Top 10 Parties in Fiction
李冰 译  

Top 10 Parties in Fiction



From Bridget Jones’s curry calamity to Vanity Fair’s historic ball, these social dramas have inspired many novelists. You are invited to enjoy 10 favourites.



By Elizabeth Day



I’ve always loved a good party. When I was a child, I started planning for my birthday party in July. By August, I’d sent out hand-drawn invitations. By September, I was impatiently dreaming of cake, balloons and pass-the-parcel. I was born in November.




I continue to find them alluring. At a good party, there’s a sense that normal behavioural constraints are relaxed; a feeling that anything goes and that anything could happen. It’s why they make such perfect backdrops for fiction: you see the constant tension between who someone is and who someone wants to be. In life, as in novels, they are the perfect place to people-watch.




That’s why I chose to set my new novel at a party. The story takes place over one evening at a glamorous 40th birthday in a stately home in the English countryside, where two best friends are brought together and reveal dark truths about each other.




A lot of my real-life experiences went into in the scene-setting (I used to be a newspaper diarist—essentially getting paid to party every night). But I was also influenced by great festivities in fiction. Here are 10 of my favourites.




1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

1. 列夫·托尔斯泰的《安娜·卡列尼娜》


Oblonsky’s ball in Anna Karenina is perhaps not as famous as the scene in War and Peace when Andrei and Natasha waltz for the first time, but its impact is as quietly devastating. Kitty (the unwitting rival for Count Vronsky’s affections) has earlier urged Anna to wear a flashy lilac dress. But Tolstoy puts his heroine in a modest black velvet gown. Kitty notes sadly that Anna’s charm “consisted precisely in the fact that she always stood out from what she wore”. Vronsky notices it too and swiftly falls in love. The rest is (doomed) history.




2. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

2. F. 斯科特·菲茨杰拉德的《了不起的盖茨比》


All parties in fiction have a neo-Platonic ideal of the perfect occasion to which they aspire. In my case, it was Jay Gatsby’s parties during the long, hot summer of 1922. Gatsby’s gatherings epitomise the spirit of prohibition-era decadence: endless champagne, chorus girls, flappers and bootleggers. And Fitzgerald writes them like a dream.


小说中描写的舞会都渴望成为新柏拉图式理想中的完美之所。在我看来,达成此想的就是杰伊·盖茨比在1922 年那个漫长炎热的夏天举办的那些舞会。他的舞会是美国禁酒令时期颓废之态的缩影:数不尽的香槟、歌女、时髦女郎和私酒贩子。菲茨杰拉德把它们描写得如梦如幻。


3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

3. ·奥斯丁的《傲慢与偏见》


Austen’s books are liberally scattered with wonderfully observed balls and dances. But for my money, the most memorable is the one at Meryton where Mr Darcy refuses to dance with glorious Lizzy Bennet, dismissing her as “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me”. He sees the error of his ways before long.






7. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

7. 威廉·萨克雷的《名利场》


Not strictly a fictional party, but a fictional rendering of a real-life event, namely the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, held in 1815 as a celebration for the Duke of Wellington’s officers in Brussels. It was here that Wellington received word that Napoleon’s forces were on the march. As a result, the story goes, many of the guests ended up fighting in evening dress. Amelia Sedley’s husband, George Osborne (no relation to the former chancellor), is one of those called to battle: “Away went George, his nerves quivering with excitement…”




8. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

8. 海伦·菲尔丁的《BJ单身日记》


Another Darcy[1], but this time dressed in a horrible golfing jumper (“what seemed from the back like a harmless navy sweater was actually a V-neck diamond-patterned in shades of yellow and blue”) and a guest at Geoffrey and Una Alconbury’s horrific New Year turkey curry buffet. Poor old Bridget is hungover and late because she got lost on the motorway and can’t think of anything to say when Mark Darcy asks her what books she’s read lately.


又是“达西”,但这次却穿着难看的高尔夫套头衫(“虽然从后面看像一件普通的海军风格毛衣,其实是件黄蓝相间的菱形格子V 领毛衣”),前来参加杰弗里和尤娜夫妇举办的可怕的新年咖喱火鸡自助餐会。可怜的大龄女郎布里奇特经历了宿醉还迟到,因为她在高速公路上迷路了。当达西问她最近在看什么书的时候,她都不知道如何应答。


[1] 男主人公名叫马克·达西,与奥斯丁笔下的“达西先生”重名。这篇小说被誉为现代版的《傲慢与偏见》。