By: Ron | 06-22-2021 | Stories

Kong Yiji

by Lu Xun [April 1919]

The layout of Luzhen town's tavern is different from other places: it has a large curved counter facing the street with hot water on tap that is hot enough to warm up your wine at any time. The blue collar working class come here during their breaks and after work to buy a bowl of wine for just four copper coins - that was the price twenty years ago though, nowadays each bowl of wine costs ten copper coins. The workers stand next to the counter and drink their hot wine to warm up and relax. If they are willing to spend another copper coin, they can buy a dish of salted bamboo shoots or fennel beans to snack on while drinking. If they have more than ten copper coins to spend, then they could even buy a meat dish. These customers mostly wear short-sleeved outfits that are considered not very fashionable. Only customers wearing long sleeves could enter into the adjacent room to relax while seated in chairs as they ordered wine and foods.

这是二十多年前的事,现在每碗要涨到十文,⸺靠柜外 站着,热热的喝了休息;倘肯多花一文,便可以买一碟盐 煮笋,或者茴香豆,做下酒物了,如果出到十几文,那就

Since I was twenty years old, I've been working at Luzhen village's Xiangheng Tavern. The manager told me to stand outside and find anything to do because I didn't look very sophisticated and would never be able to provide good service to the customers inside wearing long sleeves. The short sleeved customers outside were easy to talk with, but they often nagged and made strange demands. They always wanted to watch very closely as I scooped yellow wine out of the big jars into their cup to make sure that no water was added to dilute the wine - only after the drink was sufficiently warmed up would they finally relax and calm down. Under such strict observation, diluting their wine with water was a very difficult task and it only took a few days before the manager said I wasn't allowed to do this task any more. Luckily the customers had a lot of affection for me and I didn't lose my job altogether, however, I was relegated to do the boring task of just warming up the customer's wine.
私は二十歳から    村の   酒場で働いています。私は「お前は洗練されてるようには見えないし中の長袖を着てる客に良いサービスを提供できないだろうから外に立って何かすることを探せ」とマネージャーに言われました。外にいる半袖の客たちは話しやすかった反面、よく文句を言ってきて変な要求をしてきました。彼らは水を加えてワインを薄めていないか確認するために私が大きめな瓶から黄色いワインをすくってカップに入れるのをいつも近くで見たがって、飲み物が十分に温められてようやくリラックスして落ち着くのです。このような厳しい監視の中でワインを水で薄める作業はとても難しくて2,3日後にはマネージャーから「お前はもうこの作業をするな」と言われてしまいました。幸いなこと客たちは私に好意を持ってくれていたので仕事を完全に失いませんでしたが、客のワインを温めるだけというつまらない仕事に追いやられてしまいました。

我从十二岁起,便在鎭口的咸亨酒店里当伙计,掌柜 说,样子太傻,怕侍候不了长衫主顾,就在外面做点事 罢。外面的短衣主顾,虽然容易说话,但唠唠叨叨缠夹不 清的也很不少。他们往往要亲眼看着黄酒从坛子里舀出, 看过壶子底里有水没有,又亲看将壶子放在热水里,然后 放心:在这严重监督下,羼水也很为难。所以过了几天,

I have stood outside the counter ever since then, focused on my task of warming up wine. Although I never neglect my duty, it does feel monotonous and a bit boring. The manager has a fierce demeanor and customers don't have good attitudes either so the atmosphere is never very lively. It’s only when Kong Yiji arrived that a bit of laughter could be had, and that’s why I still remember him.

我从此便整天的站在柜台里,专管我的职务。虽然没有 什么失职,但总觉得有些单调,有些无聊。掌柜是一副凶 脸孔,主顾也没有好声气,教人活泼不得;只有孔乙己到 店,才可以笑几声,所以至今还记得。

Kong Yiji is the only person who stands outside to drink while wearing long sleeves. He is very tall with a sturdy build, a pale white face marred with wrinkles and scars, and a matted grey beard. Although he wears long sleeves, they are very dirty, worn out, and seemingly haven't been washed or patched in a decade or more. Whenever he talks with people, he fills his sentences with archaic words like "thee", "thou", and "thine", needlessly causing us to misunderstand half of what he says. Because his surname is "Kong", some people took the nonsensical word "Yiji" from a children's kanji tracing book called "Shang Da Ren Kong Yiji" and gave him the nickname "Kong Yiji". Whenever Kong Yiji arrives at the tavern, all the drunken customers look over at him and laugh. Some yell out, "Kong Yiji, your face seems to have some new wrinkles and scars on it!" He doesn't reply to the hecklers, instead telling the bar tender, "two warm bowls of wine, and a dish of fennel beans" as he takes out nine pieces of copper. The hecklers loudly yell at him, "You must have stolen someone's stuff again!" Kong Yiji, opening his eyes wide, replied: "Thou callest an innocent man such drivel..." "Innocent?? I saw you steal someones book with my own eyes. They even beat you up." Kong Yiji's face turned red and the veins in his forehead start pulsating as he argued, "Taking someone's books is not stealing... I just took them! ...a researcher's resources, pray tell, can that thusly be called stealing?" After a series of nearly incomprehensible phrases such as "errant gentleman" and "howe'er thou for't", the tavern's atmosphere turned lively again as the other customers laughed at him.
長袖を着て外で立って飲んでいるのは孔乙己だけです。彼はがっしりした体格で、しわや傷だらけの青白い顔に艶のないグレーの髭を生やした背の高い人です。彼は長袖を着てはいますがとても汚くて擦り切れていて10年以上洗ったり繕ったりしていないようです。彼は人と話す時「汝」「汝の」などの古風な言葉を多用するので私たちは無駄に彼の言うことの半分は誤解してしまいます。彼の苗字は「孔」なので、子ども用の漢字トレーシングブック『上大人孔乙己』から「乙己」という意味不明な言葉を取って「孔乙己」というあだ名を付けた人もいました。孔乙己が酒場に来ると酔っ払った客たちは必ず彼に目をやって笑います。中には「孔乙己、お前の顔にまたシワや傷ができたようだな」と叫ぶ者もいます。孔乙己はこれを無視してバーテンダーに「温かいワインを2杯、フェンネル豆を1皿」と言って銅貨を9枚取り出します。野次を飛ばす奴らは「また人のものを盗んだに違いない!」と大声で叫びます。孔乙己は目を大きく見開いて返事をしました。「汝、無実の者をそのような戯言で呼ぶのか…」「無実?俺はこの目でお前が人の本を盗むのを見たんだよ。お前殴られてただろう。」孔乙己は「人の本を取るのは盗みではない。私はただそれを取っただけだ!研究者の資源、祈り伝える、それを盗みと呼んでいいのか?」口論するにつれて顔が真っ赤になって額の血管がピクピクと動き始めました。「   」や「   」などのほぼちんぷんかんぷんなフレーズが続いた後、他の客たちが彼のことを笑って酒場の雰囲気はまた明るくなりました。

孔乙己是站着喝酒而穿长衫的唯一的人。他身材很高 大;青白脸色,皱纹间时常夹些伤痕;一部乱蓬蓬的花白 的胡子。穿的虽然是长衫,可是又脏又破,似乎十多年没 有补,也没有洗。他对人说话,总是满口之乎者也,教人 半懂不懂的。因为他姓孔,别人便从描红纸上的「上大人 孔乙己」这半懂不懂的话里,替他取下一个绰号,叫作孔 乙己。孔乙己一到店,所有喝酒的人便都看着他笑,有的 叫道,「孔乙己,你脸上又添上新伤疤了!」他不回答, 对柜里说,「温两碗酒,要一碟茴香豆。」便排出九文大 钱。他们又故意的高声嚷道,「你一定又偷了人家的东西 了!」孔乙己睁大眼睛说,「你怎么这样凭空污人清
白......」「什么清白?我前天亲眼见你偷了何家的书, 吊着打。」孔乙己便涨红了脸,额上的青筋条条绽出,争
辩道,「窃书不能算偷......窃书!......读书人的事,能算 偷么?」接连便是难懂的话,什么「君子固穷」,什么 「者乎」之类,引得众人都哄笑起来:店内外充满了快活 的空气。

There were rumors floating around that Kong Yiji had studied hard when younger, but ultimately never managed to get accepted to a school or even get a stable job to make a living. He became poorer and poorer each day and flirted with the idea of becoming a beggar. Fortunately he was able to write and sometimes found low-level work as a copyist which enabled him to buy some food to eat. Unfortunately he had a bad temper, loved to drink, and was quite lazy. After a few days at a job, he would suddenly disappear along with all of the employer's books, paper, pens, and ink that he was using to work. It only took a couple of such incidents before any potential employer would not agree to hire him. Kong Yiji did not have a strong sense of authority so inevitably often found himself involved in accidental theft. But in our tavern, he behaved better than others and always paid his bills. Sometimes he did not have enough money and we recorded his name and the amount he owed on our board where we wrote the tab amount for the tavern's customers, but he always paid his bills within a month and we would clear his name off the tabs board.

听人家背地里谈论,孔乙己原来也读过书,但终于没有 进学,又不会营生;于是愈过愈穷,弄到将要讨饭了。幸


Not long after Kong Yiji drank half a bowl of wine, his face turning flush in response, the person next to him asked another question: "Kong Yiji, do you seriously know how to read?" Kong Yiji looked at the person who asked him the question and glared at him in disdain. The person persisted with asking, "Why aren’t you even able to muster half a talent at anything?" Kong Yiji, immediately appearing depressed and anxious with what felt like a layer of gray draped over his face, began muttering a string of unintelligible words of which we could only decipher a handful. At this moment, everybody burst into laughter and the tavern's atmosphere was again energized with a lively ambience.

孔乙己喝过半碗酒,涨红的脸色渐渐复了原,旁人便又 问道,「孔乙己,你当眞认识字么?」孔乙己看着问他的 人,显出不屑置辩的神气。他们便接着说道,「你怎的连 半个秀才也捞不到呢?」孔乙己立刻显出颓唐不安模样, 脸上笼上了一层灰色,嘴里说些话;这回可是全是之乎者 也之类,一些不懂了。在这时候,众人也都哄笑起来:店 内外充满了快活的空气。

When customers made fun of Kong Yiji, I could laugh along with the customers and the manager never scolded me. Moreover, whenever the manager saw Kong Yiji, he always asked him the same mocking questions to get the other customers to laugh. Kong Yiji knew that he couldn't chat with the other customers who were his peers, so he only spoke with the younger generations. One time he asked me, "Thou hast ever been to school?" I nodded slightly. He said, "Thou hast been to school... let me test thy knowledge. Doest thou know how to spell 'fennel' from the word 'fennel bean'?" I thought to myself as I turned around to ignore him: "Was someone who looked like a beggar really testing me like this?" Kong Yiji waited a very long time before sincerely asking, "Thou doest not know how to write 'fennel'? .... let me teach you. Listen carefully! This word is very important, someday when thee are the manager, thou shall need to write it on customer invoices." Without saying a word, I thought to myself: "the manager and I are of a completely different social class, and besides the manager never writes the words 'fennel beans' on customer invoices." Feeling slightly amused, but impatient, I lazily replied to him, "I don't need you to teach me. Isn't it spelled f-e-n-n - e - l?" Kong Yiji looked extremely happy and ecstatically tapped two of his long finger nails on the counter while nodding and saying, "Yes! Yes! Thou are correct! ... however there are actually four ways to spell 'fennel', did thou know that?" Growing impatient, I pursed my lips and walked away from him just a moment after he had dipped his finger nail in his wine with the intent of writing on the counter. He sighed with great regret after realizing that I was not enthusiastic with learning from him.

在这些时候,我可以附和着笑,掌柜是决不责备的。而 且掌柜见了孔乙己,也每每这样问他,引人发笑。孔乙己 自己知道不能和他们谈天,便只好向孩子说话。有一回对 我说道,「你读过书么?」我略略点一点头。他说,「读
过书,......我便考你一考。茴香豆的茴字,怎样写 的?」我想,讨饭一样的人,也配考我么?便回过脸去, 不再理会。孔乙己等了许久,很恳切的说道,「不能写
罢?......我教给你,记着!这些字应该记着。将来做掌柜 的时候,写账要用。」我暗想我和掌柜的等级还很远呢, 而且我们掌柜也从不将茴香豆上账;又好笑,又不耐烦, 懒懒的答他道,「谁要你教,不是草头底下一个来回的回
字么? 」孔乙己显出极高兴的样子,将两个指头的长指
甲敲着柜台,点头说,「对呀对呀!......回字有四样写 法,你知道么?」我愈不耐烦了,努着嘴走远。孔乙己刚 用指甲蘸了酒,想在柜上写字,见我毫不热心,便又叹一 口气,显出极惋惜的样子。

Sometimes the neighborhood kids would hear the laughter in the tavern then run over to surround Kong Yiji to see what was so funny. He would give them fennel beans to eat. Each kid would get one single bean. After the kids ate the beans, they wouldn't leave, and instead stared longingly at the rest of the beans. Kong Yiji, in a panic, would cover the plate with his five fingers and bend over to tell the kids, "There aren't many left, I don't have many more." Standing up, he would look at the beans and start shaking his head saying, "Not many! Not many! Doest remain many beans? No, doest not!" Finally the children would walk away while laughing at him.

有几回,邻舍孩子听得笑声,也赶热闹,围住了孔乙 己。他便给他们茴香豆吃,一人一颗。孩子吃完豆,仍然 不散,眼睛都望着碟子。孔乙己着了慌,伸开五指将碟子 罩住,弯腰下去说道,「不多了,我已经不多了。」直起 身又看一看豆,自己摇头说,「不多不多!多乎哉?不多 也。」于是这一群孩子都在笑声里走散了。

Kong Yiji brought laughter to the people making fun of him, but even without him they could still find things to laugh about.

孔乙己是这样的使人快活,可是没有他,别人也便这么 过。

One day, approximately two or three days before the Mid-Autumn Festival, the manager was slowly balancing the books and took down the board with customer tabs written on it. Suddenly he said, "Kong Yiji hasn't been around these days. He still owes us 19 coins!" At that moment I also realized that he hasn't been around recently. A drunken customer told us, "How could he come here? ... He broke his leg." The manager exclaimed, "Oh!"
"He is always stealing. This time he was dumb and decided to go steal from Ding Juren's house. Is it even possible to steal from Ding Juren's house?"
"What happened after that?"
"After that? They caught him, he wrote down a plea, then they beat him up. They beat him through the night then broke his leg."
"Then what happened?"
"Then they broke his leg."
"How is he doing now that his leg is broke?" "Hows he doing? ... Who knows? Maybe he is dead."
The manager stopped asking questions and went back to balancing the books.
「あいつはいつも盗みをやってるんだ。今回はあいつが間抜けで   の家から盗もうとしたんだよ。てか   の家から盗むなんて可能なのか?」

有一天,大约是中秋前的两三天,掌柜正在慢慢的结 账,取下粉板,忽然说,「孔乙己长久没有来了。还欠十 九个钱呢!」我才也觉得他的确长久没有来了。一个喝酒
的人说道,「他怎么会来?......他打折了腿了。」掌柜 说,「哦!」「他总仍旧是偷。这一回,是自己发昏,竟 偷到丁举人家里去了。他家的东西,偷得的么?」「后来 怎么样?」「怎么样?先写服辩,后来是打,打了大半 夜,再打折了腿。」「后来呢?」「后来打折了腿了。」
「打折了怎样呢?」「怎样?......谁晓得?许是死了。」 掌柜也不再问,仍然慢慢的算他的账。

After the Mid-Autumn Festival, the autumn wind was becoming colder day by day as an early winter began to approach. I stood by the fire all day long and wore a heavy padded jacket. One afternoon there was not even a single customer so I sat with my eyes closed. All of a sudden I heard a voice, "One warm bowl of wine." Although the voice was very low, it was also very familiar. I opened my eyes but didn't see anybody. I stood up and looked around to see that Kong Yiji was sitting on the ground on the other side of the counter. His face was black and thin giving him a wilted appearance while sitting cross-legged on the ground wearing a torn jacket. He had a pouch hanging off a straw cord draped over his shoulder. When he saw me, he repeated, "One warm bowl of wine." The manager poked his head out and said, "Is that Kong Yiji? You owe me nineteen coins still!" Replying with a sullen face, Kong Yiji said, "That... ill pay thee back next time. This time I'll pay with cash. Just want some good wine." The manager like usual replied with a smile on his face: "Kong Yiji, you must have stolen something again!" But this time he only replied with a simple, "Dont laugh at me!"
"Laugh at you? If you didn’t steal anything, how did you break your legs?"
"I fell. Fell. Fell..." he replied as if begging the manager to stop asking about it.
By now there were people gathering around and laughing with the manager. I warmed his wine and brought it out to him, leaving it on the ground next to him. He found four copper coins in his torn jacket pocket and put them in my hand. I noticed his hands were completely covered in mud; he must have used his hands to drag himself to the tavern along the ground. Not long after, he finished his wine and began dragging himself away from the tavern while all the onlookers laughed and jeered at him.  

中秋之后,秋风是一天凉比一天,看看将近初冬;我整 天的靠着火,也须穿上棉袄了。一天的下半天,没有一个 顾客,我正合了眼坐着。忽然间听得一个声音,「温一碗 酒。」这声音虽然极低,却很耳熟。看时又全没有人。站 起来向外一望,那孔乙己便在柜台下对了门槛坐着。他脸 上黑而且瘦,已经不成样子;穿一件破夹袄,盘着两腿,

「温一碗酒。 」掌柜也伸出头去,一面说,「孔乙己 么?你还欠十九个钱呢!」孔乙己很颓唐的仰面答道,
「这......下回还清罢。这一回是现钱,酒要好。」掌柜仍 然同平常一样,笑着对他说,「孔乙己,你又偷了东西 了!」但他这回却不十分分辩,单说了一句「不要取 笑!」「取笑?要是不偷,怎么会打断腿?」孔乙己低声
说道,「跌断,跌,跌......」他的眼色,很像恳求掌 柜,不要再提。此时已经聚集了几个人,便和掌柜都笑 了。我温了酒,端出去,放在门槛上。他从破衣袋里摸出 四文大钱,放在我手里,见他满手是泥,原来他便用这手 走来的。不一会,他喝完酒,便又在旁人的说笑声中,坐 着用这手慢慢走去了。

Since then, it has been a long time since I have seen Kong Yiji. At the end of the year, the manager took the customer tabs board down and said, "Kong Yiji still owes me nineteen coins!" A year later during the Dragonboat Festival, the manager again took the board down and said, "Kong Yiji still owes me nineteen coins!" By the time the Mid-Autumn Festival rolled around, the manager didn't say anything. I still did not see Kong Yiji by the end of the second year.

自此以后,又长久没有看见孔乙己。到了年关,掌柜取 下粉板说,「孔乙己还欠十九个钱呢!」到第二年的端 午,又说「孔乙己还欠十九个钱呢!」到中秋可是没有 说,再到年关也没有看见他。

I still haven't seen him to this day -- probably Kong Yiji is really dead.


March 1919.


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