，就是这样。在另一次采访中，她承认自己从不爱她独生子。邓普顿（Templeton）的残酷性在她的小说中被传播成丰富的形式。如果她与现实生活中的戈登的关系是她一生中的一个决定性事件，那么她所搬家的社会的环境阴谋对她的影响力与作家和女人一样。 In these novels—as in life, Templeton would no doubt have argued—virtue, decency, and kindness are not rewarded, and naivete and youth put one only at a disadvantage. “If you’re going to be a writer, you have to be willing to be nasty,” she is recorded as saying, shortly before she died in 2006, at age ninety at her home in Bordighera on the Italian Riviera. “The idyllic does not work—maybe it does in painting, but not in literature.”
露西·斯科尔斯（Lucy Scholes）是住在伦敦的批评家。她为NYR Daily,这金融时报,《纽约时报》书评, andLiterary Hub, among other publications. Read earlier installments of重新覆盖。