Libraries Are Indispensable Like Food by Ji Xianlin ~ 季羡林 《就像人每天必须吃饭一样》 with English Translations

作品原文

季羡林 《就像人每天必须吃饭一样》

我们念书人都一样,嗜书如命。我小学的时候,当时学校还没有图书馆。打念中学开始,一直到出国深造,我几乎一天也没离开过图书馆。如离开图书馆,交一事无成,这不是我一个人的意见,大凡搞学问的都有这种体会。

我大学是在清华念的。清华图书馆,大家都知道,是相当不错的,我与它打了四年交道。后来,我出国到德国哥廷根大学留学,在欧洲待了十年多。哥廷根虽然是个小城,但图书馆的藏书极其丰富。我研究的是古代印度语言,应该说这是一门偏僻的学问。在那十年中,我写了不少文章,需要用大量资料,可哥廷根大学图书馆几乎都能满足我,借不到书的时候非常少。若借不到,他们会到别的地方去帮你借。

1946年,在落叶铺满长安街的深秋季节,我回到了北京,到北大工作。北大图书馆藏书甲全国大学。当时图书馆领导对我格外开恩,在图书馆里给了我一间研究室,并允许我从书库中提一部分必要的书,拿回我的研究室,供我随时查用和研读。我一有空闲,便潜入我的研究室,“躲进小楼成一统”,潜心默读,坐拥书城。在那个动荡的岁月,能觅到一处可以安身立命的清静世界且有书读,简直是太令人兴奋了。

我与北京图书馆有很深的历史渊源。我回国时,当时的北图馆长是袁同礼。那时,我受袁同礼的聘请,任务是把北图有关梵文的藏书检查一下,看看全不全,这个我工作我做了。

解放后,王重民先生代北图馆长。郑振铎是文化部文物局局长。郑先生是我的老师,在清华我曾听过他的课,郑先生很有魄力,我当时曾向他建议,若要在中国建立东方学,仅靠当时图书馆的一点点藏书是远远不够的,解决的方法是“腰缠千万贯,骑鹤下欧洲”。据说,日本明治维新后,很重视文化事业,特意派人到欧洲、美国等地,专找旧书店,不管什么书,也不管当时有没有用,文理法工等什么都买,就这样,日本搜罗了大量的典籍。单就东方学来讲,日本图书馆的藏书比我们强多了。郑先生虽有雄才大略,但囿于当时客观条件,最终也没干成。当然,现在北图的藏书,有些方面还是相当不错的,像善本就堪称世界第一。但专从东方学而言,北图的藏书还不如我多。

图书馆是人类知识的宝库,是普及科学文化知识、传播信息的重要基地。不仅搞科研的人离不开它,一般的老百姓也离不开。随着社会的发呢,人们对图书馆的需求会越来越大。我一生直到今天,可以说是极少离开过图书馆,就如人每天必须吃饭一样,经常而必须。第62届国际图联大会能够在中国开是件好事,我们应抓住这一契机,大力发展图书馆事业。北图的藏书量是世界第五,亚洲第一,若以我国的国际地位及北图的地位而论,大会也许早就该在中国开了。

近两年,受商潮的冲击,不少人忽视了自己形而上的精神世界的滋养与丰富,而一味地钻进了孔方兄的网络里难以抽身。这种现象在学术界也有。如果说我国学术界后继乏人,那是太绝对了,但确实走了好多人,北大也有。不过,仍有一部分人,不为外面的高工资所动,孜孜以求,皓首穷经,进出于图书馆。他们才是我国未来的希望与脊梁。只是,这类人并不多,这是颇令人担忧的。

 

 

作品译文

Libraries Are Indispensable Like Food
Ji Xianlin

All intellectuals love books. The primary school where I studied didn’t have a library. But, all the way from middle school to university abroad, I never let a day pass without consulting a library. I believe I would have achieved nothing without the help of libraries. I am not the one and only one holding such a view. Generally speaking, all men of learning would agree with me on this point.

I obtained higher education at Tsinghua University, Beijing, where I had four-year dealings with its prestigious library. Later, I went abroad to study at Gottingen University, Germany, and stayed in Europe for altogether eleven years. Gottingen is a small town, but Gottingen University Library boasts a rich collection of books. I specialized in the ancient language of India, obviously a little-known branch of learning. During the eleven years, I wrote many articles thanks to the University Library providing me with whatever materials I needed. Otherwise they would help me out by borrowing from other sources.

In the late autumn of 1946, when Chang’an Street in Beijing was strewn with fallen leaves, I returned to China to work at Peking University. Of all university libraries in China, Peking University Library has the largest collection of books. The curator was thoughtful enough to assign me a research room in the library building and allow me to equip it with necessary books for ready reference taken direct from the stack rooms. So I would withdraw at the first opportunity to my research room to enjoy the privacy of the small place and sit among my roomful of books reading avidly. How happy I was to have, in time of turmoil, this quiet haven plus books so that I could settle down and get on with my pursuit of learning!

I’ve long been connected with Beijing Public Library. At the time when I returned from Europe, Mr. Yuan Tongli, then its curator, engaged me to check up its collection of books on Sanskrit and see if it was incomplete. I fulfilled the job accordingly.

On the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Wang Chongming became deputy curator of Beijing Public Library. And , Mr. Zheng Zhenduo, one of my former teachers at Tsinghua University, was Director of the State Bureau for the Preservation of Cultural and Historical Relics. He was a man with great drive, so I offered him the following suggestion: Our libraries have too few books on orientalism to initiate its study in China. The only way out is to buy books from Europe. They say the Japanese paid great attention to cultural undertakings after the Meiji Restoration. They sent people to Europe and America to visit exclusively second-hand bookstores to buy books on any subjects, useful or not, ranging from liberal arts, science, law to engineering. Consequently, they collected a huge number of ancient books and records. In the matter of orientalism, Japan has now a far greater library collection than China. But, talented and far-sighted as he was, Mr. Zheng was nevertheless incapable of bringing the matter to fruition due to the constraint of objective conditions. Of course, Beijing Public Library ahs merits of its own too. For instance, it is world-famous for its unique collection of rare books. But, as far as orientalism is concerned, its collection is even smaller than mine.

Libraries are the treasure-house of knowledge, the important base for popularizing science and culture and transmitting information. They are indispensable to all common people as well as scientific researchers. Alongside the social development, people’s need for the library is getting bigger and bigger. I personally have seldom been separated from the library all my life. It is as essential to me as my regular daily meals. It’s good that the 62nd World Conference on Library Science will be held in China. We should seize the good opportunity to develop with great strides our library undertakings. The richness of collection in the Beijing Public Library ranks 5th in the world and 1st in Asia. Considering its good standing as well as the international prestige of this country, China should have been a venue for the said Conference earlier.

In recent years, due to the impact of commercialism, many have gone in for money-making and ignore the development and enrichment of their spiritual world. The same is true of the academic circles, including Peking University, where many have dropped their occupation to go in for business. But, some, however, rather than succumb to the temptation of high pay in business, stick to their academic work. They study hard and frequent libraries though they are getting on in years. They are the hope and backbone of our nation. But, to our great disturbance, they are in the minority!

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