[1] Believe it or not, I’ve been starving for four days on end.

[2] At first, I ate nothing but four baked cakes or two small buns per day, then I cut them down by half and then by another half, until I didn’t even own a copper for buying boiled water. When I was thirsty, I would stand under a tap and let its running water pour down my throat through my wide-open mouth. I felt bloated. There was a pain and chill in my stomach. I cannot tell you enough how miserable I was.

[3] How did it come that I had been reduced to such poverty? It was because the school where I studied had got into trouble. Many students had been arrested and taken to the police station. Some students had moved house and some had gone home. The school canteen was closed because it refused to serve meals on credit. While trying to rescue the arrested fellow students, I meanwhile had to find enough money to pay my living expenses. So I was terribly busy.

[4] Pressed by hunger, I would visit Chunchao Bookstore every day to seek a loan of money. When Kang Nong or Fu Hua was there, I would have no problem in borrowing a couple of silver dollars through them. But I seldom found them in the store and the clerks of course had no say in this matter. Therefore, in nine times out of ten nothing would come of my visit there.

[5] I was beside myself with joy the day when I found my book The Diary of a Woman Soldier published at long last. Pasted up at the door of the bookstore was an eye-catching colourful poster advertising the book. I went into the store full of curiosity, and, as an ordinary customer would do, took from the shelf a copy of the book, which had on its bright-red front cover a cartoon by Feng Zikai’s daughter portraying a little woman soldier riding on a cow. I didn’t buy it for I knew I was entitled as its author to at least ten complimentary copies.

[1] 说出来,有谁相信呢?我已经四天没吃饭了。

[2] 起初是一天吃四个烧饼,或者两个小面包;后来由四个减成两个,再由两个减成一个,最后简直穷得连买开水的一个铜板也没有了。口渴时就张开嘴来,站在自来水管的龙头下,一扭开来,就让水灌进嘴里,喝得肚子胀得饱饱的,又冷又痛,那滋味真有说不出的难受。

[3] 为什么会穷到这个地步呢?那时学校里发生了问题,许多同学被抓进捕房去了,许多同学搬了家,也有些回去了的,厨房不肯赊账,他再不愿意开饭给我们吃了。我那时一面还进行援救被捕同学的工作,一面又要筹备自己的生活费,真是忙得头昏眼花。

[4] 实在饿得不能忍受了,才每天跑去春潮书店借钱。如果遇到康农和抚华两人在,还可借给我三元五元,但他们在店里的日子是很少的,伙计们自然不敢做主,因此去十次总有九次落空的。

[5] 那是我最快乐的一天,《从军日记》出版了!春潮书店的大门口贴着一张用各种不同颜色写的又鲜明又动人的广告,我怀着一颗好奇心走了进去,也像顾客一般,从书架上抽出来一本封面鲜红、是丰子皑先生的女公于画的小兵骑牛的《从军日记》来看。但我没有买它,因为我知道,至少可以无条件地得到十本的。

[6] “I need money badly. May I have a few dollars now out of the royalties on my book?”

[7] Seeing no customers around, I whispered to the cashier with embarrassment. “No, not now. Royalty payments are made only twice a year. How could I pay you ahead of time?”

[8] “I just can’t wait. Today you’ve got to give me an advance of a few dollars. I wouldn’t be here bothering you if I could help it. Believe me, I can’t even afford the streetcar fare going back home. I came here on foot.”

[9] The uncontrollable desire for food burning within me, I ignored all propriety and poured out my complaints without feeling ashamed. The cashier seemed apathetic, smiling a sardonic smile. A young clerk, however, was kind enough to tell me. “You just need to wait a little while. I’m sure your book will sell quick. Soon you can take all the money that comes from today’s sale of it.”

[6] “我没有钱用了,请你付几元钱的版税给我好吗?”

[7] 趁着店里没有买主的时候,我这样含羞着地轻声问那位管账的。“不能,版税一年只能结算两次,现在还不到时候,我怎好付给你呢?”

[8] “我等不到结算版税的时候了,今天非预支几元不可。我如果不到万不得已的时候,也决不会催讨的。你不信,我连回去搭电车的钱都没有,来的时候也是跑路的。”

[9] 饥饿之火在我的腹内燃烧着,我忘记了什么是羞耻,这样诉苦时,好像一点也不觉得难为情。但对方只是冷冷地一笑,似乎并不同情我,倒是一个小伙计对我很好,他说:“你多等一会儿吧,买你的书的人一定不少,等下收进多少钱,你就通通拿去好了。”

[10] The cashier cast an angry sidelong glance at the young clerk, but he had to keep silent in my presence and worked his abacus with a vengeance.

[11] I volunteered to serve as a temporary clerk, ready to hand the book in person to any young customer who wanted to buy it. They often had no idea that I was the author of the book. Some didn’t like the way I did the wrapping and looked somewhat displeased. The young clerk was about to tell a customer who I was when I immediately stopped him by tipping him a wink. The young man was confused and, after looking me up and down for a while, walked off in sulky silence.

[12] To my great surprise, I got as much as five dollars towards evening. On my way home, I travelled first class in a streetcar instead of third class. The moment I stepped into it, chin up and chest out, the conductor barked pointing to the front compartment, “Third class in the front!” Judging by the way I was dressed, he must have thought I was too poor to travel first class. I quickly showed him the fiver in my hand and demanded by way of a protest, “Hey, give me my change!” He was silent, lowering his head.

[13] A young man sitting beside me happened to be reading my The Diary of a Woman Soldier. He boldly recommended me the book and advised me to go and buy a copy for myself. I replied. “I don’t like this book because I don’t think it’s good for a woman to be a soldier.”

[14] He was much annoyed at my remark and called me a diehard. “A 20th century woman shouldn’t go against the trend of the times!” said he angrily.

[10] 管账的用着怒眼斜视着小伙计,但因我在旁边,他没有说什么,只是重重地打着算盘。

[11] 我充当临时的店员,进来买《从军日记》的青年,我都愿意亲自将书递给他。但对方并不知道我就是那本书的作者,有几个顾客嫌我包的书不好,表示很生气的样子,小伙计正想告诉他我是谁时,我连忙使了个眼色制止了他,弄得那位青年莫名其妙地打量了我很久,然后悻悻然地离去。

[12] 快到黄昏的时候,我居然拿到了五元钱。归来,我不再搭三等车了,趾高气扬地跑进了头等车,那位售票员忙指着前面一节车说:”到三等车去吧!”他大概看见我穿的衣服太破旧,以为一定是个坐不起头等车的穷光蛋。我忙把五块钱的钞票拿在手里,故意向他示威:“喂,找钱来吧!”他这才低下头不做声了。

[13] 意外地遇到一个青年拿了一本《从军日记》坐在我的旁边看,他竟大胆地向我宣传,要我去买一本来看看,我回答他:“我不赞成女人当兵,所以也不喜欢看这本书。”

[14] 他听了非常不高兴,竟骂我思想顽固。“廿世纪时代的女性不应该这样开倒车的!”他气愤愤地说。

[15] I purposely kept up the argument till it attracted the attention of all passengers. After I got off the streetcar at the Carter Road stop, I hurried excitedly to call on Guang Guang. Being hard up, she and Yuan Zhen were immensely pleased to see me, guessing I must have brought some money with me to share with them. I quickly gave them two dollars and spent the remaining two dollars and something treating them to dinner at a small eatery. I returned home with only a few cents left. But I didn’t care, because I knew I had had a full meal to last me three days without feeling hungry.

[16] It was also at this time that I started to take to drinking. The poorer one is, the more he looks upon money as dirt. I often wonder why a miser should be so rigid in self-denial, even grudging to spend every single cent for himself. All I seek is inner joy. The material life, however hard it is, will never affect my mind and will. When I have money, I’ll share it with friends in need, or go to a restaurant to eat and drink to my heart’s content, or buy and bring home many things I like to eat, such as dried shrimps, dried roast beef, salted duck’s gizzard and liver, candies. When I’m broke, I’ll go strolling around the streets alone on an empty stomach, or shut myself up in my small room with nothing to eat, or lie in bed sleeping for a couple of days or reading an interesting novel, just to while away the terrible long days.

[17] If I’m asked what it is like to go hungry, my answer is prompt and clear-cut, “Keep starving yourself for four days, my dear friend, and you’ll know.” Honestly, hunger is even more painful than death. It is the greatest of all human sufferings. When you hear your own stomach rumbling with hunger, you’ll feel as if a large snake were trying to gnaw its way out of your belly. Sometimes, you feel so giddy that you cannot rise from your bed no matter how hard you try to, and your legs feel like jelly so that you cannot walk. Sometimes, you feel nauseous, but you throw up nothing but the gastric juice. You may even feel like gulping down a piece of flesh bitten off your own arm so as to appease your unbearable hunger. That made me believe as true the tragic story of ancients driven by hunger “to eat the flesh of each other’s son” and victims of some calamity-stricken areas cooking corpses as food.

[18] Destitute as I am, I can bear my privation with great fortitude. I never yield, never bow to the rich, never think that a woman’s way out is to marry a wealthy man. Hunger deepens my knowledge of the reality and gives me more courage to live. From now on, I’m going to redouble my efforts to struggle not only for myself, but also for thousands upon thousands of young men and women who, like me, are on the brink of starvation.

[15] 我故意和他辩论了很久,惹得全车厢的人都注意起来。车子驶到卡德路,我就下来了。怀着一颗兴奋的心,跑去找光光。她和元真正穷得没法过日子,见我去时很高兴,猜想我一定拿到了钱,连忙向我瓜分。我立刻给了她们两元,其余的两元多,就花在请她们吃饭的小馆子里,等到回去,又只剩几毛钱了。但我并不难受,我觉得吃了一顿饱饭,至少可以挨饿三天。

[16] 学会喝酒,也是在这个时候。一个人到了越穷困的时候,对于金钱便越视为粪土,我常常奇怪一钱如命的守财奴,为什么要这样刻苦自己,半文钱也不肯花。我只要精神痛快,物质生活哪怕再苦些,也不能丝毫影响我的思想和意志。有钱时我分些给穷朋友用,或者跑到馆子里大吃大喝一顿,或者买许多我爱吃的虾米、牛肉干、鸭肫肝和糖果回来;穷困时,就一个人跑去马路上喝西北风,躲在亭子间里喝自来水,或者索性蒙在被窝里睡两天,看看有趣的小说,以消磨这可怕的长日。

[17] 如果有人问我:“饥饿的滋味怎样?”我立刻干脆地回答他:“朋友,请你四天不吃一点东西,饿一下试试吧。”老实说,饥饿的确比死还要难受,比受了任何巨大深刻的痛苦还要苦。当你听到肠子饿得咕咕地叫时,好像有一条巨蛇要从你的腹内咬破了皮肉钻出来一般;有时你饿得头昏眼花,坐起来又倒下去了,想要走路,一双腿是酸软的,拖也拖不动;有时一口口的酸水从肚子里翻上来,使你呕吐,但又吐不出半点东西;更有时饿得实在不能忍受了,就想在自己的胳膀上咬下一块肉来吞下去,这时我才相信古时“易子而食”和现在有些地方把死人的肉煮来当饭吃的惨事是真的。

[18] 虽然这样穷困,但我这副硬骨头始终不屈服,不向有钱的人低头,更不像别人认为女人的出路是找个有钱的丈夫。饥饿只有加深我对现社会的认识,只有加强我生的勇气,从此我更要奋斗,为了自己,也为了万万千千和我同样在饥饿线上挣扎着的青年男女。

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