Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas.

       It is the fashion of the day, and it has been the fashion for more than thirty years, for many of the younger citizens to speak with some condescension of the long reign of Octavius Caesar. And he himself, toward the end of his life, thought that all of his work had been for nothing.

       Yet the Empire of Rome that he created has endured the harshness of a Tiberius, the monstrous cruelty of a Caligula, and the ineptness of a Claudius. And now our new Emperor is one whom you tutored as a boy, and to whom you remain close in his new authority; let us be thankful for the fact that he will rule in the light of your wisdom and virtue, and let us pray to the gods that, under Nero, Rome will at last fulfill the dream of Octavius Caesar.

John Williams的Augustus尾声,Philippus of Athens致(我那全书掉线到这里才终于刷了存在感的本命)Seneca的信的最后两段。

怎么形容呢,微妙地觉得又嫌弃又感慨。历史小说这样收尾真是太俗了。一看就知道是已知后事如何的后人写的。当然真实的历史很多时候比这还像是后人写的,但史书里的神嘲讽和作家刻意安插的trigger给人的感观还是完全不同的。就算是看在Seneca的份上,我也不会给这种结局打高分的(。

说起来看历史小说常常会觉得没劲就是因为作者似乎是抱着一种“这可是历史啊”的心态去写的,以至于他们笔下的人物说起话来也都(不)自觉地带着千载悠悠的腔调。可对于每一个历史人物来说,那都只是“现在”而已吧。

可是嫌弃完了还是不得不承认自己多少是被戳中了。虽然对帝国的命运(或者说Julio-Claudian dynasty的气数)不怎么惋惜,但对个人的体验还是会有感触的。偷懒照抄原文地概括一下,我感慨的大约是Augustus, toward the end of his life, thought that all of his work had been for nothing. And despite all Philippus's wishful thinking, Seneca, toward the end of his life, must also have thought that all of his work had been for nothing. 

纽约时报某书评说过John Williams的《斯通纳》、《屠夫十字镇》和Augustus这三本书的narrative arc是很相似的:

a young man's initiation, vicious male rivalries, subtler tensions between men and women, fathers and daughters, and finally a bleak sense of disappointment, even futility.

出处

总之戳中我的大概就是这种futility感吧(。

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