“the discovery of the slowness”
John Franklin (1786-1847) was the most famous vanisher of the Victorian era. He joined the Navy as a midshipman at the age of 14. and fought in the battles of Copenhagen and Trafalgar. When peace with the French broke out, he turned his attention to Arctic exploration (北冰洋探险）, and in particular to solving the conundrum of the Northwest Passage, the mythical clear-water route which would, if it existed, link the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans above the northern coast of the American continent. The first expedition (n. 远征, 航行） Franklin led to the Arctic was an arduous (adj. 费力的, 艰辛的）overland journey from Hudson Bay to the shores of the so-called Polar Ocean east of the Coppermine River. Between 1819 and 1822. Franklin and his twenty-strong team covered 5550 miles on foot. Their expedition was a triumph of surveying – they managed to chart hundreds of miles of previously unknown coastline.
There followed a career as a travel writer and salon-goer ( ‘the man who ate his boots’ was Franklin’s tag-line), a second long Arctic expedition, and a controversial spell as Governor of Van Diemen’s Land. Then, in May 1845, Franklin set off with two ships – the Erebus and the Terror – and 129 men on the voyage (n. 航行）that would kill him. In July, the convoy was seen by two whalers, entering Lancaster Sound. Nothing more would be heard of it for 14 years. Had the ships sunk or been iced in? Were the men dead, or in need of rescue? Or had they broken through to the legendary open polar sea. beyond the ‘ ice barrier ’ ？
In his personal correspondence (n. 通信) and in his published memoirs, Franklin comes across as a man dedicated to (投身于，奉献于) the external duties of war and exploration, who kept introspection and self-analysis to a minimum. His blandness makes him an amenably malleable (adj. 可塑造的) subject for a novelist, and Sten Nadolny has taken full advantage of this licence. Most important, he has endowed his John Franklin with a defining character trait for which there is no historical evidence: (‘slowness’ or ‘calmness’).
Slowness influences not only Franklin’s behaviour, but also his vision, his thought and his speech. The opening scene of The Discovery of Slowness ( The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny) – depicts Franklin as a young boy. playing catch badly because his reaction time is too slow. Despite the bullying of his peers, Franklin resolves not to fall into step with ‘their way of doing things’. For Nadolny, Franklin’s fatal fascination with the Arctic stems from his desire to find an environment suited to his peculiar slowness.
He describes Franklin as a boy dreaming of the ‘open water and the time without hours and days’ which exist in the far north, and of finding in the Arctic a place ‘where nobody would find him too slow’. Ice is a slow mover. Ice demands a corresponding patience from those who venture onto it. The explorers who have thrived at high latitudes (n.经度） and at high altitudes (n.炜度）haven’t usually been men of great speed. They have tended instead to demonstrate unusual self-possession, a considerable capacity (n.能 力）for boredom, and a talent for what the Scots call •tholing.. the uncomplaining endurance (n.忍耐力）of suffering.
These were all qualities which the historical Franklin possessed in abundance, and so Nadolny’s concentration and exaggeration of them isn’t unreasonable. Even as an adult, his slowness of thought means that he is unable to speak fluently, so he memorises ‘entire fleets of words and batteries of (一套的）response’, and speaks a languid, bric-a-brac language. In the Navy, his method of thinking first and acting later initially provokes (v 激起了）mockery from his fellow sailors. But Franklin persists in doing things his way. and gradually earns the respect of those around him. To a commodore who tells him to speed up his report of an engagement, he replies： ‘When I tell something, sir, I use my own rhythm.* A lieutenant says approvingly of him： *Because Franklin is so slow, he never loses time.’
Since it was first published in Germany in 1983, The Discovery of Slowness has sold more than a million copies and been translated into 15 languages. It has been named as one of German literature’s twenty ‘contemporary classics’, and it has been adopted ( v.被采纳为）as a manual and manifesto ( n.宣言）by European pressure groups and institutions representing causes as diverse as sustainable development, the Protestant Church, management science, motoring policy and pacifism ( n.和平主义）. The various groups that have taken the novel up have one thing in common: a dislike of the high-speed culture of Postmodernity. Nadolny’s Franklin appeals to them because he is immune to *the compulsion to be constantly occupied’, and to the idea that ‘someone was better if he could do the same thing fast.” Several German churches have used him in their symposia ( n.讨论会）and focus groups as an example of peacefulness, piety and self-confidence. A centre scheme (a ‘march of slowness’ or ‘of the slow’ )， inspired by the novel. Nadolny has appeared as a guest speaker for RIO. a Lucerne-based organisation which aims to reconcile management principles with ideas of environmental sustainability. The novel has even become involved in the debate about speed limits on German roads. Drive down an autobahn today, and you will see large road-side signs proclaiming ‘tranquillity’ ( n.安静） or ‘unhurriedness’. a slogan which deliberately plays off the title of the novel.
The various groups that have taken the novel up have one thing in common: a dislike of the high-speed culture of Postmodernity. Nadolny’s Franklin appeals to them because he is immune to ‘the compulsion to be constantly occupied’, and to the idea that ‘someone was better if he could do the same thing fast.’ Several German churches have used him in their symposia and focus groups as an example of peacefulness, piety and self-confidence. A centre scheme (a ‘march of slowness’ or ‘of the slow’), inspired by the novel. Nadolny has appeared as a guest speaker for RIO. a Lucerne-based organisation which aims to reconcile management principles with ideas of environmental sustainability. The novel has even become involved in the debate about speed limits on German roads. Drive down an autobahn today, and you will see large road-side signs proclaiming ‘tranquillity’ or ‘unhurriedness’, a slogan which deliberately plays off the title of the novel.
A management journal in the US described The Discovery of Slowness as a ‘major event not only for connoisseurs of fine historical fiction, but also for those of us who concern themselves with leadership, communication and systems-thinking. issues’. It’s easy to see where the attraction lies for the management crowd. The novel is crammed with quotations about time-efficiency, punctiliousness (一丝不苟) and profitability： ‘As a rule, there are always three points in time: the right one. the lost one and the premature (adj. 不成熟的）one.’ ‘What did too late mean? They hadn’t waited for it long enough, that’s what it meant.’