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更新时间:2017/11/29 20:03:54 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

The US-Canada border runs through this tiny library

Step into the Haskell Library and you’d easily mistake it for a typical small-town American library. Sure, it’s a bit more elegant, with original woodwork from 1905 and upholstered reading chairs but, still, a library like any other.

走进哈斯凯尔图书馆(Haskell Library),你很容易就会把它误认为是个典型的美国小镇图书馆。当然,它更雅致一些,这里有1905年的木制品原件,还有铺着软垫的阅读椅,但是,其他方面与其他的图书馆并无差别。

Soon, though, questions nag. Why do the librarians toggle effortlessly between English and French? Why do the stacks contain so many books on French-Canadian history? And, most perplexing of all, what is that black line traversing the floor?


The Haskell, it turns out, is a library like no other. It straddles two nations, with one foot in the US and the other in Canada. That black line running along the floor – a strip of masking tape – marks the international border, separating the towns Derby Line, Vermont, from Stanstead, Quebec. The front door, community bulletin board and children’s books are in the US; the remainder of the collection and the reading room is in Canada.

事实证明,哈斯凯尔是一个与众不同的图书馆。它横跨两个国家,一半在美国,另一半在加拿大。地板上的黑线——一条胶带——标志着两国的边界,它划分着佛蒙特州(Vermont)的德比莱恩镇(Derby Line)与魁北克省(Quebec)的斯坦斯特德镇(Stanstead)。图书馆前门、社区公告板和儿童书籍都在美国;其余的馆藏品和阅览室都在加拿大。

The tape looks worn. No wonder – it’s the source of endless attention. Not an hour goes by, according to Nancy Rumery, the library’s director, when visitors don’t pose for photos with the line. They pose while making faces, or while lying across the tape. They pose with Flat Stanley, a paper cut-out of the children’s book character. Some families queue on either side of the line, others in descending height order.

胶带看起来又破又旧。也难怪如此,它吸引了无尽的关注。据图书馆馆长南希·鲁姆迈里(Nancy Rumery)说,这里随时都有在分界线上摆姿势拍照的游客。他们一边做鬼脸一边摆姿势,或者索性躺在胶带上。他们还会摆出童书人物纸片人斯坦利(Flat Stanley)的姿势。拍照时,有些家庭会分别站在分界线的两侧,还有一些会按身高顺序排列。

Lately, Rumery has noticed something even odder: some visitors freeze before the black line, as if it were emitting an invisible force field. They’ve seen an internet rumour claiming it’s illegal to cross the line. In fact, it is encouraged. The library relishes its role as a sort of free-trade zone for humans, a reprieve from a border that, while not exactly the Korean DMZ, is no longer the loosey-goosey frontier of decades past. Why such a fascination, though, with an innocuous strip of black masking tape?


Borders fascinate us, always have. There is something about the divide between two worlds that intrigues – and frightens. Let’s face it, borders can be scary. They hint at darkness and danger out there, on the other side. That is what makes the Haskell Library so refreshing. It refuses to cave to this fear.


“A line on a map is supposed to separate us, supposed to be what divides us,” said Canadian Hal Newman. “But that is what makes the Haskell so spectacular. Yes, a border runs through the middle, yet it brings people together. How fantastic is that?”

"地图上的一条线就要把我们分开,它才是把我们分开的东西,"加拿大人哈尔·纽曼(Hal Newman)说。"但这也正是哈斯凯尔图书馆如此引人注目的原因。是的,一条边界从它中间穿过,但是,它却把人们团结在一起。这有多么奇妙啊?"

Newman is the former director of the adjoining Haskell Opera House, which also straddles the border. He calls it ‘the impossible room’, as in impossible that such a venue exists. The stage is in Canada, most of the seats in the US. The border, in fact, slices through some of those seats, making the Haskell “the only opera house in the world where you can have one cheek on both sides of the border,” he said.

纽曼是与图书馆毗邻的哈斯卡尔歌剧院(Haskell Opera House)的前导演,这家歌剧院也横跨美加边境。他称之为"不可能的房间",因为这样的场所是不可能存在的。歌剧院舞台在加拿大,大部分座位在美国。事实上,边界线穿过其中的一些座位,这也使哈斯卡尔歌剧院成为"世界上唯一一个让人的两个脸颊分别处于边界两侧的歌剧院",他说。

This is by design, not accident. The Haskell family purposefully built the library and opera house along the border more than a century ago to promote cross-border interaction and friendship.


Managing a bi-national enterprise “is absolutely complex,” said Rumery, who, while Canadian, uses ‘we’ when referring to Canadians or Americans. There are international exchange rates to contend with (the library accepts both currencies; there are no fines, but they sell postcards and other mementos); and two sets of safety regulations (the library uses whichever is strictest). Going out to lunch requires crossing an international border (it’s easier to order in). Rumery must negotiate not only with readers hunting for the latest Stephen King novel but also with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, US Homeland Security, and the International Boundary Commission, among others.


Then there was the time 15 years ago when the library wanted to install a new lift. The lift was in Canada, but bringing the crane, which was in the US, to that side – even for a few hours – meant paying hefty duties. The solution? Leave the crane on US soil and hoist the lift through Canadian airspace.


“Sometimes I wish I worked for a plain old cinder block library,” Rumery said, but the mischievous twinkle in her eyes gave her away. She was only kidding. She wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.


The library is more than a geographic curiosity; it is, in this age of geopolitical tension and talk of walls, a reminder that borders are fictions created by humans that are precisely as real, and as menacing, as we choose to make them.


I’ve been visiting this stretch of borderland for years. The cottage I rent with Canadian friends represents something of a compromise; located in Vermont, but so close to Canada you can walk there – which is exactly what I did this summer. I also drove and cycled across the border, each time dutifully clearing US and Canadian customs and immigration.


One sunny morning, though, I decided to do something different. I hopped into a kayak and paddled across the border, the boundary marked only by a small white obelisk perched on a tiny island in the middle of Lake Memphremagog. It was wrong, I knew, but also exhilarating. There is something deliciously delinquent about crossing an international border surreptitiously, even one as seemingly benign as the US-Canadian border. I had thrown shade on the Treaty of Westphalia, the 17th-Century accord that created the concept of modern nation-states that prevails to this day.

一个阳光明媚的早晨,我决定做点非同寻常的事情。我跳上了一艘独木舟,划过美加边界,这里的边界仅用一个小小的白色方尖碑标记,就坐落在门弗雷梅戈格湖(Lake Memphremagog)中间的一个小岛上。我知道,这样做是不对的,但它却令人兴奋。偷偷穿越边境总不是什么好事情,即使是像美加这样看似温和的国家也不例外。我蔑视了17世纪订立的《威斯特伐利亚和约》(Treaty of Westphalia),它所建立的现代民族国家的概念沿用至今。

Borders are not static places. They change with the mood on one, or both, sides of the line. The big change to this sleepy border crossing came after the attacks of 11 September 2001. Streets that traversed the border were closed to traffic. Large potted plants were installed in front of the library, a barrier that would have been unthinkable on 10 September. Today, a US Homeland Security vehicle sits outside the library’s entrance 24 hours a day.


The biggest change, though, is the steady flow of asylum seekers – ‘northbounders’, as they’re known – from the US to Canada. “I remember one day I saw a van driving up a street on the US side and this family gets out and they run across the border,” Newman recalled. “It’s minus 20C outside and the kids are wearing flip-flops. I’ll never forget that.” People separated by the border arrange to meet at the library, embracing among the copies of Philip Roth and Robertson Davies.

不过,最大的变化是,从美国稳定流向加拿大的寻求庇护者,他们被称为"往北者"。纽曼回忆说:"记得有一天,我看到美国一侧的大街上有一辆货车在行驶,这家人下了车就跑过边界。外面是零下20度的低温,孩子们还穿着人字拖。我永远都不会忘记这一幕。"被边界分开的人们安排在图书馆见面,在美国作家菲利普·罗斯(Philip Roth)和加拿大作家罗伯逊·戴维斯(Robertson Davie)的著作之间拥抱。

Among long-time residents here a strain of border nostalgia persists. Back in the day you could cross the border effortlessly. Back in the day, the customs agents knew your name and waved you through with a smile. Back in the day you wouldn’t think twice about crossing the border to get a slice of pizza. Back in the day – it isn’t said but understood – life was better.


“I used to have as many Canadian friends as American friends,” said Buzzy Roy, the pharmacist at Brown’s Drug Store in Derby Line. “You didn’t think of them as Canadians or Americans. They were just friends. In our minds, the border didn’t exist.” Today, the two towns still share a water system but, aside from fond memories, not much else. The library and the adjoining opera house are the last places where residents regularly interact.

比齐·罗伊(Buzzy Roy)说,"以前我有很多加拿大朋友,和我的美国朋友一样多",他是德比莱恩镇布朗药店的药剂师。"你不会把他们看成是加拿大人或是美国人。他们只是朋友。在我们看来,边境并不存在。"今天,两个边境小镇仍然共用一个供水系统,但除了美好的回忆,就什么也没有了。图书馆和毗邻的歌剧院是居民们经常互动的最后一个去处。

Roy’s pharmacy occupies a precarious position, a sort of No Man’s Land between the US and Canada. Cars entering from Canada must drive about 100m before reaching the US customs and immigration post, which means that, while on US soil, they have yet to officially enter the country. The pharmacy stands in this gap. “It’s very confusing, very abnormal. You don’t see many borders like this,” he said, adding that occasionally people walk into his store not knowing which country they’re in.


Derby Line, like many small towns, is hurting economically, as the boarded-up storefronts attest. Competition from big box stores is partly to blame, but so is the border, according to Roy. “Too much hassle for too little reward,” he said. Sometimes borders fuel the local economy, other times they starve it. Never are they neutral.


“I can see the need for tightening the reins from 30 or 40 years ago, but some of the things they do are unnecessary,” said Brian Smith, a Vermont state representative who has lived virtually his entire life in Derby Line. Smith relayed a story about an 85-year-old Vermont man who drove to visit his Canadian girlfriend. When he returned, the US Homeland Security computers were down, so the agent – who knew the man – insisted he wait for an hour until they came back on line. “That’s ridiculous,” Smith said. “Canada is not our enemy.”

佛蒙特州众议员布莱恩·史密斯(Brian Smith)认为,"我觉得三、四十年前收紧控制还有必要,但现在他们做的一些事情却没什么必要",他几乎在德比莱恩镇度过了一生。史密斯讲述了一个85岁的佛蒙特人开车去看望自己的加拿大女友的故事。当他返回时,美国国土安全部的电脑发生故障,而那个认识他的特工坚持要他再等一个小时,直到电脑恢复。史密斯说,"这简直荒谬,"加拿大又不是我们的敌人。"

True, but in recent years some have tried to exploit the border’s relative porousness. In 2011, a Montreal man was arrested for allegedly smuggling a rucksack filled with guns through the library’s restroom. (He was recently extradited to the US to face charges there.) It was a shock to the library staff; “a violation of sacred space,” Newman said.


It also raised fears that, in the current climate, the library’s future is uncertain. Shuttering the library, though, wouldn’t happen without a fight, predicted Smith.


“You would see citizen outrage,” he said. “On both sides of the border.”