The Ant’s Plunder, by Xi Chuan

The Ant’s Plunder
~Xi Chuan, translated by Lucas Klein

 

蚂蚁劫

在我伸手去抓那个铁门把的时候,一只伏在门把上的蚂蚁狠狠扎了我的右手食

指。我不知它是用它的小钳子刺了我一下,还是用它的嘴咬了我一口。我不知

它哪儿来那么大的力量。

 

在一瞬间,它把自己整个变成了一件武器。我疼得高声叫骂,叫骂一只长约1.5

厘米的既不算罕见也不算常见的蚂蚁。这可能是它一生所能取得的最高成就:

叫一个人因它而疼痛。

 

仿佛灯泡里挑着的钨丝,蚂蚁的六条细腿适合它的存在。它的身体,前半段明

黄,后半段棕色,饱含汁水,像两颗水滴焊接在一起。

 

两颗水滴焊接在一起就有了生命意志,这生命意志就生出了蚂蚁举在头前的一

对小钳子。无论蚂蚁还是螃蟹,都使用这样的小钳子,只是型号大小各不相同。

 

我仔细观察这只蚂蚁,忍着刺痛。

 

在一阵深深的刺痛中我和一只蚂蚁相遇。海德格尔所说―人与世界的相遇‖,没

想到会以这样一种方式发生在我和蚂蚁之间。这只蚂蚁活着就要扎我一次;我

活着就要因它而叫骂一回。

 

我生命的弧线弯到了它生命的弧线上,有点意思。弄死它吗?很容易。但它吃

准了我不会弄死它。它迅速爬走,一付慌张的模样,同时假装对我的叫骂一无

所知。

 

The Ant’s Plunder

 

When I stuck out my hand to grab the iron door handle, a hidden ant attacked my right
index finger. I don’t know if it pinched me with its pincers or bit me with its mouth. I
don’t know how it got so strong.

In an instant, it turned itself into a weapon. The pain was so great that I cursed this
neither common nor rare 1.5–centimeter long ant. This may be the greatest
achievement of its life: to cause a man such piercing pain.

Like the filament of a light bulb, the six legs of an ant befit its existence. Its body,
bright yellow in front and brown in back, is filled with liquid, like two water droplets
fused together.

Two water droplets fused together to produce a will to live, a will to live that produces
the pincers protruding from the ant’s head. The ant and the crab both use pincers,
whose only difference is their size.

In stabbing pain, I examine this ant.

In the throbs of pain the ant and I encounter each other. I never thought ―the encounter
between Man and World‖ of which Heidegger spoke would find form between me and
ant. This ant lives to sting me; I live to curse it in pain.

The arc of my life hooks onto the arc of its life, which is kind of significant. Kill it? Easy. But it
knew I couldn’t. It scurried away, flustered, pretending to ignore my curses.

 

 

Xi Chuan 西川 (penname of Liu Jun 刘军) was born in Jiangsu in 1963 but grew up in Beijing, where he still lives. One of contemporary China’s most celebrated poets, having won the Lu Xun Prize for Literature (2001) and the Zhuang Zhongwen Prize (2003), he is also one of its most hyphenated littérateurs—teacher-essayist-translator-editor-poet—and has been described by American writer Eliot Weinberger as a ―polymath, equally at home discussing the latest American poetry or Shang Dynasty numismatics.‖ A graduate of the English dept. of Beijing University, where his thesis was on Ezra Pound’s Chinese translations, he is currently employed at the Central Academy for Fine Arts in Beijing, where he was hired as an English instructor, then taught Western literature in Chinese translation, and now teaches pre-modern Chinese literature. He has taught at New York University (2007) and University of Victoria (2009), and is currently translating the work of Gary Snyder into Chinese.

Lucas Klein—a former radio DJ and union organizer—is a writer, translator, and editor of CipherJournal.com. His translations, essays, and poems have appeared at Two Lines, Jacket, and Drunken Boat, and he has regularly reviewed books for Rain Taxi and other venues. A graduate of Middlebury College (BA) and Yale University (PhD), he is Assistant Professor in the dept. of Chinese, Translation & Linguistics at City University of Hong Kong. Endure, a small collection of Bei Dao 北島 poems translated with Clayton Eshleman, is now out from Black Widow Press, and his translations of Xi Chuan 西川 are forthcoming from New Directions as Notes on the Mosquito (see http://xichuanpoetry.com for more information). He is also at work translating Tang dynasty poet Li Shangyin 李商隱.