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广西师范大学出版社 理想国




The Eternal Snow Beauty / 永远的尹雪艳  

2013-10-30 10:19:12|  分类: 书·摘 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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YIN HSUEH-YEN SOMEHOW never seemed to age. Of those fashionable young men who had been her admirers more than a dozen years ago in Shanghai’s Paramount Ballroom, some had grown bald on top and some were graying at the temples; some on coming to Taiwan had been downgraded to the level of “consultants” in the foundries, cement works, or synthetic-fabric factories, while a small number had risen to become bank presidents or top executives in the government. But however the affairs of men fluctuated, Yin Hsueh-yen remained forever Yin Hsueh-yen, the “Snow Beauty” of Shanghai fame. In Taipei, she still wore her white ch’i-p’ao of “cicada-wing” gauze, smiling as always her faint smile, not allowing so much as a single wrinkle to appear at the corners of her eyes.



Yin Hsueh-yen was genuinely bewitching, though no one could say precisely where her charm lay. She rarely bothered to put on makeup; at most, she might touch her lips with a little Max Factor now and then; so faint as to be barely noticeable. Nor did she care to wear vivid colors. All through the summer, when the weather was burning hot, she dressed entirely in silvery white, looking cool and fresh beyond words. Indeed, she had lovely snow-white skin and a slender figure, with sweet, exquisite eyes set in an oval face, but it was not these features that made her so extraordinary. Everyone who had ever set eyes on Yin Hsueh-yen said that, for some mysterious reason, every gesture of her hand and every movement of her foot held an alluring charm unmatched in all the world. While a yawn or a frown would have been unbecoming in others, in her it carried another kind of attraction. She spoke little: at crucial moments she might throw in a few words, ever so pleasant and soothing to the ear, in her Soochow-accented Shanghainese. Some patrons who could not afford to have her at their tables came nonetheless to the Paramount just to enjoy her radiant presence and listen to her soft Soochow speech, which seemed to make it all worthwhile. On the dance floor, her head slightly raised, her hips gently swaying, she always danced unhurriedly; even when it was a quick fox-trot, she never let go of herself, displaying the ease and suppleness of a windblown catkin drifting along, free of roots. Yin Hsueh-yen had her own rhythm; she moved to her own beat. No outside disturbance could affect her natural poise.


Inexplicable and innumerable as the Snow Beauty’s charms were, one thing added immensely to her mystery. As her fame grew, she found it difficult to avoid the jealousy of her sisters in the profession, who vented their spite by spreading rumors about her horoscope: that it was dominated by an evil curse, that in it the White Tiger Star was ascendant, and that whoever came near her would lose at least his fortune, if not his life. Strangely enough, this well-publicized curse made her doubly attractive to Shanghai’s fashionable men about town. Their wealth and leisure prompted them to adventure, to try their luck with this evil star, the queen of the Whangpoo metropolis.



One of the men who thus tempted fate was Wang Kuei-sheng, scion of the Wang family, kingpins in Shanghai’s cottonyarn industry. Every evening he waited in his brand-new Cadillac at the entrance of the Paramount until Yin Hsueh-yen had finished her rounds at the tables. Then together they would go up to the roof garden on the fourteenth floor of the Park Hotel3 for their exquisite late-night snack. As they gazed at the moon and the bright stars in the sky, Wang Kuei-sheng said that if he could use his family’s gold bars to build a ladder to the heavens he would climb up and pluck the crescent moon to pin in Snow Beautys hair. Yin Hsueh-yen just smiled, without a word to him, as she extended her dainty orchid-like hand and slowly conveyed the crescent-shaped canapés of black caviar into her mouth.



Wang Kuei-sheng speculated madly, seeking to triple or quadruple his fortune by any means, so that he could defeat one by one those wealthy suitors hanging around Yin Hsueh-yen, throw a diamond and cornelian chain round her neck, and lead her home. In due course, Wang was charged with the serious crime of manipulating the market in collusion with government officials and was found guilty. On the day he was taken from prison and shot, Yin Hsueh-yen cancelled her appearance for the evening in token of mourning.



The man who eventually won the Snow Beauty was Director Hung, chief of a government bureau and one of the hotshots in Shanghai’s world of finance. When he had divorced his wife, abandoned their three children, and met all of Yin Hsueh-yen’s conditions, she married him and moved into an elegant Western-style house taken over from the Japanese in the French Concession of Shanghai. In a few months’ time, Yin Hsueh-yen burst upon Shanghai’s high society like a late-blossoming pear tree, completely overshadowing all the other beauties.



She was certainly able to dominate any gathering. At brilliant parties where the fashionable daughters of wealthy families sat wrapped in their dark sable or red fox, she had only to appear airily in her waist-hugging, high-collared silver fox for all present to feel themselves intoxicated as with the light breeze in March and involuntarily drawn toward her. In the crowds she seemed a crystalline ice-spirit, her frosty charm a dangerous force. As she glided along with her zephyr step, the sight of her called forth an answering fire in the eyes of those elegant men and women. This, then, was the famous Snow Beauty: on the dance floor of the Jessfield Nightclub, in the corridors of the Lyceum Theater, or in the living rooms of the aristocratic mansions along Avenue Joffre, leaning against a sofa or a chair, a faint smile playing at the corners of her mouth, dressed in silvery white from top to toe, she summoned into her presence a host of bank managers and their assistants, cotton-mill bosses young and old, and the nouveaux riches and their wives.



But in the end Director Hung’s horoscope proved no match for Yin Hsueh-yen’s evil karma. In a year he had lost his position; after two years he was bankrupt; and upon arriving in Taipei, he could not even land an idle consultant’s job. When Yin Hsueh-yen divorced him, however, she was magnanimous: all she took, aside from her own possessions, was her famous Shanghai chef and two Soochow maids.



The Eternal Snow Beauty / 永远的尹雪艳 - 北贝 - 为了人与书的相遇
摘自《台北人·Taipei People》(汉英对照版),白先勇/著,叶佩霞、白先勇/译,乔志高/主编,广西师大出版社理想国,2013年10月,详情:http://www.imaginist.com.cn/channel.php?bid=735
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